#CancelNetflix in Response to the Film ‘Cuties’: Too Little, Too Late

#CancelNetflix in Response to the Film ‘Cuties’: Too Little, Too Late

The hashtag #CancelNetflix recently trended on Twitter, and the reactions it has elicited from individuals across the globe is a clear indication that Netflix may have crossed the line. This public outcry for the cancellation of Netflix was in reaction to the release of the movie ‘Cuties’, and far from being another baseless example of our love for the cancel culture; it was a campaign that I wholly supported because of its wholly justified stance.

For some context; the movie ‘Cuties’ recently released by Netflix centers on Amy, an 11-year-old girl raised in the repressive culture of her conservative Islamic upbringing. As the movie unfolds however, Amy goes on to join a dance crew of other eleven-year olds who decide to “twerk” for their dance routine for a competition. Oh and just in case you’ve been living under a rock all this while, to twerk is quite simply to dance in a sexually provocative way often involving thrust hip movements and a low squatting stance.

Now the outrage against Netflix began (even before the release of Cuties) with the overly sexualized image of the main character in the poster for the movie. Some people at this stage, called for the entire movie to be scrapped while others labelled it ‘soft porn’. In response to this, Netflix pulled the poster and apologized for it, stating that the poster “was not representative” of the amazing story told by the movie. Personally, I found the poster inappropriate and their apology very insincere.


The phrases ‘it is just a poster’ and ‘don’t judge it if you haven’t seen it’ have been some of the popular arguments of the supporters of this movie since its release. And so in a bid to be as objective as possible in the collation of this article, I went ahead to watch Cuties, making sure to remain as open-minded as practicable. What I found though was that the poster was indeed representative of the movie. The movie features characters of 11-year-old girls wearing age-inappropriate clothes and twerking which as I’m sure you know, is one of the truest definitions of an age-inappropriate act.

I recognize that the movie traces the dilemma between traditional family values and the current internet culture, but why they choose little girls to perform sexually provocative dances for this story remains a tough nut for me to crack. As it turns out, I’m not alone in this because Netflix has received immense backlash for releasing this movie such that the #CancelNetflix campaign, a call for people to delete their Netflix accounts in protest, was born. According to data analytics company Antenna, following the film’s release than it had in the previous 30 days.

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Now as disturbed as I am about this movie, and all the ways its message to little girls make no sense, I find it even more troubling that on this issue, everybody is content to act like we just got here. The collective outrage in the wake of this movie seems to suggest that we did not see this coming, that we did not create the atmosphere for this and that in our ideal world, Netflix has done the unthinkable.


In reality though, we have been hurtling towards this point for some time with our perceived ‘progressiveness’ and the ‘fight for bodily autonomy for minors’. You see, this is not just about this movie. It is about a wider context of issues both political and social. For instance, if in our beliefs as progressives, we refuse to see the problem in the global row over the rights of a child (who cannot vote, drink, drive, and sue or be sued) to pick and choose what body part to keep under a gender reassignment surgery because the child knows what he or she wants. How then can we claim genuine outrage when the child decides to exercise this knowledge to twerk? How can we claim genuine outrage when a movie is made of those children twerking?

In the biography for this movie, the main character is described as fighting against her repressive and conservative upbringing. How did our ‘progressiveness’ get us to this place where it becomes ‘repressive’ to stop an 11-year-old girl from twerking, especially when as an adult you understand the sexual ramifications deeper than she does?

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As with most things relating to America, the response to this movie was quickly politicized. The opposition against the movie has become a rallying cry for the “Right” while support for it naturally came from the “Left”. The latter’s position can be summarized thus; “The movie is a bit uncomfortable to watch but it’s fighting the patriarchy and that should take precedence over everything else”. This is a view held by those whose 11-year-olds were not seen twerking in the movie but these are true progressives aren’t they?

One columnist terms Netflix’s Cuties ‘a movie by a black woman, about black girls in the coming of age genre which has been dominated by boys’. The same columnist though goes ahead to agree that the movie is “uncomfortable”.  What exactly is the use of ‘uncomfortable’ here as opposed to ‘downright wrong’ supposed to achieve except making us feel better about ourselves? And at what point do we draw the line and say children should not be involved in these “uncomfortable” acts? Should we wait until they are shown to be involved in sexually explicit scenes or even after?

It has been argued that the movie is a social commentary on the issue of the ownership of women’s bodies and the sexualization of young girls. The first issue with this argument is simple: why couldn’t Netflix model the movie after actual women not kids? I mean Cardi B’s WAP has been all the rage for empowering women to own their bodies and we all agree with the message precisely because it’s for women. When we make it about little girls, the discourse automatically excludes them because they are kids. Kids should be free to be kids for as long as they can. We owe them at least that much don’t we?

Here’s the truth not many of us would like to hear: things don’t become right and acceptable because they fit into our ideas of what progressive or repression should be. What is right is right and what is wrong, very simply is wrong. The argument here is simply to protect children from making life-altering decisions that can impact their future, especially when these decisions are based on things they don’t fully understand today,  I imagine this might be a bit difficult do when you have previously agreed that a child as young as 11 can consent for a gender reassignment surgery but not everything is about you.

Netflix did not release this movie by chance. These things go through rigorous processes before they are released to the public and they knew they could depend on the warped logic of the politics of identity to sell the movie. For all the people who are saying that the movie is uncomfortable but discusses a bigger picture, what I have is a simple question– Would you as a parent agree for your children to wear those dresses to take part in those dances because it represents a bigger picture?

The answer and all likelihood is a hard NO. So, why are you ok with other children doing your ‘critiquing’ and ‘social commentary’ with their bodies? When do we pump our brakes on this ‘global journey to a more progressive state’?

What are the boundaries here? When do we say ‘enough!”?

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Cover image via Netflix.

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