A petition created on change.org that has been signed by more than 600,000 people is urging people to cancel their Netflix subscriptions, after backlash over a French film called ‘Cuties, the content of which many are terming as inappropriate.
“From Cuties to Big Mouth to other movies mocking religions and exploiting children, Netflix is no longer the family friendly streaming service I once believed it to be!” the petition says. A separate petition, titled “Petition to remove Cuties from Netflix”, has been signed by more than 350,000 people.
#CancelNetflix that is trending on social media is a variant of the phrase ‘Cancel Culture‘, mentioned in the Merriam Webster’s series called “Words We’re Watching”, which includes words that are increasingly in use but have not yet met their criteria for entry. According to the dictionary, “Cancel is getting a new use. Canceling and cancel culture have to do with the removing of support for public figures in response to their objectionable behavior or opinions. This can include boycotts or refusal to promote their work.”
What is the controversy about?
The film that won the directing award at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, started getting noticed when Netflix started promoting the film towards the end of August. In its promotions, the streaming platform used a poster in which an 11-year-old girl, who is the lead character of the film, can be seen wearing short shorts and a metallic crop top along with a few other girls in the background. The now-deleted description that Netflix initially used read: Amy (the lead) “becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew” and “starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions”.
Subsequently, a Twitter thread about the film became viral after it was posted on August 20 and described the ways in which the film was problematic. In the thread, the user pointed out that “minors shouldn’t be sexualised like this”. “And the fact that this is a black girl lead makes this even worse…”.
“#CancelNetflix” started trending on social media soon after as users started voicing their displeasure at the contents of the film that many likened to child porn. Others have pointed out that the fact that the film is meant for those in the 18+ age group is problematic considering the story itself is about an 11-year old girl.
The second petition on change.org says the following, “This movie/show is disgusting as it sexualizes an ELEVEN year old for the viewing pleasure of pedophiles and also negatively influences our children! 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!”.
The current description for the movie reads, “Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.”
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What is the film about?
The French film, which is the debut feature of writer and director Maïmouna Doucouré, is a story about an 11-year-old who joins a dance group called “Cuties” in a bid to escape family dysfunction. The Sundance website describes the film as a “spirited film” that “depicts the tweens’ youthful energy and vulnerabilities while exploring their fumbling eagerness to be identified as sexualized.”
What has been Netflix’s response?
After the social media backlash, Netflix changed the poster and description for the film and issued an apology on September 20. “We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonees/Cuties. It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at the Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.”
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 won an award at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.
— Netflix (@netflix) August 20, 2020
However, some have pointed out on Twitter that changing the artwork and description isn’t enough, since the premise of the film is “disturbing” and have called for a ban on the film.
What have critics said?
The film released on Netflix US on September 9 and some critics have pointed out that many people who are offended by the film’s contents have only referred to the description and artwork since at the time when the backlash started, the film hadn’t been released.
Vulture’s film critic Alison Willmore said on Twitter: “So… Netflix bought Maïmouna Doucouré’s MIGNONNES, gave it a misleading poster and summary, and now people are review-bombing it sight unseen on IMDb and Google and petitioning for it to be removed?”
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