On September 9, 2020, Cuties, a French coming-of-age comedy/drama film written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré in her feature directorial debut aired on Netflix. The film stars Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas and Maïmouna Gueye.
The film follows an 11-year-old Sudanese Muslim girl who wishes to join a new dance troupe. Doucouré was inspired to make the film after reflecting on what was witnessed first-hand when a group of young girls performed what she called a “sensual” dance for their family members. In essence, Cuties is a thought provoking exploration of society’s gross hyper-sexualization of young women.
Recently, Cuties made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Due to Netflix’s rash and rushed decision to publish inappropriate promotional material, Cuties received a plethora of hate responses via social media. The aforementioned poster positioned the young film stars in revealing outfits posing in what can only be described as sexualized stances. The orginal French poster reflects the movie’s core concepts as it shows kids being kids and playing.
Since the disaterous marketing fail on the part of Netflix, director Maïmouna Doucouré received death threats. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Doucouré stated, “My reaction? It was a strange experience. I hadn’t seen the poster until after I started getting all these reactions on social media, direct messages from people, attacks on me. I didn’t understand what was going on. That was when I went and saw what the poster looked like.”
The gross misrepresentation of Cuties reflects the consistent lack of cultural sensitivity or respect on the part of big media platforms. One must wonder if Cuties had been any other film, would Netflix’s marketing team paid more attention to how they publicized the work? Not only does Netflix owe Cuties the respect and cinematic representation it deserves, but it goes without saying that the media industry must take more responsibility on how they present young children to the public in their marketing. Young girls and boys should never be hypersexualized in order to sell a product.