Australia

Final decision on controversial Netflix film

A controversial Netflix film has been given the all-clear to retain its original rating by Australia’s classification review board.

The French film Cuties isa coming-of-age dramedy, based loosely on the experiences of writer and director Maïmouna Doucouré, who makes her directorial debut in the film that focuses on a young Senegalese girl who joins a French hip-hop dance troupe.

The film was originally rated MA 15+ for its “Strong Themes”.

The Australian Christian Lobby met with Communications Minister Paul Fletcher earlier this month, a meeting Qld ACL director Wendy Francis said was “very encouraging”.

“He didn’t come out and say that he would actually move to ban it, but he certainly listened,” Ms Francis told Sky earlier this month.

She said the Minister encouraged her to ask the classification board to review their decision.

On Friday, the Classification Review Board upheld the original rating because “the themes can be accommodated within context”.

The film has copped (largely out of context) backlash prior and post release due to its depictions of young girls in the film: Netflix was accused of oversexualising the young actors in promotional material and a hard to watch scene from the film posted out of context on social media led to the hashtag #CancelNetflix to trend.

Many of those critics proudly said they had not seen and would not see the film (or anything else on Netflix), including a Republican candidate for Michigan in the US 2020 election who called it “one of the most sick and demented things that I’ve been made aware of in my life”.

He mistakenly thought it was a documentary.

Defenders of the film argued it had been misrepresented, both in the Netflix promotional material which the director was reportedly not consulted about or involved in (but said she received death threats over), and in the clip that was posted to social media.

Some argued the clip was intended to be uncomfortable viewing and is a comment on the oversexualisation of young girls, while others pointed out that even if that’s the case, making the comment involves committing the same crime: Even if the movie is critical of the hypersexualisation it depicts, the actual production of the film would still involve large numbers of young girls acting out sexualised behaviour, including those who auditioned but did not get cast.

They also pointed out the film is intended for an adult audience and has an adult rating (in the US at least).

“A three-member panel of the Classification Review Board has unanimously determined that the film, Cuties, is classified MA 15+ (Mature Accompanied) with the consumer advice ‘strong themes’,” the Board said.

Another theme of Cuties focuses on the use of social media and its impacts on young people’s self-perception, and it appears the Review Board also considered that in its review.

“It is the view of the Classification Review Board that depiction of how young people can be influenced by the internet and social media today to their possible detriment is real.

“It is for the above reasons, that the Classification Review Board has decided Cuties warrants an MA15+ classification no higher than ‘strong’.”

Young people are not the only ones that can be influenced by the internet and social media to their possible detriment: Many followers of the QAnon conspiracy movement are not young people, but they have been prevalent among those vocal about the alleged evils posed by the film.

The full reasons for the Classification Review Board’s decision will be posted online when it’s been finalised.

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