Thousands of people launched a call to boycott Netflix on Thursday over the French film "Mignonnes" – known as "Cuties" in English – angry that its young stars were portrayed in a sexualised way.
What is Netflix's 'Cuties' about?
The film is directed by French-Senegalese director Maimouna Doucoure, and started streaming 9 September 2020. More than 200 000 tweets with the hashtag "#CancelNetflix" became the top trending topic one day later.
The film, which received a director's award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, tells the story of Amy, an 11-year-old Parisian, who must juggle the strict rules of her Senegalese family and social media's emphasis on appearance.
She joins a dance group formed whose choreographies are sometimes suggestive. The official plot: "Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family's tradition when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew".
The film starts Fathia Youssouf as Amy, Ester Gohourou as Coumba, Maimouna Gueye as Mariam, Bilel Chegrani as Walid, Ilana Cami-Goursolas as Jess, and Myriam Hamma as Yasmine, among others.
Criticism and #CancelNetflix
The first wave of criticism, in August, led Netflix to withdraw "inappropriate" artwork used to promote the film, which was released in theatres that month in France. Netflix also said it apologised for having used "inappropriate" images.
Broader opposition to some of the imagery came from across the political spectrum in the United States. DeAnna Lorraine, a former Republican candidate for Congress from California, tweeted that "Child pornography is illegal in America."
"As the mother of an 8-year old girl, I STRONGLY support #CancelNetflix," added Beatrice Cardenas, another California Republican. Another Republican politician, Omar Navarro, tweeted:
"The hypersexualisation of girls (and boys) is disgusting. It is morally and ethically reprehensible. Paedophiles, child rapists and perverts would have a great time with #Cuties."
Over 600,000 ppl have signed a Change petition pledging to cancel their #Netflix subscriptions.
If each signee had an account & canceled, at $12.99 a month, this would be $7.8 million MONTHLY that @Netflix has lost.
That’s $93 million a year.
Keep canceling! #CancelNetflix— Omar Navarro (@RealOmarNavarro) September 11, 2020
Listen to someone who actually watched #Cuties. Someone who understands that girls are told they’re women-old enough to be married-from ages as young as 8 or 9. This movie is a commentary on that toxic culture of ripping a girl’s childhood from her. I look forward to watching it. https://t.co/FMh5IkkXlt— Yasmine Mohammed ياسمين محمد 🦋 (@YasMohammedxx) September 11, 2020
Praise for Netflix's 'Cuties'
Among the voices praising the movie were American actress Tessa Thompson who found it "beautiful". She said it "gutted [her] at Sundance Fest".
Thompson, who is known for her roles in Creed and Avengers: Endgame, said Netflix's Cuties "introduces a fresh voice at the helm" which speaks out against the hypersexualisation of children. She adds:
"She's a French Senegalese Black woman mining her experiences. The film comments on the hyper-sexualisation of preadolescent girls. Disappointed to see the current discourse. Disappointed to see how it was positioned in terms of marketing".
"I understand the response of everybody. But it doesn't speak to the film I saw."
A Netflix spokesperson said: "Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualisation of young children.
"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."
© Agence France-Presse