Subscribers and social media users responded swiftly to Netflix's promotion of Cuties.
The French coming-of-age film follows an 11-year-old girl who joins a dance group called "the cuties" (mignonnes) at school. The "twerking" dance move is said to be involved in the film, which explores a clash with the lead girl's self-expression and her conservative family.
Netflix promotes Cuties — then issues an apology
Ahead of Cuties' Sept. 9 premiere on Netflix, the streamer set a featured photo and synopsis. But, on Aug. 20, social media users responded negatively to the visuals and description, which many accused of sexualizing children. #CancelNetflix trended on Twitter as a result, before users spotted a change in the description. "Twerking" was omitted from the synopsis, as seen below.
Soon after, the streamer issued an apology that says it misrepresented the film. "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 wrote on its main Twitter page on Aug. 20.
Netflix appears to stand by Cuties release date
Netflix earlier debuted a trailer for Cuties, by French director Maïmouna Doucouré, on Aug. 18, which prompted many to comment in anger. A petition has even been launched on Change.org to prevent the film's Netflix premiere.
The petition states its intention as follows: "As we are becoming more aware of the horror of child sex trafficking, and child sexual abuse we need to come together to end ALL forms. One way we can achieve this, is to cancel shows and movies that exploit our children!
"The movie Cuties shows children dressed provocatively, dancing sexually and is rated only for adult viewers. It was created for the entertainment of adults who are pedophiles. Please sign the petition to protect our children from exploitation in movies."
As of this writing, the petition has over 100,000 signatures out of a 150,000 goal. Cuties screened on the festival circuit and won the Directing Jury Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival—as referenced in Netflix's apology.
Doucouré, a French filmmaker of Senegalese descent, has cited her experience as a refugee girl, her observation of a similar talent show act, children's mimicry of pop culture, and an exploration of social media validation as influences behind the film. Cuties did receive largely positive reviews from critics as well.
Despite Netflix's apology, for now, it appears they will move forward with the film's Sept. 9 release.