Netflix apologized on Thursday for using artwork that highly sexualizes young girls to promote the upcoming release of the movie “Cuties.”
Jump back. The streaming service announced earlier this week that it had acquired the award-winning French film “Mignonnes” (English translation: “Cuties”). Netflix originally described it as being about an 11-year-old Muslim girl who “becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew” that she hopes to join and then “starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions.”
Netflix released a trailer and a movie poster to promote the film’s upcoming U.S. release. The movie poster featured four middle school girls in skimpy outfits and sexually suggestive dance poses. One of the characters is posed with spread legs, another on her knees, and another is in the background twerking.
That’s one way to differentiate the streaming service from family friendly competitor Disney+.
Backlash was predictably swift, with thousands calling for Netflix to pull the movie. Someone purporting to be a moderator of the notoriously offensive website 4chan even said that anyone posting images from “Cuties” would get banned.
A message posted on the 4chan subreddit said, “Do not post any imagery from this show which sexualizes children. Anyone posting images or videos sexualizing children will receive permanent bans. Netflix may allow this crap, 4chan does not.”
Given 4chan users’ reputation for trolling, it’s hard to say if the warning was serious or just a dig at Netflix. The post has since been deleted.
Netflix apologized on Thursday, in response to the outrage. It said on Twitter:
Netflix may have changed the description and the accompanying artwork, but the movie itself (on which both were based) is still scheduled for release on Sept. 9.
In an interview with Cineuropa, director Maimouna Doucoure explained the film’s origin: “I saw, at a neighborhood party, a group of young girls aged around 11 years old, going up on stage and dancing in a very sensual way while wearing very revealing clothes. I was rather shocked and I wondered if they were aware of the image of sexual availability that they were projecting.”
Doucoure said she also learned while doing research that young girls are extremely exposed on social media. “I saw that some very young girls were followed by 400,000 people on social media and I tried to understand why. There were no particular reasons, besides the fact they had posted sexy or at least revealing pictures.”
Despite the exploitive way Netflix attempted to market the film, it may offer some worthy commentary about how young girls are being increasingly sexualized at progressively younger ages, and about the damaging effects of social media in the Instagram era. But it’s telling that Netflix considers an 11-year-old twerking acceptable content, after it recently pulled more than a dozen episodes of popular TV comedies for the use of blackface.
Netflix released the movie “Cuties” on Wednesday, and it is every bit as bad as the movie poster made it seem, or worse. It features explicitly sexual dance moves like what one might see in a strip club, including young children spreading their legs, grabbing themselves, provocatively slapping themselves, humping the floor, and twerking for an adult audience.
Viewer discretion is advised for the content below:
So to recap: Netflix thinks that a sitcom episode featuring a character dressed as a dark elf during a game of Dungeons & Dragons is unacceptable, but 11-year-olds twerking and simulating sex acts on camera is fine. What are you thinking, Netflix?