Netflix is facing serious backlash and a surge in subscription cancellations amidst the controversy surrounding the French coming-of-age film Cuties.
Two data analytics companies that work with Netflix to track the streaming service’s subscription count noticed that after the release of the French independent film, Cuties, which many believe overtly sexualizes young girls, Netflix has been registering a surge in cancellations. On Thursday, Antenna, a data analytics company that studies subscription metrics, such as churn rate and purchase behaviour, revealed that Netflix lost five times the number of subscribers in the five days following the release of Cuties than it had lost over the last 30 days. However, Netflix is yet to release its own statement on the topic. Every year, Netflix releases its quarterly-earnings reports sometime in mid-October. So, an official word from the company is still awaited.
Cuties won the Directing Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. However, the film became mired in controversy after Netflix decided to change the marketing strategy for the film. Instead of going with the original poster, the streaming service created a new marketing poster for the film which displayed 11-year-old girls striking suggestive poses. After the release of the film, US Senator Ted Cruz asked for the film to be removed from Netflix stating the release of the film was akin to production and distribution of child pornography.
Amidst this growing controversy, many people and critics have also come out in support of Cuties. In this video, we dig deep into why Netflix’s Cuties is causing controversial outrage.
Cuties is a French coming-of-age drama film that premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to mostly a positive response. The film was set to release in France on April 1, 2020. However, the COVID pandemic delayed the release of the film. Netflix had already brought worldwide rights to Cuties in January 2020 and the film released on Netflix on September 9, 2020, and since then, it’s been at the center of a heated debate.
Before we give you the details on the controversy surrounding Cuties, let us first explain what the film is all about. At the beginning of the film, we see Amy, an 11-year-old Senegal immigrant, move to one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Paris along with her two brothers and mother. We also come to know that Amy does not agree with her family’s strict religious views. Watching her mother suffer because of her polygamous father has further driven Amy away from the religious values that her family so intently believes in.
As Amy struggles with her life’s problems, she finds solace in her neighbour Angelica and her twerking group. Angelica and her clique’s dance troop stands in severe contrast to Amy’s mother Mariam’s religious values and traditions. However, Amy is not dissuaded by this and joins Angelica’s dance troop. In their attempt to become social media stars, the girls start incorporating more and more suggestive and sexual dance moves into their choreography. Through the film, they also wear skimpy clothes and watch videos of women twerking to get their dance moves right. In the end, a series of wrong decisions land Amy in trouble. Cuties stars Fathia Youssouf as Amy and Medina El Aidi-Azouni as Angelica. It is important to highlight that prior to its release on Netflix, though the film was overtly demonstrative by some critics, it wasn’t deemed controversial.
Netflix bought worldwide rights to Cuties before the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. However, the controversy erupted when Netflix released its marketing poster for the film. In the poster, audiences could see the four young lead girls dressed in provocative booty shorts and crop tops. Moreover, one could see the four girls standing in equally provocative poses in the poster. This new poster designed by Netflix as part of its promotional events was vastly different from the original poster of the film which showed the four girls happy and with shopping bags in their hands.
Netflix’s alterations and adjustments did not end there. The marketing team decided to come up with a new description of the film. Netflix’s description for the film implied that Cuties is the story of an 11-year-old who defies her traditions to explore her feminity. Those who have seen the film will agree that this description does not capture in any way the true essence of the film.
As soon as the new poster and description hit Netflix, social media platforms became flooded with people demanding that the film be immediately removed. Those protesting the film and its release believed that the film promoted sexualization of young women. In fact, some people went ahead and said that with Cuties, Netflix was promoting pedophilia. In the coming days, social media users around the world started creating online campaigns to have the film removed from Netflix. Some Netflix subscribers even threatened the streaming service with cancelled subscriptions if the film wasn’t removed. In the days to come, the negative voices gained momentum and people who had not even watched the film began adding negative reviews on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes to crash the film’s rating.
Those against the release of the film also targeted Maimouna Doucoure, the director of Cuties. In an interview, Doucoure revealed that after Netflix released its poster for the film, she immediately started getting attacked from people on social media. In fact, she even revealed that she got many death threats during this time. However, what’s surprising is that Netflix did not even inform Doucoure about the changes it was planning to make to the film’s poster and description. Doucoure found out about the whole controversy after people started dropping her messages on her social media profiles and began reacting negatively to her posts.
Netflix quickly realized that it was headed towards a controversy that could very well prove utterly harmful in the long run. Therefore, the CEO of the streaming service Ted Sarandos apologized to the viewers for hurting people’s sentiments and acknowledged that the poster was in no way representative of what the film truly stood for. He even apologised to Doucoure. The streaming service also changed the film’s poster to match the original poster. It further went ahead and also changed the film’s description on Netflix. The new description indicated that Cuties followed the story of a young girl who rebels against her family and their traditions by joining a free-spirited dance crew. The word ‘twerking’ was removed from the description.
Even after Netflix’s apology, detractors continued to criticize the film on different social media platforms. About a week ago, Senator Ted Cruz asked the Department of Justice to intervene into the matter. The U.S. Representative for Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard called the film a piece of child porn. It is safe to say that the controversy is nowhere close to its end yet.
Amidst this entire controversy, Cuties has also had its fair share of defenders. Many people have come out in support of the film. However, before we draw your attention to the positives of this film, we want to remind you to like and subscribe to our channel to stay updated about all such latest controversies.
Actress Tessa Thompson who had seen the film at the Sundance Festival came out in full support of the film. She called Cuties a beautiful film. Tessa blamed Netflix for promoting the film the wrong way and said that Netflix’s poster and description of the film do not in any way match the film she saw and liked at the Sundance Festival.
Similarly, even though Netflix apologized for its poster of the film, the streaming service has vocally defended the film. In an interview given to TheWrap, a Netflix spokesperson defended the film by saying that people are assuming that Cuties indulges in over-sexualisation of young children when in truth the film is a commentary against how social media promotes the sexualization of young women. Netflix has stood by its stance that Cuties is an award-winning film with a powerful story that talks about the kind of pressure young girls face due to social media as well as society in general. The streaming service firmly believes that the film deals with an important topic that must not be ignored.
Most importantly, Cuties director Maimouna Dourcoure wrote an opinion piece on Washington Post a few days ago in which she aggressively defended her film. In the piece, Maimouna explained that she spent close to a year studying the subject in detail and during this time, and she attended many different performances. During many of these performances, Dourcoure witnessed young women wearing ultra-modern and sexy clothes. Not just that, Dourcoure also shared that most of these girls indulged in highly provocatives dance steps during their dance performances. What the Cuties director found to be most intriguing was the fact that most of the girls had their mothers in the audience. According to Doucoure, Cuties is a commentary against the very things for which it is being criticized. More importantly, instead of promoting the sexualization of young women, Cuties explores what it is like for a woman to grow up between two cultures. Doucoure confessed that many scenes in her film may be uncomfortable to watch. However, these scenes depict the truth. According to Doucoure, the life of 11-year-olds today isn’t what it used to be a couple of years ago. Through Cuties, Doucoure says she wants to start a discussion on how the sexualization of children has increased in the modern-day society and what can be done to get this new trend under control.
Given the current controversy that has surrounded Cuties, we are uncertain if the film will be able to do what Mainmouna Doucoure wanted her film to do, i.e. use sexual imagery to draw the attention of audiences to how young girls are being drawn into hypersexualization. However, it would certainly be wrong for audience members to form an opinion about the film without even watching it first. After all, Kristy Puchko, the famous New York-based film critic, wrote in his review that though Cuties does have many scenes where audience members see 11-year-old girls dressed in revealing clothes and performing provocative moves, the film in itself is not about the hypersexualization of young children. In fact, these scenes exist in the film only to draw audiences’ attention to what makes young girls indulge in such provocative behaviour.
So, have you seen Cuties yet? If yes, do you think the controversy surrounding the film is justified? If you have not seen the film yet, do you plan to see it first and then form an opinion or have you already decided to boycott Cuties like many others? The nation is divided on the topic of Cuties — on which side do you stand? Let us know through the comments section.
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