The Truth About Netflix Dance Movie
Cute has become a subject of controversy due to the promotional material released by Netflix. The streaming service’s suggestive illustrations twisted the film by taking a provocative scene out of context. If the hubbub is what makes people see Cute for themselves, I hope they will recognize that it is much more complex and nuanced.
Who are the “cuties”?
Amy Diop (Fathia Youssouf Abdilahi) lives with her single mother, Mariam (Maïmouna Gueye) and helps watch her brother Ismael (Demba Diaw) when Mariam is working. Amy sees Angelica (Medina El Aidi) dancing and ironing her hair in the laundry room. They become friends, while Amy also watches a quartet of girls from her school, the Cuties, practice for a dance competition.
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Girls in Cute are 11 years old. There is a sweetness and innocence in their friendship, but their activities border mature territory. It’s adorable when Amy and Angelica jump on the bed and gorge themselves on Gummy Bears. Amy helps the Cuties record their routines and practices their moves herself in private. They also chase older boys in the park and find a used condom they don’t know exactly how to take care of. It foreshadows Amy’s journey with the Cuties.
Amy’s take on ‘Cuties’
Writer / director Maïmouna Doucouré embodies Amy’s point of view in the film. She often surprises adults when they try to shield her from their discussions. Amy’s father remarries, and Amy avoids both the relationship with her father and the cultural traditions associated with it.
The Cuties are an escape for Amy. It is also a conflict as she has to balance her family responsibilities with this activity and her new friends. Amy has a lot of freedom when she’s not being watched, but there are harsh reminders that her parents are still in control. It will be a few more years before she is truly independent, but there are moments of agency that she can claim at age 11.
Sexuality kicks in when Amy begins to get more provocative than the Cuties’ choreography. The point is, they are too young to go that far. Amy becomes too defiant in the way a naive child would be confused. She does not know all the ramifications of what she is exploring. It’s tasteful and it’s a poignant point on the line between fun, stimulating dancing and going too far too young.
The suggestive image that caused all the uproar with Cute comes from the final performance of the film. At this point, there’s something uncomfortable about watching 11-year-old girls copy the kind of movies Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion might be playing. This is also the point.
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Cuties just think that’s how they’re supposed to dance. They imitate what they see, but they don’t see it as sexual. Simply showing this image without the build-up, not to mention the consequences of achieving Amy, robs her of its poignant character.
The world is a confusing place for adults, let alone children. The children will see what is going on in the world and they will treat it in their own way. Adults can help with supervision, but there is still little you can control. Cute is about this journey of self-discovery that every child, and in this case especially women, goes through. It’s innocent in the end, but Amy can experiment with corruption before deciding who she will be.