Has Tulsi Gabbard seen Cuties? I’m assuming that she has, considering how she said that the film, released this past week on Netflix, is nothing more than “child porn” sure to “fuel the child sex-trafficking trade.” Seems like a pretty wild thing to accuse a movie of being slash doing if you haven’t even seen it.
In case you’re not familiar, Cuties is a French coming-of-age drama directed and written by filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré about a Senegalese immigrant girl in Paris who joins a twerking dance team made up of other girls in her neighborhood. In an interview with Shadow & Act deputy editor Trey Mangum, Doucouré explained that her film is “very much about the hypersexualization and objectification of young girls.” Most critics who have seen Cuties, which won an award at Sundance earlier this year, seem to agree, calling it a good, if not always subtle, examination of how girls navigate a society that sexualizes them from a young age.
Since August, however, the feature has received a lot of criticism for allegedly sexualizing its young stars. A lot of the backlash probably has to do with the truly shitty marketing materials cooked up by Netflix for the film’s stateside release, The Verge reports, including a poster that shows the dance team members posing seductively in skimpy performance outfits—a visual that, within the context of the film, is supposed to make the viewer uncomfortable, Variety critic Amy Nicholson noted in her review.
Anyway, the Cuties backlash, which has fed into preexisting conspiracy theories peddled by fringe group QAnon about how Hollywood is secretly a pedophile ring, has ballooned, sucking in opponents from all sides of the political spectrum. They now count Hawaii congresswoman and former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard in their numbers, who blasted Doucouré’s film on Twitter this weekend.
“Netflix’s child porn Cuties will certainly whet the appetite of pedophiles and help fuel the child sex-trafficking trade,” the representative tweeted on Friday night. “Netflix, you are now complicit.”
I have not yet seen Cuties. As such, I can’t really tell you how I feel about it because, again, I have not seen it. Given how wildly Gabbard’s take on the film differs from that of critics who have definitely seen it, not to mention how closely it mirrors that of QAnon conspiracy theorists, I have to wonder whether she even saw it at all.
I reached out to her Washington office for confirmation but unfortunately did not hear back at press time. Perhaps she will eventually get back to me so we can clear this up, once and for all! And in the meantime, hopefully she doesn’t accuse another up-and-coming female director’s award-winning film of selling kids into the global sex trade.