In September, Netflix will release a French film called Mignonnes directed by Maïmouna Doucouré about an 11-year-old girl from Senegal who moves to a poor neighborhood in Paris with her very conservative family and befriends a group of other kids who are in a free-spirited, twerk-based hip-hop dance troupe. As reported by Observer, Doucouré explained in an interview with Cineuropa that the point of the movie is to show how young girls can react when exposed to overtly sexual attitudes and female objectification in media, and rather than judge them for jumping to conclusions about how they should act or dress, we should try to understand them and recognize how social media can impact impressionable children.
So, naturally, when it came time for Netflix to figure out how to promote this movie to is American subscribers, it changed the name to Cuties, put together a poster featuring pre-teen girls posing in revealing outfits, and highlighted the main character’s “femininity” in the official synopsis. Essentially, it seemed like Netflix had turned Cuties/Mignonnes—intentionally or not—into the exact kind of inappropriate media that the movie itself is about. It was weird and fucked up in equal measure.
Speaking of weird and fucked up, the promotional material for Cuties was so far over the line that moderators on 4chan (a Wild West of internet freedoms if there ever was one) supposedly stepped in and declared that anyone posting anything from Cuties would “receive permanent bans.”
Eventually, after the internet had already spent all morning pointing out how weird and fucked up the whole thing was, Netflix stepped in to issue an apology and announce that the offending imagery had been replaced. Deadline says that Netflix wouldn’t confirm whether or not the poster had been made in-house or by an advertising agency, but it did acknowledge that the image “was not okay” and was not “representative of this French film which premiered at Sundance.” Oddly, there was no mention of Doucouré in the apology, despite the fact that Netflix has completely screwed her over by associating her movie with this controversy she had nothing to do with.