Netflix defends Cuties as people threaten to cancel subscriptions in protest

Netflix has defended the controversial film Cuties, insisting it is ‘a social commentary against the sexualisation of young children’, as many threatened to cancel their subscriptions in protest.

Amid accusations the film ‘sexualises’ its young stars, Netflix has encouraged people to watch the movie before passing judgment.

Cuties, directed by Maïmouna Doucouré and titled Mignonnes in France, follows an 11-year-old Senegalese girl living in Paris named Amy, who becomes obsessed with a dance troupe before secretly joining.

However, while the film has received positive reviews from critics, and went on to win the directing jury award at the Sundance Film Festival this year, it’s been heavily criticised by viewers shocked at the dance moves, including twerking, which the young girls are seen doing in the routines – with many accusing Netflix of glamorising the ‘sexualisation’ of young girls.

The story follows Amy as she joins a ‘free-spirited dance crew’, and dramatises the difficulties of growing up as a young girl in a sexualised media culture.

Calling for people to cancel their Netflix subscriptions after the film debuted on the platform on Wednesday, a petition has received 600,000 signatures, while ‘#CancelNetflix’ has been trending on Twitter.

A Netflix spokesperson said amid the uproar on Friday: ‘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.’

In a video explaining why she made the film, writer-director Doucoure said she considers it be ‘a deeply feminist film with an activist message’ that is a ‘mirror of today’s society, a mirror sometimes difficult to look into’.

She said she got the idea after seeing a group of 11-year-old girls dancing in a way ‘you would see in a video clip’ during a neighbourhood gathering in Paris.

The director said she spent the next year and a half meeting with hundreds of pre-teens to learn about how they felt about their femininity in today’s society, and how they felt about their self-image in the era of social media.

Doucoure said in a six-minute segment that accompanies the film on Netflix: ‘Our girls see that the more a woman is sexualised on social media, the more she’s successful.

‘And the children just imitate what they see, trying to achieve the same result without understanding the meaning. And yeah, it’s dangerous.’

She added: ‘(Amy) believes she can find her freedom through that group of dancers and their hyper-sexualisation. But is that really true freedom? Especially when you are a kid? Of course not. Amy will, at the end, realise she can control her own path.’

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