Netflix is known for having a vast and diverse library for people of all ages, but controversial films aren’t anything new to the service, either. This year alone has seen the release of the highly-criticized 365 Days, which prompted a petition to remove the movie from streaming due to its glorification of sexual assault, and plenty of additional flicks have garnered their fair share of pushback from subscribers over the years due to excessive sexual content or other extreme visuals.
Still, few movies have had such a controversial lead-up to a Netflix release as today’s Cuties, a coming-of-age story about a young Senegalese Muslim girl who decides that she wants to defy her family’s traditional values and join a twerking group. Director Maïmouna Doucouré states that the picture draws from her experiences as a child and also functions as an eye-opening look into how internet culture sexualizes young girls and teens, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of people from trying to ‘cancel’ it.
Despite the movie’s clearly negative stance on hyper-sexualization, Netflix’s early marketing for it went in a very unusual direction with an image of its young female stars wearing revealing clothing while standing in various sexualized poses. This photo cast a very pedophilic vibe on the film, which garnered significant backlash from subscribers and the internet as a whole, and prompted many to even sign a petition to have it removed from Netflix altogether.
Cuties has already been blocked in Turkey, and Doucouré says that she’s received death threats from people who were misinformed about the actual subject matter of her movie, likely due to Netflix‘s poor marketing choices.
Nevertheless, Cuties holds a fantastic rating of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes and has won multiple awards at film festivals prior to its release, with most critics agreeing that it offers a nuanced look into modern childhood and the often detrimental effects of popular culture on young minds.