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Netflix Apologizes for 'Cuties' Movie Poster That Hyper-Sexualized 11-Year-Old Girls

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Sex sells… but at what cost? Netflix has come under fire for its explicit and exploitative poster promoting the upcoming film “Cuties” due out on Sept. 9. Netflix’s version of the film’s poster depicts four young girls in what looks like an advertisement for an adult film, which provoked outrage all over social media.

“Cuties” or “Mignonnes” tells the story of an 11-year-old child who begins to rebel against her family’s conservative values when she becomes fascinated with a feisty dance crew. The French foreign language film won its Franco-Senegalese director Maimouna Doucouré this year’s world cinematic directing award at the Sundance film festival. Doucouré said that she decided to make the film to highlight the dangers of social media to young girls.

“Today, the sexier and the more objectified a woman is, the more value she has in the eyes of social media. And when you’re 11, you don’t really understand all these mechanisms, but you tend to mimic, to do the same thing as others in order to get a similar result,” Doucouré told Cineuropa. “I think it is urgent that we talk about it, that a debate be had on the subject.”

While this in fact is a legitimate and worthy story to tell, many will never get past the initial shock of seeing the exploitative poster used to promote the film by Netflix. The original French poster for “Cuties” features four young girls walking down a cobbled street seemingly celebrating life.

In contrast, the Netflix poster features the four girls scantily clad in hot pants and drop tops in hyper-sexualized dance positions. In an epic failure, the Netflix poster ironically makes exactly the point that the director is attempting to raise awareness about, it exploits girls for the purpose of gaining viewership.

Understandably, many are petitioning the removal of the film from the platform before its release citing that it is fodder for pedophiles. Netflix has since apologized and replaced the poster, but it may well have been too little too late. Young girls are already sexualized both in the media and in the real world, leaving grown perpetrators to feel blameless for abusing or assaulting them.

According to a report on the sexualization of girls in the media, “girls are depicted in a sexual manner more often than boys; dressed in revealing clothing, and with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness.” The hyper-sexualization of Black girls is even more rampant and dangerous. Black girls experience sexual violence at a higher rate, the resulting victim-blaming can lead to the “sex abuse to prison pipeline.”

As a survivor of child sexual abuse and advocate for women and children against sexual violence, I’m appalled at the poor judgment used by Netflix in the promotion of this film. We need to have honest nuanced discourse about the objectification of and exploitation of women and children. According to reviews of the film that I have read, this film purportedly does that, but the crass marketing of it for American audiences has likely limited its accessibility to many who might otherwise have watched it.

“We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for ‘Mignonnes’/’Cuties,’” a Netflix spokesperson told Variety. “It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which premiered at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.”

We cannot engage in meaningful dialogue about something as critical as this by perpetuating the very thing we are fighting against. It’s out of touch, disgusting and disrespectful. Whoever green-lit this marketing campaign at Netflix is part of the problem, not the solution.

Header image via Netflix/Twitter

Originally published: August 20, 2020
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