In response to the enormous backlash surging on social media and beyond, director Maïmouna Doucouré defended her film “Cuties” as a “feminist” work that aims to sound the alarm about the current sexualization of children.
Speaking on a panel for French filmmakers at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday, Doucouré said that she did not make a film intended for pedophiles but instead wanted to raise awareness about a societal problem.
“It’s because I saw so many things and so many issues around me lived by young girls, that I decided to make this film and sound an alarm and say, ‘We need to protect our children,'” Doucouré said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“It’s bold, its feminist, but it’s so important and necessary to create debate and try to find solutions, for me as an artist, for politicians and parents. It’s a real issue,” she added.
Doucouré also hailed her film for being a piece of representation for people of color to see themselves on screen.
“It’s important to see someone like you on the screen, and to grow up with a lot of possibilities. So, of course, diversity and inclusion have to be the keys to progress in our cinema,” she said.
Netflix found itself at the center of controversy last month when it released a poster for the movie “Cuties” that featured pre-teen girls in sexually suggestive poses. The company apologized after severe online backlash. “We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for ‘Cuties.’ It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which premiered at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description,” Netflix said in a statement.
“Cuties” tells the story of 11-year-old Amy who joins a dance group called “The Cuties” at school with her friends. The film holds a 90% score on Rotten Tomatoes and won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award at Sundance this year. Defenders of the film say that Netflix dramatically misrepresented the story’s content with its poster, noting that the original French advertisements were tame by comparison. However, upon the movie’s release last Wednesday, the hashtag #CancelNetflix quickly began trending when clips of the movie revealed that the poster indeed reflected the movie’s content: pre-teen girls dancing sexually.
In response to the backlash, Netflix defended the film as “a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. 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.”
Much of the mainstream media has largely run cover for “Cuties” and Netflix overall, choosing instead to blame the backlash on misguided conservatives who judged the film before ever watching it. A recent op-ed in Slate even went as far to say that conservatives have a “creepy” obsession with the film.
Related: Slate Op-Ed Explores The ‘Creepy Conservative Obsession With Netflix’s Cuties’