Cuties has been accused of sexualizing children, but others have praised the French film for its handling of sensitive topics

Netflix Cuties
Cuties (2020)
| Credit: Netflix

Netflix is in hot water following the release of its controversial new film Cuties.

On Thursday, #CancelNetflix began trending on Twitter after many users claimed that the Maïmouna Doucouré-directed film sexualizes children.

Cuties follows Amy (Fathia Youssouf), an 11-year-old girl from Senegal who joins a dance team dubbed "the cuties" at her school and slowly becomes more aware of her blossoming femininity, which causes tension in her traditional family.

"I have cancelled my Netflix subscription. When asked for a reason I wrote: 'You support paedophilia'. I have not heard back. #CancelNetflix," wrote one user.

Said another, "Netflix condones Pedophilia. Pass it on. #CancelNetflix."

In addition, a petition was launched even prior to the French-language film's release on Thursday, calling on the streaming platform to remove it. As of Thursday afternoon, the petition has 129,140 signatures.

Netflix didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the coming-of-age film has been criticized, it's been praised by many — including film critics – for its handling of sensitive topics. It was also well received at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award

Film critic Monica Castillo gave the film four stars in her review, and applauded Doucouré for using the storyline to openly criticize the societal pressures young girls face to be overtly sexual.

"The movie is so much more nuanced and bold than the first wave of outrage charged," Castillo wrote. "With Cuties, Doucouré announces herself as a director with a keen visual style who’s unafraid to explore these cultural and social tensions."

Actress Tessa Thompson has also spoken out in defense of the film, calling it "beautiful." "The film comments on the hyper-sexualization of preadolescent girls," she said. "Disappointed to see the current discourse."

Last month, Netflix issued a public apology following backlash over the Cuties marketing poster, with critics claiming that it sexualized children.

"We're deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties. It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance," Netflix shared on Twitter. "We’ve now updated the pictures and description."

The controversial poster for the film featured the four young girls dressed in tight, revealing group outfits while striking rather suggestive dance poses.

Cuties on Netflix
| Credit: Netflix

Cuties also stars Médina El Aidi, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah, Myriam Hamma, Demba Diaw, Maïmouna Gueye and Therese M’Bissine Diop.

Cuties is now streaming on Netflix.