Backlash over the release of the film Cuties has led to a major spike in Netflix subscription cancellations in the United States. The film, Maïmouna Doucouré's directorial debut, follows an 11-year-old Senegalese girl living in Paris who is split between her family's traditional upbringing and her friends at school who are influenced by internet culture, though many had accused the film and the streamer sexualizing the young stars.
According to the research company, YipitData obtained by Variety, just a day after the film’s Sept. 9 released on the streaming platform, Netflix subscriber churn rates began to rise. On Sept. 12, cancellation rates in the U.S. had reached a multi-year high, jumping to nearly eight times higher than the average daily levels recorded in August 2020. The firm, which did not provide exact numbers on how man accounts canceled their subscription, said that this elevated churn could continue in the coming days.
The sudden increase in subscription cancellations coincides with the release of Cuties and a social media campaign to boycott the streaming giant. On the day of the film's Netflix debut, "Cancel Netflix" ranked in the top-trending spot on Twitter as subscribers shared photos confirming they had dropped the platform and encouraged others to do the same.
Outcry over the film began in the days ahead of its Netflix debut after subscribers took notice of the promotional materials Netflix had released. A promotional poster for the film, as well as the film’s original Netflix synopsis, led many to accuse Netflix of hyper-sexualizing pre-teen girls. In response, a Change.org petition was created calling on Netflix to forego the film's release, as Cuties "is disgusting as it sexualizes an ELEVEN year old for the viewing pleasure of pedophiles and also negatively influences our children!" That petition has so far received nearly 700,000 signatures.
Responding to the backlash, Netflix, in a statement, apologized "for the inappropriate artwork that we used for this film," which they said, "was not an accurate representation of the film." The streamer changed the promotional poster as well as the synopsis. As the backlash continued, and just shortly after the film's release, the streamer, in a second statement, defended Cuties, stating that the film "is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children," explaining that the film is "a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up."
Despite the controversy and continued calls for its removal, Cuties has ranked among the streamer's top-viewed movies its release. On Tuesday, Sept. 15, the film ranked No. 4 among the most popular films on the streamer.