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Lawmakers demand Netflix probe over controversial film “Cuties”

Members demand Department of Justice file charges for ‘distribution of child pornography’

Louise Hall
Saturday 12 September 2020 19:17 BST
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Cuties trailer
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Several members of congress are demanding action over the Netflix film Cuties, which has drawn severe backlash for its representation of young girls since its release.

Cuties follows an 11-year-old girl who joins a dance “clique” to rebel against her conservative Senegalese background. In a dance scene, the film depicts the young girls dressed in revealing clothing while performing sexually suggestive choreography.

The movie has caused outrage since its release on 9 September with calls to boycott the streaming platform which culminated in the hashtag #CancelNetflix trending on Twitter. 

Several congressmen are now calling for Netflix to be investigated by the Department of Justice in light of its release.

Tom Cotton, a Republican senator in Arkansas, accused the platform of “peddling child pornography” before lobbying for the justice department to bring action against the platform.

“Like any parent, I find ⁦@netflix decision to peddle child pornography disgusting. And it’s criminal. @TheJusticeDept⁩ should take swift action,”  he tweeted.

“There’s no excuse for the sexualisation of children, and Netflix’s decision to promote the film Cuties is disgusting at best and a serious crime at worst,” Sen Cotton told The Daily Caller. “I urge the Department of Justice to take action against Netflix for their role in pushing explicit depictions of children into American homes.”

Indiana Representative Jim Banks said: “As a father of three young daughters, I find Cuties sickening. Glad to join @SenTomCotton in calling on the DOJ to bring charges against Netflix for distribution of child pornography." 

Defenders of the film have said that it “comments on the hyper-sexualisation of preadolescent girls”, an argument that Netlix reflected in its own defense against complaints on Thursday.

In a statement to Variety, Netflix insisted the film it functions as “a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” and urged people to watch.  

“It’s an award-winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up — and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie,” the company said.

Before the French title premiered on Netflix it received critical acclaim and won a directing award at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Screen Daily’s Fionnuala Halligan said Cuties is “explicitly designed to shock mature audiences into a contemplation of today’s destruction of innocence”.

The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney also notes the film has a "critical view of a culture that steers impressionable young girls toward the hypersexualisation of their bodies".

However, the critical interpretation seemingly did not appeal to many political opposers who strongly condemned its existence on the platform.  

“As the mother of an 8-year old girl, I STRONGLY support #CancelNetflix,” California congressional candidate Beatrice Cardines, a Republican, tweeted.

“@netflix child porn Cuties will certainly whet the appetite of pedophiles & help fuel the child sex trafficking trade. 1 in 4 victims of trafficking are children. It happened to my friend's 13 year old daughter. Netflix, you are now complicit. #CancelNetflix,” Tulsi Gabbard added.

Cuties initially became the subject of controversy after Netflix released a promotional poster for the film that was vastly different from the French version and emphasised the dance scene in which they wear shorts and crop tops. The French poster, by contrast, shows the group wearing less revealing clothes and throwing shopping bags into the air.

The streaming giant ended up removing the poster and issued an apology for the “inappropriate” artwork.

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