On Thursday, August 21, Netflix sent out an apology for its marketing of “Cuties,” a film by French-Senegalese filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré, which is due for release on the video streaming service on September 9. Ms. Doucouré had won an award for directing the film at the Sundance Film Festival this January.
Although the film aims to criticize the hyper-sexualization of young girls, the poster used to promote it portrayed quite the opposite. The movie revolves around an 11-year-old immigrant who joins a dance group to escape her home life that is rigid and extremely religious. While the film has received both positive and negative reviews, it has been criticized, particularly for its plot and content.
During interviews, Doucouré has explained that she aimed to deeply explore the concept of femininity and be a critique of the negative effects that sexualized social media representations can have on children.
After its promotional materials were launched on Tuesday, the film raised a hue and cry, with many people condemning the key image Netflix used to promote the film and the description that accompanied it. The description 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.”
A couple of days after the promotional material’s release, countless petitions were signed, telling Netflix to recall “Cuties.” A particular one had collected over 100,000 signatures, stating that the movie was basically ‘child pornography.’ Some traditional watchdog groups also went as far as asking Netflix to completely remove it from their website. Others reportedly banned users from posting images related to the movie.
Due to this strong backlash, Netflix released a statement on Thursday claiming that the company was truly apologetic for the unfit artwork that did not do justice to the film’s entire concept. New artwork was made with a revised description that reads, “Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.”
After the apology was released, many observed that Netflix’s marketing was faulty, considering the film’s French release under the title “Mignonnes” had a different poster that was vastly different from the artwork released on the streaming platform. Their stance was that the film’s concept had been completely manipulated through its inappropriate marketing and misrepresented its message.