The director had an op-ed in the WP yesterday, giving her side of the story. Among other things she says is that people’s discomfort with what they’re seeing is kind of the point:
Some people have found certain scenes in my film uncomfortable to watch. But if one really listens to 11-year-old girls, their lives are uncomfortable.
We, as adults, have not given children the tools to grow up healthy in our society. I wanted to open people’s eyes to what’s truly happening in schools and on social media, forcing them to confront images of young girls made up, dressed up and dancing suggestively to imitate their favorite pop icon. I wanted adults to spend 96 minutes seeing the world through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl, as she lives 24 hours a day. These scenes can be hard to watch but are no less true as a result. Like most 11- and 12-year-olds, our actors in the film had already seen these types of dances and more. Despite this, during filming we were extremely mindful of their age. A trained counselor was present on set.
I’m largely on her side, while acknowledging that Netflix screwed the puppy with their marketing.