Cuties | Image: Netflix
Netflix defends controversial film “Cuties” as “social commentary” against sexualization of young children amid backlash over the film’s sexualized portrayal of children.
“Cuties” follows Amy, an 11-year-old girl who joins a group of dancers named “The Cuties” at school and rapidly grows aware of her burgeoning femininity — upsetting her mother and her values. The film was premiered in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition sector of 2020 Sundance Film Festival and won the Directing Jury Award praising the script of the film.
The film has received criticism from the public due to the highly sexually suggestive behaviour of the pre-adolescent characters.
The backlash began in August after Netflix debuted the film’s artwork which depicted four adolescent girls wearing revealing cheerleading outfits and posing provocatively. The original tagline for the film said: “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 film’s director Maïmouna Doucouré, 35, told Deadline that she faced a barrage of online abuse in the hours after Netflix unveiled a ‘hyper-sexualized’ poster for the film which, she says, were “not representative of the film and especially its message”.
“I received numerous attacks on my character from people who had not seen the film, who thought I was actually making a film that was apologetic about hyper-sexualiation of children,” she revealed. “I also received numerous death threats.”
Netflix issued an apology on Aug. 20 for the “inappropriate” artwork used for the film and said that it had also updated the description.
However, a day after the film was released internationally on Netflix on Sept. 9, the hashtags #CancelNetflix and #BoycottNetflix began trending on social media.
.@netflix child porn “Cuties” will certainly whet the appetite of pedophiles & help fuel the child sex trafficking trade. 1 in 4 victims of trafficking are children. It happened to my friend’s 13 year old daughter. Netflix, you are now complicit. #CancelNetflix pic.twitter.com/GI8KFH7LFq
— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) September 12, 2020
Netflix has lost over $9 billion in market value since the #CancelNetflix hashtag went viral.
Any network that promotes pedophelia should fall.
— Ryan Fournier (@RyanAFournier) September 12, 2020
You don’t fight child exploitation by exploiting children. You don’t stop child pornography by creating, selling and distributing child pornography.#CancelNetflix
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) September 11, 2020
— Lucy Lu (@SunshineLucyLu) September 12, 2020
An online petition calling on Netflix customers to cancel their subscription over “Cuties” and other “disturbing” content has been signed by over 600, 000 people.
The streaming giant has encouraged critics to watch the film. In a statement issued to Variety on Friday, a Netflix spokesperson said that “‘Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children.
“It’s an award-winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up — and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie.”