By Justin Romeo Amran Yoth
Netflix just debuted a controversial French film despite heavy public backlash and calls for the streaming service to be canceled.
“Cuties” released Sept. 9, received immense criticism from many across the social media from the start.
The film’s trailer features an 11-year-old Muslim girl, Amy (Fathia Youssouf, 14), who defies the wishes of her conservative family and joins a dance group that perform suggestive dance moves associated with adult entertainment.
The backlash against the movie’s content and Netflix’s willingness to go through with its release came mainly from adults from a variety of backgrounds.
Some perceived the film in a liberal approach, calling it “free-spirited.” But the backlash to the film’s content and Netflix’s willingness to go through with its release came mainly from adults from a variety of backgrounds. They argued the mature-rated movie directly objectifies children, specifically young girls.
A coming-of-age narrative, but directed towards mature audiences, “Cuties” caused much alarm on social media. The concerned public inferred that child exploitation and objectification are agendas that are targeting children’s innocence and allowing for pedophilia.
Petitions have arisen, mostly on the fundraiser and petition website Change.org. They have received up to hundreds of thousands of signatures calling for the removal of the film entirely. While the movie’s initial motive differed from what was perceived, Netflix exacerbated its debut and continued the controversy as it has done with several films in the recent past.
Netflix has since apologized for the description of the movie as well as its original provocative poster, which sexualized the main female characters.
“Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew,” Netflix’s original description stated. “Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions.”
However, the posters used for the debuts of both the French and the American versions of the film have contributed to the controversy.
Maïmouna Doucouré, the French-Senegalese director of the film, has reportedly received death threats for releasing the movie. Although the movie was released in French cinema weeks earlier, the American release received more critical condemnation due to the marketing poster.
The majority of critics argued that the film also promotes stereotypes about religious persons and families.
“I received numerous attacks on my character from people who had not seen the film, who thought I was actually making a film that was apologetic about hyper-sexualisation of children,” Doucouré said in an interview with Deadline.
In a recent interview on YouTube by the Netflix Film Club, Doucouré stated that she aimed to educate on the issue of social media and other cultural influences having a degenerating effect on children.
While opposed to this, Doucoure fed into the culture that boasts freedom and liberation while at the same time blurring the line between what is and is not appropriate for children and adults alike.
“Cuties” is ineffective at dealing with the problem and the way it uses children is contrary to the protection of their innocence. The objective of the movie was to enlighten us on a recurrent social issue, but the actual depiction became counterproductive according to the very values it claimed to educate the public on.