Internationally, the hashtag, #CancelNetflix is currently the number one trending topic on Twitter. This call for subscribers to boycott the streaming service is as a result of a drama by French filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré, Cuties, which centres on Amy, an 11-year-old Senegalese girl living in Paris who joins a “free-spirited dance clique” (called “the Cuties”) to rebel against what she perceives as her family’s oppressive traditions. The worldwide backlash arose as a result of scenes showing the girls performing highly sexualised dance routines and depicting the characters in other sexual situations.
A petition on Change.org, which has already garnered over 600,000 signatures, is calling on Netflix customers to cancel their subscriptions over Cuties and other content on the streaming service “that exploits children and creates a disturbing vibe.” However, in a public statement, a Netflix spokesperson encouraged subscribers and critics alike to look before they leap, saying, “Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualisation 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.”
The outcry over the film, which was released on September 9, first began in August, due to a controversial promotional poster depicting its young cast members in hyper-sexualised poses and revealing costumes. At the time, Netflix issued an apology for the image, saying “We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/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.”
Writer-Director, Maïmouna Doucouré adds that the mission was never to promote the sexualisation or abuse of young girls, but to give insight into how young pre-teen girls view their femininity in today’s society.
“Our girls see that the more a woman is sexualised on social media, the more she’s successful,” she says in Why I Made Cuties. “And yeah, it’s dangerous.”