Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 20, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Netflix has apologized after a poster advertising an upcoming film was accused of normalizing pedophilia. But one theologian told CNA that an apology for the image is not enough, and that the film itself sexualizes children.
The promotional material for the film provoked widespread criticism overnight on Aug. 19, with many claiming that the film’s promotional material appeared to sexualize children.
“We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties,” Netflix’s official Twitter account tweeted on Thursday, August 20.
“It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which premiered at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description,” said Netflix.
The film, whose original French title “Mignonnes” was translated to “Cuties” for its American release, was released on April 1, 2020 in France. It is set to premiere on Netflix on September 9.
The initial Netflix description of the film was “Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions.”
The French-produced film features pre-teen girls involved in groups that perform sexualized dance routines.
Twerking is a style of sexually provocative dance involving thrusting hip movements and suggestive stances. The dance style has been banned at several American high schools.
The description has since been updated to “Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.”
The “free-spirited dance crew” in the film is the titular “Cuties.” In the film, Amy is a Senegalese Muslim who lives with her mother and younger brothers in Paris.
The original poster featured Amy, who is played by tween actress Fathia Youssouf, in a low squat position with her legs spread. She, and the other young actresses in the film, are pictured wearing dance costumes consisting of spandex “booty shorts” and cropped tops, and are all posed in a suggestive manner.
The poster for the film has since been changed to an image of Youssouf looking over her shoulder. The original poster that accompanied the French release of the film featured the preteen actresses fully clothed.
Dr. Chad Pecknold, a professor of theology at the Catholic University of America and the father of a six-year-old daughter, told CNA that he was disturbed by the initial advertisements for the film.
“I was utterly shocked to see young girls just a bit older than my daughter in sexually suggestive poses,” said Pecknold.
“But my moral revulsion at what can only be the normalization of pedophilia only increased when I realized the producers claim to be criticizing the sexualization of children by, in fact, sexualizing children,” he added.
The director of the film, Maimouna Doucouré, said that she was inspired to make Cuties after noticing that some “very young girls” had hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.
“There were no particular reasons [for the number of followers], besides the fact that they had posted sexy or at least revealing pictures: that is what had brought them this ‘fame,’” she said in an interview in August with CineEuropa.
“Today, the sexier and the more objectified a woman is, the more value she has in the eyes of social media. And when you’re 11, you don’t really understand all these mechanisms, but you tend to mimic, to do the same thing as others in order to get a similar result,” she said.
She told CineEuropa that it is “urgent” that this matter be discussed, and that she thinks “a debate be had on the subject.”
Pecknold disagrees that “Cuties” is the proper way to conduct a discussion on anything.
“This is a rationale that only Jeffrey Epstein could love,” he told CNA.
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