It’s been a difficult few months for Cuties, with Maïmouna Doucouré’s film subject to ongoing criticism, culminating in legal action in Texas. And despite repeated evidence that those jumping on the controversy bandwagon either haven’t actually seen the movie, or wilfully misrepresent it to score political points, the release still presents a headache for Netflix.
Now, co-CEO Ted Sarandos has added his voice to the debate, and the way it’s blown up, particularly expressing his disbelief at the Texas indictment. Here’s what he had to say at today’s virtual Mipcom market:
“It’s a little surprising in 2020 America that we’re having a discussion about censoring storytelling…It’s a film that is very misunderstood with some audiences, uniquely within the United States. The film speaks for itself. It’s a very personal coming of age film, it’s the director’s story and the film has obviously played very well at Sundance without any of this controversy and played in theatres throughout Europe without any of this controversy.”
The same point is clear, then. That being that Cuties was a well received picture at festivals that only became embroiled in controversy due to a poorly judged marketing campaign by Netflix that gave the wrong impression of the work. As a result, any hope for nuance and defence by Doucouré, who received death threats over the production, has been overwhelmed by toxic reactions online, and by those wanting to whip up a moral frenzy in an election year.
While there’ve been some reports of people cancelling Netflix over Cuties, by and large this is an issue that’s been dragged on for too long by those that arguably have a stake in making it and, by extension, the streamer, a target. Sure, censorship has its place when it’s backed up by evidence and careful consideration of audiences and context, but that’s something that’s sadly been jettisoned in recent debates.
For now, Netflix and Doucouré will have to shoulder the continued spotlight on Cuties, which was added to the streaming platform without any cuts to its content. Unfortunately, there may be those that respond to this news by repeating the same arguments about exploitation and sexualization, presumably without taking the time to watch the film and make their own minds up about its merits. Let’s just hope that some kind of common sense prevails, though, and Cuties can go back to being a solid arthouse drama that’s far from the obscene material it’s being made out to be.