Netflix Under Fire For Misrepresenting French Film ‘Cuties’

Despite movie news being quiet lately due to coronavirus (COVID-19), one controversy unexpectedly stood out in the streaming world. When Netflix promoted the upcoming French film Cuties to stream on its platform on September 9, the site found itself in hot water after creating an inappropriate promotional poster.

Originally called Mignonnes in France, the film was successful overseas, winning awards and accolades at Sundance and the Berlin Film Festival. However, the film does tackle a controversial subject: The hypersexualization of pre-adolescent girls.

If one sees the actual film, the viewer will realize the message is far different from the one Netflix insinuated in their poster artwork. Netflix amended things, but they potentially brought considerable damage.

Cast of 'Cuties' from Netflix
Netflix’s Cuties | Jean-Michel Papazian/Netflix

What is ‘Cuties’ really about?

Looking at the promotional poster Netflix put out, those unfamiliar with the plot took it as being a film exploiting young girls. In the offending marketing image, it showed the young cast of girls twerking, bringing an instant shock across the digital spectrum.

Social media denizens blew up at the sight of the poster when appearing on the Netflix account, according to Deadline. Many looked at it as tone-deaf in a time when the abuse of young girls is all over the headlines in the aftermath of Jeffery Epstein’s transgressions coming out.

Those who had already seen Mignonnes either in France or here in America knew the movie is not really exploitative. The film is directed by Maïmouna Doucouré, a Black French director who is making her debut with this film. The plot involves a Senegalese Muslim girl who has to decide to adhere to traditional principles or one of internet culture.

Overall, the film condemns the hypersexualization of young girls in our culture, something even the French could see made sense. In their original poster design, it shows the young cast walking down a French street with shopping bags and throwing confetti.

A look at the Netflix apology over the ‘Cuties’ poster

RELATED: Critics Slam New Netflix Film ‘Cuties’, Claim It Sexualizes 11-Year-Olds and Encourages Pedophiles

Fortunately, Netflix did apologize over the poster saying the design was clearly wrong. How it got approved in the first place, though, is an ongoing mystery since the company refuses to reveal who was behind it.

The Parents Television Council and Change.org played a big factor in getting Netflix to change the poster through a petition, Variety reports. This occurred after no action was taken from the initial public criticism on social media. While Netflix gets credit for changing the poster, one has to wonder why it was approved in the first place. Also, it created a serious problem for the director of the film who is largely unknown here in the states.

At stake was the fear of Doucouré being misunderstood by Americans and having her perhaps be placed in personal/career danger. Many film analysts noted this was a betrayal of Doucouré and the real message the film is trying to portray, as In Their Own League reports.

Did this prove America will use any type of provocative imagery to sell a movie? France seldom does while still often taking on provocative topics in their films.

How did Maïmouna Doucouré come up with the idea for ‘Cuties’?

Much of the film is close to reflecting real life since Doucouré says the film is based on her own experiences attending amateur talent shows. According to her from an interview recently with ScreenDaily, she said: “There were these girls on stage dressed in a really sexy fashion in short, transparent clothes. They danced in a very sexually suggestive manner. I asked myself if these young girls understood what they were doing.”

She further elaborated on how social media forces these young girls into a vision of themselves they often imitate. In other words, the film was made to broach a serious discussion about young girls being forced into hypersexualization at just 11 years old.

Only France would have the intellectual power to take this on, especially because, according to BBC, France banned child beauty pageants for the exact reason people are condemning Cuties. If anything, the contrasting posters in France and Netflix America give a clearer distinction on where each is in terms of cinematic thinking.