The Netflix blurb for Cuties describes the plot as:
Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family's traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.
Directed by Maïmouna Doucouré, a French Senegalese woman (not unlike the film's young protagonist), the film won the Directing Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival before getting picked up by Netflix — a truly prestigious accomplishment! Ahead of its streaming release, Doucouré told TIME that the movie, "tries to show that our children should have the time to be children, and we as adults should protect their innocence and keep them innocent as long as possible."
This intention was clear to people like Monica Castillo, who reviewed the film for RogerEbert.com, saying:
Doucouré uses these uncomfortable images to provoke a serious conversation about the sexualization of girls—especially regarding girls of color, the policing of a girl's sexuality, double standards, the effect of social media on kids, and how children learn these behaviors. To do this, the director shows what it looks like for young girls to emulate what they see in music videos and grown-up dance routines. A few times in the film, we see the confused or even disgusted faces of adults watching the younger generation gyrate and twerk, biting their lips or their nail in a suggestive way. It's likely that these girls don't fully understand what those gestures mean, but they see it in pop culture and they imitate it, like several other generations of girls before them. Doucouré also explores some of the emotional tangles that come with wanting to fit in and to be taken seriously, as well as the repercussions that come with acting youthfully impulsive.
Sounds provocative, sure, and challenging — but certainly topical and relevant. Sounds like Doucouré deliberately tried to make a film that tackled a difficult subject, and may have even done so successfully.
But you wouldn't know it from the right-wing media machine, which picked up on the film's provocative artwork and immediately declaring it to be a dangerous work of snuff that promotes the exact agenda the director was deliberately rejecting— which people who actually watched the film seemed to understand.
Ted Cruz, for instance, now wants to weaponize the apparatus of the State and send the DOJ after Netflix for producing and distributing "child pornography."
Ted Cruz certainly knows about porn, having previously tweeted about his porn-watching habits. He also certainly knows about the legal precedent for defining pornography as established by the Supreme Court in 1964—the impossibly vague qualifications of "I know it when I see it."
Er go, if the Republicans who claim to believe in small government decide that a film in which there is no sexual intercourse between children is, indeed, "pornography," they can make a legal argument in defense of that.
Here's Josh Hawley, ostensibly concerned about the very same topic as the film's director:
Tom Cotton, who just a few months ago spoke out in favor of a heavily armed military invasion of Democrat-leaning American cities, similarly told conservative rag The Daily Caller: "I urge the Department of Justice to take action against Netflix for their role in pushing explicit depictions of children into American homes."
Critic Emily Nussbaum summed up this non-troversy well:
The summer of "Cancel Culture" and boy-who-cried-wolf claims of "liberal censorship" has finally come full circle. And I, for one, am relieved that Republicans are once again nakedly revealing themselves as the censorious authoritarians they have always been.
Why 'Cancel Netflix' is trending [Julia Alexander / The Verge]
"Cuties" Review [Monica Castillo / RogerEbert.com]