How a Netflix film about dancers sparked a discussion about the sexualisation of young girls

What stories are harmful to tell?

That’s the question at the centre of a debate that’s been sparked by a controversial poster for a new Netflix film.

Cuties or Mignonnes, as its titled in France, tells the story of a young girl from a traditional Senegalese Muslim household as she enters the world of dance troupes.

This year it triumphed at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, bagging the directing award for its writer and director, Maïmouna Doucouré.

But now a promotional poster for the film has forced an apology from Netflix for being “inappropriate”.

Several social media posts about the film were uploaded, expressing disgust at the images Netflix chose to promote the film, which is heading to the streaming service on 9 September.

“It's interesting to compare the French version of the cuties poster to the American version,” wrote a social media user.

“The French version has more "kids having fun!" vibes, while the American version is just f**king.... gross”.

The French poster for the film shows the young girls throwing shopping bags in the air while the Netflix version has them dressed in revealing clothing and pouting.

Another Twitter user said that the “the blatant sexualization of young girls is DISGUSTING”.

No one wants to see their child dressed and posed like this”.

The film is intended to shine a light on the oversexualisation of children.

Doucouré says the idea was born after she saw “a group of young girls aged around 11 years old going up on stage and dancing in a very sensual way while wearing very revealing clothes".

She was left “shocked”, adding that she wondered if they were "aware of the image of sexual availability that they were projecting".

But now Netflix has rolled back on its use of the offending poster, calling it "inappropriate" and unrepresentative.

In a statement to Deadline, a spokesperson for the platform said:

We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Cuties.

It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which premiered at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.

However, the backlash has now sparked a new discussion about content vs marketing.

Actor Tessa Thompson urged people to watch the film, saying the Netflix poster didn’t “speak to the film I saw”.

People agreed that the backlash was strange given so many people hadn’t actually seen the film.

Most people who have watched it note that it's very critical of the oversexualisation of young girls.

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