At the time of writing, change.org’s petition to remove the film from Netflix (whose caption reads: “This movie / show is disgusting because it sexualizes an eleven-year-old child for the viewing pleasure of pedophiles and also negatively influences our children! no need for this type of content in this age group, especially when sex trafficking and pedophilia are so prevalent! There is no excuse, it is dangerous content ! ”) Has collected more than 150,000 signatures. In the process, a first-time black female director had her reputation in the mud.
It’s worth noting that not all of Cuties’ reviews after its Sundance premiere were not entirely positive. Amy Nicholson, writing for Variety, thought the film presented a “false choice” between its two worlds and Kate Erbland in Indiewire found the film “touching and relatable” before it became too contrived and sensational. But these are valid, thoughtful reviews based on the film itself.
It is too obvious, and not quite correct, to say that the scandalizing machine has claimed another victim. Cuties will be coming out with new artwork, maybe even with a publicity boost. Either way, this episode shows the detrimental impact that manipulating words and images can have on the internet. As culture makes the journey online, it will suffer just as much as politics if people are not able to read pictures, search for information, and recognize spurious arguments.
Netflix has now apologized for its “inappropriate illustrations”, which it said were “not OK or representative of this movie.” This is unlikely to satisfy many petitioners, who will not have delved into this question – but it may at least be a step towards returning the film to its earlier journey.