This week Netflix released an official trailer and description for a new film the streaming service had acquired titled "Cuties." A French movie from director Maïmouna Doucouré, the film quickly caught the attention and derision of the online community due to the provocative one sheet and description which many claimed was sexualizing children. The poster featured the four leads posing in revealing dance outfits, while the original description 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." After the major outcry that came from these marketing materials, Netflix quickly backtracked and apologized.
“We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Cuties," Netflix said in a statement. "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 original trailer, which currently has 290k thumbs down on YouTube, can be seen below.
Deadline reports that the streaming service wouldn't confirm whether the artwork was developed in-house by their own marketing team or created elsewhere. Though it was quickly removed and replaced by the streamer, it spawned a Change.org petition to have the film taken off Netflix entirely. As of this writing it has over 100,000 signatures.
"This movie/show is disgusting as it sexualizes an ELEVEN year old for the viewing pleasure of pedophiles and also negatively influences our children!" the petition reads. "There is no need for this kind of content in that age group, especially when sex trafficking and pedophilia are so rampant! There is no excuse, this is dangerous content!"
By all accounts from critics and viewers that have actually seen the movie, which is scheduled to be released on Netflix in September, the film is actively preaching against the sexualization of children and teenagers by popular culture, which makes the original poster even more puzzling. In their review from the film's premiere at Sundance, The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney wrote: "The film establishes its critical view of a culture that steers impressionable young girls toward the hypersexualization of their bodies."
Even actor Tessa Thompson tweeted about it, saying her disappointment came from the way Netflix chose to market it, calling the film "beautiful" and saying it "comments on the hyper-sexualization of preadolescent girls."
Disappointed to see how it was positioned in terms of marketing. I understand the response of everybody. But it doesn’t speak to the film I saw. https://t.co/L6kmAcJFU1— Tessa Thompson (@TessaThompson_x) August 20, 2020
As many have noted online, the marketing materials for the film in its native France paint a much different picture of the film itself than how Netflix initially chose to market the movie. As outlined by director Maïmouna Doucouré herself, who won the Directing Jury Award at Sundance this year for the film, the movie approaches these topics seriously and not as a means for titillation.
"Today, the sexier and the more objectified a woman is, the more value she has in the eyes of social media," Doucouré said in an interview with cineuropa this week. "And when you’re 11, you don’t really understand all these mechanisms, but you tend to mimic, to do the same thing as others in order to get a similar result. I think it is urgent that we talk about it, that a debate be had on the subject."
Cuties will premiere on Netflix on September 9.