Netflix’s new movie, “Cuties,” has been released—and so has round two of Twitter outrage, with “Cancel Netflix” trending on Thursday.
Neftlix faced a backlash last month over how it marketed the foreign-language film. “Cuties,” translated from the original title “Mignones,” is about a preteen immigrant to France, who rebels against her traditional culture by joining a new group of friends and their dance team. The marketing of the film set off a storm because it seemed to sexualize the child characters, who take part in risqué modern dance trends including twerking.
The reaction to Netflix’s marketing also became a cautionary tale about how brands can misstep on social media, where there has been a conversation raging about child exploitation, some of which is being perpetuated by groups including QAnon, that are stoking a conspiratorial panic about Hollywood pedophile rings and child cannibals.
The filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré said she made the movie to criticize the sexualization of young girls, not glorify the subject. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos reportedly even apologized to the filmmaker, who became a target for online attacks and even received death threats.
The poster for the movie featured the young stars in their dance outfits and suggestive poses, and the plot summary said the character was “fascinated” by her friends’ twerk crew. Netflix adjusted the promotional material quickly, and apologized publicly.
There is criticism against Netflix from genuinely shocked viewers, but some has been stirred by the same forces that push conspiracy theories on social media. “Cancel Netflix” has trended on Twitter accompanied by hashtags including “SaveOurChildren,” which is a slogan that is often associated with QAnon. In a report last month, The New York Times said that Facebook temporarily blocked the hashtag “Save Our Children,” because it was being promoted by pro-QAnon accounts, which is a group that Facebook is trying to moderate.
Accounts sympathetic to QAnon have targeted major brands including Wayfair, which became enveloped in a phony conspiracy this summer, which accused the furniture company of trafficking children.
Netflix’s “Cuties” includes scenes with the 11-year-old characters dancing in provocative ways. Parental warnings on Amazon's movie-review site IMDb say that say the characters dance suggestively, watch inappropriate videos and wear tight-fitting clothes.
Netflix did not respond to for comment on how it is handling the backlash.
The “Cancel Netflix: brigade has been taken up by popular right-wing media, too, including Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, The Daily Caller and others. It’s unclear how successful a cancel movement will be. Boycotts against brands have a history of being ineffective. Netflix had 193 million paying subscribers at the end of the second quarter.
The movie “Cuties” is getting hit in one area: Reviews have been pouring in on IMDb, where there are more than 2,000 reviewers, and the film has only a 1.9 star rating out of 10.