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People are freaking out and cancelling Netflix over this controversial new movie

Published Sep 15th, 2020 9:00AM EDT
Netflix Cuties Controversy
Image: diego cervo/Adobe

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  • A new original movie on Netflix has become a huge focus for subscribers over the past week, but for all the wrong reasons.
  • The film is called Cuties, and it’s about a young girl who defies her conservative family and joins a racy modern dance troop.
  • Many Netflix subscribers claim that the movie sexualizes young children, and some people are so angry that they’re cancelling their Netflix subscriptions and encouraging others to do the same.

When Maïmouna Doucouré debuted her new movie Cuties at the Sundance Film Festival, the reception was anything but negative. In fact, the independent film was applauded as a triumph and it even landed Doucouré an award for her direction. She was surely ecstatic when she landed a distribution deal with Netflix, which went on to release the movie as an original Netflix production just last week. Unfortunately, a whole lot happened in the span of time between the film’s premiere at Sundance and its release on Netflix.

The topic of the movie is indeed somewhat controversial, and there was no question that its release was going to ruffle some feathers. In its efforts to market the movie ahead of its September release, however, Netflix made some horrible missteps that had people up in arms. The stage had been set for a tumultuous release right from the get-go, but the fact that Cuties was banned in one country prior to release added fuel to the fire. Now that the movie has debuted on Netflix in the United States and several additional markets, people are outraged to the point where they’re cancelling their Netflix subscriptions and urging others to do the same.

“Eleven-year-old Amy lives with her mom, Mariam, and younger brother, awaiting her father to rejoin the family from Senegal,” the film’s description reads. “Amy is fascinated by disobedient neighbor Angelica’s free-spirited dance clique named ‘Cuties,’ a group that stands in sharp contrast to stoic Mariam’s deeply held traditional values. Undeterred by the girls’ initial brutal dismissal and eager to escape her family’s simmering dysfunction, Amy, through an ignited awareness of her burgeoning femininity, propels the group to enthusiastically embrace an increasingly sensual dance routine, sparking the girls’ hope to twerk their way to stardom at a local dance contest.”

It’s certainly a brave topic for a movie to tackle, and early responses suggested that Doucouré did a good job of walking a fine line and keeping things tasteful. In fact, Cuties was adored by critics and currently has a rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. Fans might have been just as impressed by the film if left to make up their own minds, but Netflix made that an impossibility. When the company began to market the movie ahead of its release, it used uncomfortably suggestive imagery of minors that many people felt was overtly sexual.

Was this another case of “cancel culture” overreacting and blowing things out of proportion? You be the judge — here’s the first poster that Netflix released for the movie:

Image source: Netflix

Given that the subjects of the poster are 11-year-old children, there isn’t much room for debate this time around. Netflix immediately apologized and pulled the materials, but the damage had already been done. Netflix’s marketing cast the film in a terrible light and there was no turning back for thousands of enraged subscribers who took to social media to protest. Now, #CancelNetflix has become an increasingly popular hashtag on Twitter and Facebook, where angry subscribers are writing that they’ve canceled their Netflix service and are urging others to do the same. Here’s a small sampling of tweets posted in response to Cuties from subscribers and even some conservative public figures and a former presidential candidate:

Maïmouna Doucouré has reportedly received death threats for writing and directing the film as a result of the backlash. And when high-profile actress Tessa Thompson came to her defense, she was also caught in the crossfire. Netflix has issued several apologies for its marketing missteps at this point, but the company’s insistence that those racy images were not representative of the film is falling on deaf ears.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.