After a controversial turn of events, Netflix apologized and removed a promotional image which showed girls posing in skimpy outfits in a new film called Cuties. The poster for the French drama, along with a trailer, had sparked online disapproval and a petition calling for Netflix to drop it.
The award-winning drama follows an 11-year-old who joins a dance group. Its maker says it is meant to tackle the issue of sexualization of young girls. Netflix said it was “deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork”. The streaming giant also said the original poster was not an accurate representation of the film.
The image, together with the movie’s name and suggestive dance sequences, initially triggered an online outrage. A petition claiming it “sexualizes an 11-year-old for the viewing pleasure of pedophiles” attracted 25,000 signatures in less than 24 hours
But the director Maimouna Doucouré has explained that the story aims to highlight how social media pushes girls to mimic sexualized imagery without fully understanding what lies behind it or the dangers involved.
Ms. Doucouré said that she had decided to explore the topic after being shocked at seeing a group of girls aged around 11 dancing in a sensual way in revealing clothes.
“I saw that some very young girls were followed by 400,000 people on social media and I tried to understand why,” she remarked. “There were no particular reasons, besides the fact that they had posted sexy or at least revealing pictures: that is what had brought them this ‘fame.’
“Today, the sexier and the more objectified a woman is, the more value she has in the eyes of social media. And when you’re 11, you don’t really understand all these mechanisms, but you tend to mimic, to do the same thing as others in order to get a similar result. “I think it is urgent that we talk about it, that a debate be had on the subject.”
Cuties follows 11-year-old Amy, from Senegal, who is torn between her family’s traditional, conservative lifestyle, and the escape offered by free-spirited neighbour Angelica and her dance gang.
Cuties had won the world cinema dramatic directing award for Doucouré at the Sundance film festival this year. It was recently released in French theaters with its original name Mignonnes. It is not a Netflix original and will arrive on the platform next month. Many people on social media criticized the depictions.
After the petition gained strength, Netflix responded that “the picture was not an appropriate picturization of the movie. So, the image and description has been updated”. Netflix later gave a rather official explanation in its Twitter feed: “We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties. It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.”
Cuties earned many receptive and positive reviews at the Sundance film festival.
‘The Hollywood Reporter’ called the film “captivating but structurally shaky”, and said it portrayed a “critical view of a culture that steers impressionable young girls toward the hyper-sexualization of their bodies”.
‘Screen Daily’ said “the sight of twerking pre-teen bodies is explicitly designed to shock mature audiences into a contemplation of today’s destruction of innocence”.