Netflix apologized on Thursday for its marketing of Cuties, a French film that has been perceived as sexualizing underage girls.
According to the Huffington Post, the film, by French-Senegalese filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré, won an award at the Sundance Film Festival back in January and is set to be released internationally by Netflix on Sept. 9.
“Cuties” follows an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant who becomes deeply invested in a risqué dance crew to escape a strict, religious home life. The Hollywood Reporter described the movie as establishing a “critical view of a culture that steers impressionable young girls toward the hyper-sexualization of their bodies.”
It has received both positive and negative reviews, with positive feedback on the performance of the actors and criticism on the plot and pacing. In interviews, Doucouré reportedly has explained that she intended to “investigate the idea of femininity and criticize the effect that sexualized social media imagery can have on children.”
However, the movie has sparked outrage across social media after the marketing materials for the promotion were released this Tuesday, with many criticizing the film’s poster and its description on Netflix: “Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions.”
As of Thursday, multiple petitions asking Netflix to discontinue the release of “Cuties” were posted on Change.Org, with one that had garnered more than 100,000 signatures calling the movie “child pornography.”
In response to the criticism, Netflix announced that the company was “deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork,” holding the stance that it did not represent the movie’s intent. The film received an updated poster and an updated description: “Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.”
After Netflix’s apology, others reportedly said that the streaming service’s marketing was to blame, because the original French release of the film, known as “Mignonnes,” received a completely different poster, with no twerking in sight. They argued that the film was taken out of context and that its promotion was highly inappropriate.
Danielle Scott-Haughton, British columnist and director, who frequently writes about race, agreed with this interpretation. She criticized those with hostile reactions who would “rather jeopardize the livelihood of a Black woman than [do] a little research.” She proceeded to share a video of Doucouré, who explained her intentions behind the film.
i’m literally so very sad for maïmouma doucouré. i deleted my tweets cos it was getting too hot for me so i can’t imagine what she was experiencing.
criticism without compassion is violence. i really hope maïmouma is around people who love and affirm her. https://t.co/n6VrOGgCWM
— Daniellé beebab DASH (@DanielleDASH) August 21, 2020
The director of the film #cuties Maïmouna Doucouré. Is getting death threats and so much harassment online she has now deleted her Twitter. All because Netflix fucked up and marketed her film as a pedophiles wet dream instead of what the film is actually about. pic.twitter.com/RAIdObOEUw
— AOC is a (Woman Against Patriarchy)-WAP (@IamJWilliams95) August 21, 2020
The original photo/description for Cuties and the updated one.
I honestly think Netflix did this to gain buzz and didn’t care if Maïmouna Doucouré’s livelihood was threatened in the process.
She needs to sue. pic.twitter.com/iOTnlwDvei
— untitled goose name (@notallbhas) August 20, 2020
Imagine if Netflix had given cuties a description like Lincoln center did pic.twitter.com/FlF3bHPPnV
— Official Emmy Nominee Dev Patel Fan Club (@LaNoireDe) August 21, 2020