People are canceling their Netflix subscription over the upcoming French film “Cuties,” available to stream on September 9.
Based on the trailer, the story centers on 11-year-old Amy, a Senegalese Muslim girl from a conservative family. She lives in a poor neighborhood in France, and she discovers a twerking dance crew. She is drawn to the confident and “liberated” girls and asks to join their team.
Billed as a coming of age story, the trailer depicts Amy torn between her conservative family’s standards and her desire for fame and “liberation.” And in order to achieve that liberation, she deceives her family. She steals money — for which her friend praises her — and (presumably) takes her friends shopping for sexy bras and panties.
The Award-Winning French Film
This French film competed at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020 and won the Dramatic Jury Award. It was written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré, who is also Senegalese.
Doucouré was inspired by a real-life amateur talent show that she attended in Paris. “There were these girls onstage dressed in a really sexy fashion in short, transparent clothes,” Doucouré said. “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.”
The first-time director then spent a year interviewing these girls about what motivated them.
Cuties Receives Public Backlash in America
And now we’re all wondering what motivated Netflix to choose to stream this film. The public is in a (very justified) uproar, voicing several valid objections.
One branch of the backlash is upset about the sexualizing of little girls. The protagonist is 11, for crying out loud. That’s like 6th grade. And judging from the trailer, she hasn’t even hit puberty yet. Yet the story is about dancing provocatively in sexy clothing and becoming “a liberated woman.” Neither the content nor the visuals are age-appropriate.
Additionally, the original description on Netflix, which read “Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions,” essentially reduces femininity to sexuality. The movie’s message, from what I could tell from the trailer, is that becoming a modern woman means being sexy. That’s it. Nothing else.
Another branch of the backlash is attacking the difference between the French and the American posters. The French poster gives off a more gleeful and childlike (albeit materialistic) vibe, while the American poster is clearly intended to be sexually provocative.
Yet another complaint is that this film is targeted toward pedophiles. It apparently has a TV-MA rating, which is typically a NC-17 rating. What could possibly happen in a movie about 11-year-old girls that needs an adults-only rating?
Taking a Stand
A Change.org petition was created to remove the film from Netflix because the movie shows children dressed provocatively, dancing sexually, and is rated only for adult viewers. The public fears Cuties is a pedophile's dream and that Netflix is making that dream a mainstream reality.
The anonymous internet forum 4Chan has also taken a stand against the film, prohibiting users from posting Cuties visual content on its message boards.
As a result of the public outrage, Netflix updated their posters and description. (It now reads, “Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.”) They didn’t clarify if the American poster was created in-house or had been outsourced to a marketing agency.
Netflix also issued an apology: “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.”
Apologizing for the poster is superficial. It doesn't address the actual issue which is the content of the movie itself. And according to a conversation with a Netflix customer service rep that's circulating social media, Netflix doesn't seem to see a problem with the movie.
Not sure how Netflix can rationalize pedophilia as a religion...but I think their stock answer is just digging them deeper into the pit they made themselves.
As streaming services get more power and more money, it becomes increasingly important to push back against inappropriate content. Now that an entire video store’s worth of film is essentially sitting in your living room and on your personal devices, it’s not just “if you don’t like that kind of movie then don’t rent it or don’t go see it at the theater” anymore. The theater has come into your house without your input beforehand on what kind of content it brings in.
If Netflix, and other streaming services, aren’t willing to be ethical and responsible about what content they promote, it might be time to click “cancel my subscription.”