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Netflix apologizes for "inappropriate" photos promoting "Cuties," criticized for sexualizing young girls

Netflix has made changes to the images used to promote a French film called "Cuties" after an online petition urged the streaming service to remove the movie from its platform. 

The movie, which won a directing award at the Sundance Film Festival, follows an 11-year-old who wants to join a dance crew.

"Amy, through an ignited awareness of her burgeoning femininity, propels the group to enthusiastically embrace an increasingly sensual dance routine, sparking the girls' hope to twerk their way to stardom at a local dance contest," the synopsis from Sundance reads.

The images used to promote the film, which will premiere on Netflix in September, featured scantily clad young girls vamping for the camera, which many felt were inappropriate.

In a Change.org petition, creator Allison Mitchell called it "disgusting as it sexualizes an ELEVEN year old."

"There is no need for this kind of content in that age group, especially when sex trafficking and pedophilia are so rampant! There is no excuse, this is dangerous content!" Mitchell writes. The petition has nearly reached its 200,000-signature goal.

In a statement to CBS News on Friday, a Netflix spokesperson said, "We're deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties," referring to the film by both its French and English titles. "It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance. We've now updated the pictures and description." The statement was also shared on the company's Twitter. 

The description on Netflix, which once said Amy was fascinated with a "twerking dance crew," now says Amy "starts to rebel against her conservative family's traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew."

It appears the promotional image for the film on the streaming platform has been replaced by a solo shot actress Fathia Youssouf, who plays Amy. 

Following Netflix's apology, Mitchell updated the petition — saying the company's response wasn't enough. "This problem isn't the artwork its the fact its about twerking eleven year olds for adult viewing pleasure," Mitchell wrote on Thursday. 

In another update, she said she won't stop campaign for the removal of "Cuties" from Netflix. "Don't let the picture and description change be enough, they slipped up and showed us the true intentions of the movie, these changes don't change the movie itself which is about TWERKING children!" she wrote.

Many people shared their support for the petition in the comments section. Others took to Twitter to express their feelings on the issue. 

"It is so revealing that the first major @netflix original to centre young Black girls hinges on explicitly sexualising 11 year old children," the writer Claire Heuchan tweeted. "Whether it's acting or music, a sexualised image is too often the price of mainstream success for Black women & girls. Disgraceful."

"There are countless stories @netflix could have chosen to tell about young girls going on adventures, supporting one another, and being children. But with Cuties @netflix teaches girls to view themselves as sex objects. And that's not remotely acceptable," continued Heuchan, who writes an award-winning blog, Sister Outrider, on race and women's rights. 

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