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Explained: Why Netflix had to pull down posters of French movie ‘Cuties’

Cuties, titled Mignonnes in France, is a coming-of-age comedy-drama written and directed by screenwriter and filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré. Why is it controversial?

Written by Rahel Philipose , Edited by Explained Desk | Margao |
Updated: August 23, 2020 10:12:01 am
Netflix controversy Cuties, cuties french film poster controversy, netflix new releases, Mignonnes movie releaseCuties, titled Mignonnes in France, is a coming-of-age comedy-drama about an 11-year-old immigrant girl (Photo: Netflix)

A recent poster released by Netflix to promote the French-Senegalese film Cuties (Mignonnes) has sparked mass outrage, with thousands accusing the online streaming platform of sexualising young girls and some even demanding a ban on the award-winning film.

Responding to the criticism, Netflix Thursday issued an apology and announced that it was taking down the controversial art work, which featured young girls wearing “skimpy outfits” and posing in “provocative” ways. However, the site has decided against scrapping the film, which is set to release online on September 9.

“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,” the streaming giant tweeted on Thursday.

What is Cuties about?

Cuties, titled Mignonnes in France, is a coming-of-age comedy-drama written and directed by screenwriter and filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré. The film is about a 11-year-old immigrant girl, named Amy, who rebels against her conservative Senegalese-Muslim family by joining a dance troupe, known for its risqué and sometimes adult dance moves.

Doucouré bagged the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award for the film, when it first premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, in January. In an interview with CinEurope, Doucouré — who herself is of Senegalese origin — said she was inspired to make the film when she saw a group of young girls “going up on stage and dancing in a very sensual way while wearing very revealing clothes”.

“This is most of all an uncompromising portrait of an 11-year-old girl plunged in a world that imposes a series of dictates on her,” Doucouré told CinEurope. “It was very important not to judge these girls, but most of all to understand them, to listen to them, to give them a voice, to take into account the complexity of what they’re living through in society, and all of that in parallel with their childhood which is always there, their imaginary, their innocence.”

While the film has been released in cinemas in France, it is set to release worldwide on Netflix next month.

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Why is Netflix facing backlash for promoting the film?

Social media users slammed Netflix for promoting the upcoming film using a poster, which allegedly sexualised young girls. The streaming giant was criticised for selecting this particular artwork for the film’s release, even though the French version of the film used a less controversial poster — in which four young girls are seen throwing shopping bags in the air.

The theatrical trailer of the film also irked social media users, some of whom claimed it would encourage paedophiles and predators. A petition, demanding the film to be banned from Netflix, has so far garnered over 143,000 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! 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 petition reads.

Netflix also drew criticism for the synopsis it had uploaded for the film. The summary of the film earlier 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.”

How has Netflix responded to the criticism it is facing for ‘Cuties’?

After facing an onslaught of criticism, Netflix apologised for sharing the poster and claimed that its choice of artwork had misrepresented the film. Speaking to, a representative for the OTT platform said, “This was not an accurate representation of the film so the image and description has been updated.”

Netflix also changed the film’s synopsis to: “11 year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.”

Has Netflix faced flak for sexualising children before?

In 2018, a US-based parents group and media watchdog wrote a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, urging him to immediately remove the Argentinian film Desire from the streaming platform as it allegedly depicted child pornography.

According to the group, Netflix had shown “a reckless disregard for the millions of families that keep your streaming platform alive and viable, and callously placing profits ahead of any sense of corporate responsibility, to potentially engaging in criminal activity.” The film allegedly showed a young girl masturbating.

The same year, the streaming giant was criticised once again by another watchdog group called the National Center on Sexual Exploitation for a show called Baby, which allegedly glamourised sex trafficking of minors.

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