Cuties director Maïmouna Doucouré says she received death threats over the backlash from the Netflix poster. The poster caused an uproar online for hyper-sexualizing young girls. The backlash went all the way back to Doucouré who had nothing to do with the promotional material. She claims that she was strictly working on the movie's release in France after a mountain of positive international press. The director had this to say about the initial reaction to the poster.
"Things happened fairly quickly because, after the delays, I was completely concentrating on the film's release in France. I discovered the poster as the same time as the American public. My reaction? It was a strange experience. I hadn't seen the poster until after I started getting all these reactions on social media, direct messages from people, attacks on me. I didn't understand what was going on. That was when I went and saw what the poster looked like."
Cuties focuses on eleven-year old Amy, who lives with her mom, Mariam, and younger brother, while they wait for their father to return. After watching her disobedient neighbor Angelica's free-spirited dance clique, Amy becomes obsessed. The group stands in sharp contrast to stoic Mariam's deeply held traditional values. Even so, Amy wants to be a part of the group and ends up joining them. Netflix talked about a sexually suggestive dance move on their original synopsis for Cuties and released a poster showing said dance move. Social media blew up and Maïmouna Doucouré received death threats as a result. She explains.
"I received numerous attacks on my character from people who had not seen the film, who thought I was actually making a film that was apologetic about hyper-sexualization of children. I also received numerous death threats."
The Cuties backlash led to Netflix publicly apologizing. "We had several discussions back and forth after this happened. Netflix apologized publicly, and also personally to me," says Maïmouna Doucouré. The streaming service's co-CEO Ted Sarandos personally called the director to apologize. "Streamers are a great way to get my stories out and share my messages with more people," she adds positively. She continues, "I really put my heart into this film. It's actually my personal story as well as the story of many children who have to navigate between a liberal western culture and a conservative culture at home."
In addition to the personal attacks, Maïmouna Doucouré says she has received words of encouragement from those who have seen Cuties and understand the message she was trying to get across. Sundance and Berlin "really supported her," she says. Doucouré says she has also received "extraordinary support" from the French government. "I wrote this film after I spent a year and a half interviewing pre-adolescent girls, trying to understand their notion of what femininity was, and how social media was affecting this idea," the director says.
After the interviews, Maïmouna Doucouré came to a conclusion. "The main message of the film is that these young girls should have the time to be children, to enjoy their childhood, and have the time to choose who they want to be when they are adults," she says. "You have a choice, you can navigate between these cultures, and choose from the elements of both, to develop into your own self, despite what social media dictates in our society." Whatever the case may be, there are still people who are not happy about Doucouré's Cuties and are still voicing their opinions on social media. The interview with Maïmouna Doucouré was originally conducted by Deadline.