Netflix on Thursday defended the controversial French film “Cuties” as “a social commentary” amid widespread criticism it sexualizes young girls.
The award-winning film, which debuted on the streaming service Wednesday, follows the story of an 11-year-old Senegalese girl living in Paris who rebels against her conservative Muslim family and joins a dance clique of other young girls called “the Cuties.” It shows the girls performing highly provocative dance moves along with repeated close-up camera shots of their twerking rear-ends.
After facing weeks of backlash, Netflix defended the film Thursday, calling it a social commentary “against” the sexualization of children.
“‘Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” a Netflix spokesperson said. “It’s an award-winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up — and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie.”
Meanwhile, a petition launched last month demanding that Netflix remove the film had gathered more than 370,000 signatures as of Friday morning.
“This movie/show is disgusting as it sexualizes an ELEVEN year old for the viewing pleasure of pedophiles and also negatively influences our children!” the petition states. “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 company tweeted Aug. 20: “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.”
Director Maïmouna Doucouré recently explained in an interview the inspiration for “Cuties” is based in part on her own childhood experiences, Deadline reported.
“This isn’t a health & safety ad,” Ms. Doucouré 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.”
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