After a viral petition and the emergence of the hashtag #CancelNetflix, the streaming service is encouraging subscribers to watch the award-winning French film “Cuties,” which has been at the center of controversy since promotional artwork for the film dropped last month.
The backlash began with the film’s artwork debuted in late August and drew criticism on social media for showing the film’s cast of children in midriff-baring uniforms and short shorts striking various dance poses. Netflix issued an apology on Aug. 20 for the “inappropriate” artwork used for the film, which follows 11-year-old Amy’s struggle to find her identity amid contrasting cultures.
Yet on Thursday, the hashtags #CancelNetflix and #BoycottNetflix were trending on social media, a day after the film debuted on the streaming service.
“Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” the statement reads. “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.”
The statement comes as a “Cancel Netflix subscription” petition on Change.org amassed more than 600,000 signatures as of Friday morning.
“From Cuties to Big Mouth to other movies mocking religions and exploiting children Netflix is no longer the family friendly streaming service I (once) believed it to be!” the petition’s descriptions reads, in part.
The Parents Television Council stood behind its earlier objections after seeing the film, with program director Melissa Henson saying the film “normalizes the sexualization of little girls” and desensitizes “millions of viewers at home by asking them to be entertained by it.”
In the film, from French-Senegalese filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré, Amy (played by Fathia Youssouf) moves to a housing project in Paris and is raised by a conservative mother who is quietly suffering. Amy is simultaneously exposed to the internet’s sexy dance videos and Instagram selfies, and cool girls who appear carefree, confident and free.
Amid the backlash, mostly from people who hadn’t seen it, actress Tessa Thompson, who saw the movie at Sundance Film Festival, called it “beautiful” and with a “fresh voice at the helm.”
“The film comments on the hyper-sexualization of preadolescent girls,” the actress added. “Disappointed to see the current discourse.”
“Hair Love” writer/director Matthew A. Cherry tweeted that the problematic promotional art shows why directors should be involved with the way their films are marketed: “It makes no sense that directors aren’t even consulted in marketing materials for their own movies.”
Contributing: Carly Mallenbaum