Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos has defended the controversial movie “Cuties,” arguing that American audiences do not understand it as critics increasingly accuse the streaming giant of trafficking in soft-core child porn.
Sarandos said at the virtual Mipcom market on Monday that Americans have “misunderstood” the film in response to a Texas grand jury arguing that it “appeals to the prurient interest in sex, and has no serious, literary, artistic, political, or scientific value,” according to Deadline,
“It’s a little surprising in 2020 America that we’re having a discussion about censoring storytelling,” said Sarandos. “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 theaters throughout Europe without any of this controversy.”
Netflix found itself at the center of controversy in August 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 currently holds an 86% 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 in mid-September, 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.”
For her part, French director Maïmouna Doucouré has also defended her film as a “feminist” work that aims to sound the alarm about the current sexualization of children.
“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 on a panel for French filmmakers at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
“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.