Netflix Takes Down 'Cuties' After Controversy, But Only in One Country

Months after it faced fierce backlash and accusations that it sexualized young girls, Netflix has removed Maïmouna Doucouré's controversial film Cuties. The streamer confirmed in its annual Environmental Social Governance Report for 2020 that the film, about a young Senegalese Muslim girl, was removed from its platform in Turkey, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film was removed alongside a Season 2 episode of Designated Survivor that featured Turkey's president demanding the extradition of a Turkish opposition leader and bore similarities to the dispute between the Turkish government and cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The decision to remove Cuties came after Turkey's media watchdog RTUK in September ordered the streamer to remove the film from its Turkish portal. The decision to require Netflix to remove the film, according to the Middle East Eye, followed a unanimous vote from the board members who were elected by the opposition parties and came just a month after Turkey's Ministry of Family and Social Policy said Cuties "may cause children to be open to negligence and abuse, and negatively impact their psychosocial development." The Ministry of Family and Social Policy also noted that the film appeared to be a children’s movie, but had an 18+ rating.

While Cuties received acclaim from critics following its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, it faced fierce backlash ahead of its debut on Netflix, largely due to the manner in which the streamer opted to promote the film, including the promo poster that showed pre-teen girls posing in revealing outfits. The film's director later told Deadline she did not see Netflix's international artwork, which was very different from the poster seen in France, "until after I started getting all these reactions on social media, direct messages from people, attacks on me." The promotional material led many to believe that the film, about an 11-year-old girl from Senegal who lives in Paris with her family and is split between her traditional family and her friends, endorsed the hyper-sexualization of girls.

Amid the backlash, Netflix eventually issued a statement apologizing "for the inappropriate artwork that we used for this film," which they said, "was not an accurate representation of the film." The streamer also changed the promotional poster as well as the synopsis, which initially read, "Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family's traditions," but was later changed to "11-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family's traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew."