In an attempt to come out on top in its rivalry with other streaming platforms, Netflix is aggressively adding international films and shows to its catalogs. One such film, Cuties, was released in September 2020. The French-Senegalese film tells the story of a Senegalese girl named Amy living in Paris under her strict Muslim parents.
Amy’s journey of self-discovery ends in her joining a dance troupe called The Cuties. The film has received widespread backlash for allegedly sexualizing children. There is no nudity in the film, but it features a scene showing a young girl taking photos of her genitals, and other questionable scenes.
Cuties is available on Netflix in some countries, but it has been removed in others.
Netflix was indicted by a grand jury in Texas for promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child via Cuties
Cuties made its debut at the 2020 Sundance Festival on 23rd January, where it won the Directing Award. There was no talk about the film being controversial until Netflix released the film’s promotional material.
The international promotional poster was criticized for sexualizing eleven-year-old girls. The Parents Television Council requested that Netflix remove the film entirely and a petition started on Change.org urging people to cancel their Netflix subscriptions. The campaign garnered over 600K followers.
Netflix changed the photo and apologized, but it couldn’t stop the #CancelNetflix movement from spreading like wildfire. It is reported that some people unsubscribed from Netflix.
Tyler County, Texas, went a step further and indicted Netflix for promoting lewd visual material depicting a child. Almost a month after the film’s release, a grand jury found that Netflix had a case to answer. The move was celebrated by a slate of conservative politicians.
Netflix executives responded by stating that it will not take down Cuties, but the streaming platform seems to have bowed to the pressure
Many thought that Netflix would take the film down when the criticism began. However, Netflix opted to leave the film up. The streaming giant’s CEO Ted Sarandos came out to say that Cuties was simply misunderstood:
“It’s a film that is very misunderstood with some audiences, uniquely within the United States. The film speaks for itself. It’s a very personal coming of age film, it’s the director’s story and the film has obviously played very well at Sundance without any of this controversy and played in theatres throughout Europe without any of this controversy.”
From a business perspective, it’s easy to see why Netflix kept the film. Sure, it lost some subscribers due to the #CancelNetflix campaign, but the attention brought to the film by the controversy made Cuties an extremely popular title on the platform.
Netflix has partially bowed to the pressure as Cuties is available in some countries, but not available in others.