Netflix has found itself in hot water after their poster advertising upcoming French film Cuties (Mignonnes) was accused of overtly sexualising young girls.
The streaming giant was forced to apologize over the marketing imagery after outraged American viewers took to social media to slam the racy image of four 11-year-old girls posing in a twerking competition.
The original French poster for the Sundance-selected film seemed to advertise a very different story.
The poster showing the girls running through the streets with women’s underwear comically pulled over their own clothes, looking exactly their 11 years, was ditched in favour of the stylised photo of the girls posing mid-dance.
Change.org petition calls for film to be pulled
The backlash online was swift, with a Change.org petition, urging Netflix to remove the title altogether from its service receiving over 60,000 signatures.
“It is so revealing that the first major @netflix original to centre young Black girls hinges on explicitly sexualising 11-year-old children,” one woman wrote. “Whether it’s acting or music, a sexualised image is too often the price of mainstream success for Black women & girls. Disgraceful.”
Conservative commentator Matt Walsh was also disgusted by the poster.
“Netflix has a movie called “Cuties” about 11-year-olds in a twerking dance group,” he wrote online. “Some of the reviews claim it’s a ‘commentary’ on the sexualization of children but this is the poster. And keep in mind that the lead actress is actually 11 years old. In the film and real life.”
Netflix poster and original ‘as different as night and day’
Not everyone was convinced the film was the problem, however, with many pointing out the poster and description was Netflix’s take on the film, which differed wildly from its original French release.
“The thing about the Netflix campaign for Cuties is how disgustingly sexualized these girls are,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Compare the poster and blurb from Netflix versus the ones on IMDb, s*** is as different as night and day. Someone should get fired.”
“Its interesting to compare the french version of the cuties poster to the American version... “ another user wrote.
”Like the French version has more "kids having fun!" vibes, while the American version is just f**king.... gross. I feel like the #Netflix marketing team has a lot to answer for.”
The original description of the film reads: “Amy an 11-year-old joins a group of dancers called ‘the cuties’ at school, and rapidly grows aware of her burgeoning femininity – upsetting her mother and her values in the process”.
The Netflix description reads: “Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions.”
Not everyone was convinced, however, with some arguing the films themes were simply inappropriate.
“Kinda creepy how Netflix changed the poster and description of their 11 year old twerk dance crew movie Cuties to appear more woke,” one person wrote.
Someone who had seen the film disagreed, explaining it has been wildly misrepresented.
“CUTIES is very good,” the Twitter user hit back. “A French Senegalese coming of age story that is very much commentating on the grasp modern media has on young girls. This poster does the film so much injustice. It's a letter of experience from the director, Maïmouna Doucouré. This [poster] is TRASH.”
The film has not yet been released in the US.
Netflix apologises for poster ‘not representing’ the film
Netflix apologized for its marketing gaffe soon after the criticism poured in for the film, which won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award when it premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in January.
“We're deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties,” the streamer said on Twitter.
“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.”
Director Maïmouna Doucouré says film ‘an uncompromising portrait of an 11-year-old girl’
The debut film from French-Senegalese filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré told ScreenDaily she was inspired to make the fil after seeing a real-life dance troupe of 11-year-olds performing in her home in the Northern suburbs of Paris.
“There were these girls on stage dressed in a really sexy fashion in short, transparent clothes,” she told the publication. “They danced in a very sexually suggestive manner... I asked myself if these young girls understood what they were doing.”
She wanted to reflect on the heavy influence of social media trends and role models on young women today, as well as the transition from childhood to adulthood of the central character Amy.
“I came to understand that an existence on social networks was extremely important for these youngsters and that often they were trying to imitate the images they saw around them, in adverts or on the social networks,” she told the site. “The most important thing for them was to achieve as many ‘likes’ as possible.”
The director said in a later interview that the film makes no judgment calls about the girls and their choice of dancing, saying it’s ‘not a health and safety ad’.
“This isn’t a health & safety ad,” the director told Cineuropa.
“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. 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.”
Cuties hits US Netflix on September 9.