Netflix apologizes for ‘Cuties’ poster accused of sexualizing children

Cuties, a French film picked up by Netflix after debuting at Sundance earlier this year, isn’t due out in the U.S. until Sep. 9. 

But on Thursday, the movie’s marketing campaign sparked such a firestorm of controversy that the streaming service issued an apology and updated the promotional materials. 

“We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes / Cuties,” reads the statement, shared on Twitter. (Mignonnes is the original French title of the film.) “It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance.”

Netflix declined further public comment when reached by Mashable.

The blowback against Cuties focused on its promotional image, which depicted four preteen girls posing in dance costumes (belly shirts and short shorts), and the original plot summary, which reads: “Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions.” 

(The updated synopsis now says: “Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.”)

The campaign was slammed online, with many calling for the service to remove the film from its platform entirely.

One Change.org campaign, with over 180,000 signatures at time of writing, accused Cuties of “promot[ing] child pornography”; another, with more than 100,000 signatures, charged that it “sexualizes an ELEVEN year old for the viewing pleasure of pedophiles.”

As with so many controversies involving films that haven’t been released, however, it’s extremely likely that the vast majority of people debating Cuties haven’t seen it.

Reviews out of Sundance from critics who’ve actually watched the film — as well as the film’s own trailer — describe a much different movie from the one suggested by the controversial marketing. The feature debut of Maïmouna Doucouré, a French writer and director of Senegalese descent, Cuties centers on an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant coming of age in Paris. 

Ironically, Cuties is, by all accounts, criticizing the exact thing it’s been accused of promoting. 

“[T]here’s a very poignant social commentary on the negative effects of young girls, teenagers and women constantly being bombarded with images and social norms that exalt the over-sexualization of women in the media,” reads one representative Sundance review from parenting website Moms. 

“The Cuties are vibrant and vivacious; it’s the predatory men who sexualize them who are terrifying,” says another from Shadow and Act, an entertainment site focused on Africa and the African diaspora. 

In an interview from January, Doucouré said that Cuties had been intended to explore the hyper-sexualization of youth, explaining that she had been inspired after seeing an amateur talent show. 

“There were these girls on stage dressed in a really sexy fashion in short, transparent clothes,” she recalled. “They danced in a very sexually suggestive manner. There also happened to be a number of African mothers in the audience. I was transfixed, watching with a mixture of shock and admiration. I asked myself if these young girls understood what they were doing.”

It’s a complicated topic, to be sure, and reviews from Sundance also note that Cuties is a deliberately uncomfortable watch at times — all the better to drive the point home that the sexualization of women and girls is a serious problem.

But it’s certainly not a conversation that was well served by Netflix’s initial marketing decisions. If you’d like to see Cuties for yourself, it’s out on Netflix Sep. 9.

source.

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