Is Netflix Being Cancelled?

A petition calling for people to end their subscriptions over the film 'Cuties' has more than 600,000 signatures.


by Anna Silverman |
Updated on

You might have woken up this morning to see that #CancelNetflix is trending. For many, this will have been as heart-in-your-mouth terrifying as seeing your favourite celebrity trending, for fear they have died. Netflix has been our comfort blanket while we’ve sought ways to block out reality this year. Some of us still have a series of Selling Sunset to look forward to.

But the reason for the boycott is serious: people have started cancelling their Netflix subscriptions alleging the streaming platform sexualises children in the French film ‘Cuties’.

A petition on calling on Netflix customers to unsubscribe over the film, and other content on the streaming service ‘that exploits children and creates a disturbing vibe,’ currently has nearly 600,000 signatures after Cuties dropped on the platform this week.

'Unbelievable that they released “Cuties”. So child porn is ok now Netflix? Raise your hand if you agree this is disgusting. #CancelNetflix.’

Criticism started a few weeks ago when Netflix were forced to apologise for ‘inappropriate artwork’ used to publicise the film, which many said depicted its young cast members in provocative poses. It has now been changed to a picture of lead actor Fathia Youssouf’’s face.

‘We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties,’ Netflix tweeted. ‘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.’

Cuties, which was originally called Mignonnes, is a coming-of-age film and the feature film debut of Maïmouna Doucouré. In a now altered synopsis, Netflix initially described it by saying: ‘Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions.’ It now reads: ‘11 year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.’

Regardless of the imagery and description, Netflix viewers are unhappy with the film airing at all. Given the subject matter, some are warning that it will embolden paedophilia and encourage other children to mimic the on-screen behaviour.

Mary Margaret Olohan, a reporter for conservative publication the Daily Caller, tweeted a video clip of a group of tweens in the film twerking, with the comment: ‘Netflix is comfortable with this. Plenty of people will defend it. This is where our culture is at.’ She added: ‘I understand this video is upsetting and depicts little girls in a gruesome light. I tweeted it for those who will say that ‘Cuties’ is innocent.’

Twitter user David Fischer wrote: 'Unbelievable that they released “Cuties”. So child porn is ok now Netflix? Raise your hand if you agree this is disgusting. #CancelNetflix.’

And writer Sonia Poulton added: 'If you call "Cuties" art or a "social statement". I call you a child abuser. We have no time for niceties while children are being sexualized for mass entertainment.’

Whether the ‘hyper-sexualised’ depiction of tweens is the fault of the director or Netflix is up for discussion. Doucouré has said she discovered the Netflix poster at the same time the American public did.

In various interviews, she notes that the film was created to explore how social media influences young girls to be overtly sexual online without understanding fully what they’re engaging in. She told Screen Daily that she got the idea after visiting an amateur talent show.

‘There were these girls on stage dressed in a really sexy fashion in short, transparent clothes,’ she said. ‘They danced in a very sexually suggestive manner. I asked myself if these young girls understood what they were doing.’

After researching the topic for a year, Doucouré says she ‘came to understand that an existence on social networks was extremely important for these youngsters and that often they were trying to imitate the images they saw around them, in adverts or on the social networks. The most important thing for them was to achieve as many “likes” as possible.’

Netflix has issued a statement saying Cuties is ‘a social commentary against the sexualization of young children’ and encouraged critics to watch it.

With this film, what we need to remember is that it isn’t necessarily promoting the thing its portraying – the hyper-sexualisation of young girls. Now, we can only hope that the criticism aimed at Netflix for inappropriately depicting it shakes the streaming service into being more careful in future.

READ MORE: 'This Film Will Be Gleefully Consumed By Paedophiles': Campaigners Are Rallying Against Netflix's 'Cuties'

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