While Netflix has apologized for the provocative promotional material, serious questions about the film’s content and marketing remain.

    Apr 24, 2020


On the left, a still from the upcoming movie, “Cuties.” On the right, the movie scene featured on the Netflix promotional poster.

Netflix is facing heavy backlash and drawing fierce criticism this week after releasing promotional materials for their new film, “Cuties”. Critics say the film sexualizes underage girls.

Netflix has issued an apology on Twitter for releasing an ‘inappropriate’ poster for the upcoming movie. But over 500,000 petitioners have signed to have the movie removed from the popular streaming platform entirely.

On September 9, Netflix plans to release “Cuties,” a French film about a young girl who joins a dancing group, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The Netflix poster for “Cuties” and the artwork used to promote the movie at Sundance differ greatly. In the newer Netflix advertising, the child actresses are shown posing provocatively in cropped dance costumes.

This is the poster used last week for the Netflix release:

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The description for the film on Netflix reads, "Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family's traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew."

Metro reported that the original description of the movie was significantly more inappropriate. “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 original description read.

After the extreme backlash, Netflix claimed the changes were made to ensure accuracy. Netflix has also apologized for the, “inappropriate artwork,” used to promote the film and removed it.

“We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for ‘Cuties.’ It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film, which premiered at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description,” the statement read on Twitter.

The French film, shown in France as, “Mignonnes,” was written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré. Doucouré says her inspiration for the film came after she saw an amateur talent show while in Paris. She claims the point of making the film was to highlight and understand why the kids wanted to act in this manner.

“There were these girls onstage dressed in a really sexy fashion in short, transparent clothes,” the director told ScreenDaily. “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.”

For this reason, many are still defending the film and its message, highlighting the fact that it covers the danger of sexualizing young girls and the dangers of social media. Petitioners say the film exploits its child stars and have called for the entirety of the film to be removed from Netflix.

“The movie ‘Cuties’ shows children dressed provocatively, dancing sexually and is rated only for adult viewers,” reads the post on Change.org. “As we are becoming more aware of the horror of child sex trafficking, and child sexual abuse we need to come together to end ALL forms. One way we can achieve this, is to cancel shows and movies that exploit our children! Please sign the petition to protect our children from exploitation in movies.”

Even more concerning to many users was a viral screenshot of a conversation between a Netflix user and Netflix’s customer service team. PragerU reposted the screenshot of a user who asked, “How does a movie sexualizing children get approved? Who signed off on this?”

The customer service answer response was, “We understand that not all stories may appeal to all our viewers, which is why we always invest in a diverse range of content from all over the world. We also provide ratings, synopses, trailers and controls to help our members make the right viewing choices for themselves and their families.”

The user then asks, “Do you support pedophilia? A simple yes or no will suffice.”

To which the customer service team replies, “We cannot really comment on that but while we believe in creative freedom, at Netflix we respect all religions and their cultures, traditions and values.”

The film has a TV-MA rating on Netflix, meaning it was designed for mature audiences only. Using this rating, TVPG warns potential viewers that the content of the show or movie might contains foul language, graphic violence, graphic sexual activity or any combination of these elements and that, “these programs are intended to be viewed by mature, adult audiences and may be unsuitable for children under 17,” according to the FCC.

Why would a film of 11-year old girls “twerking”, that is apparently not sexualizing children, be specifically targeted for adults and mature audiences? It is also concerning that the “Cuties” poster made it past Netflix’s corporate leadership and marketing departments.

As indeed, it is very concerning that 11-year old actresses are being cast in a movie that shouldn’t even be viewed by anyone under 17.

This is not the first time Netflix has been criticized for inappropriate content. In June 2018, Netflix came under fire for releasing a movie critics say contained child pornography. Whether “Cuties” sexualizes children or simply brings attention to the sexualization of children, Netflix has left many questions unanswered.

(Contributing journalist, Allegra Nokaj) (Contributing writer, Brooke Bell)