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Cuties – Not so cute?

Posted on 15 September 2020 by Caitlin

The Classification Office classifies films, DVDs and video games. Currently content on streaming services such as Netflix don’t have to come through our Office before screening here. The system is changing and in the near future NZ ratings and warnings will be shown on services due to a law change. See our Streaming platforms to show NZ consumer information for more information.

A new film called Cuties has been slammed for sexualising young teens for commercial gain. And if all you saw was the promotional trailer that’d seem a pretty fair criticism.

The trailer sparked outrage and ‘Cancel Netflix’ trended on Twitter. Netflix dropped the ad and apologized. But did the advertising fairly reflect the film?

People remain concerned the film sexualises rangatahi and tamariki and are worried about how it might be watched by people attracted to children. A petition was launched to have the film removed from Netflix and for them to be charged with distribution and exploiting minors. However, both the Director and Netflix defend the film as "a social commentary against the sexualisation of young children."

So we thought we’d better take a look at it.

Cuties is a film that shows the challenges of early puberty, and tells the story of a young girl trying to fit in at a new school. It offers insights into different cultures and difficult family dynamics, and highlights the challenges of growing up ‘online’. Currently our tamariki and rangatahi are exposed to so much online, and a lot that can be harmful, which is why these messages are important.

Having said that some parts of the film aren’t appropriate for kids, particularly if they watch it on their own without any support from whānau. The film shows bullying, sexual content, including children viewing sexual content and imitating sexual behaviours they have seen online. These ideas could be confusing and give young people potentially harmful mixed messages. That said these messages and themes are not uncommon in films and series aimed at rangatahi.

Although the sexualisation messages in the film were problematic they were well contextualised within the film. The camera angles heightened the girls dance moves and made an uncomfortable watch – but this was intentional. The audience was meant to feel uncomfortable. Considering the messages, themes and uncomfortable feeling, this film could potentially open up positive conversations for parents and rangatahi.

With all of this in mind we recommended Netflix make Cuties 16+ with a warning note: Violence, sexual references, bullying and offensive language.

If you are concerned about what your tamariki are watching and want to talk with your whānau, check out our resources on how to have these conversations.

Image from the film Cuties of a girl looking forward

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