Netflix, a longtime target of right-wing boycotts, is now facing new pressure from some lawmakers looking to score political points in an election year.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Sept. 11 sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr asking the Department of Justice to investigate Netflix regarding its marketing and distribution of French film Cuties, a fictional story about an 11-year-old girl from Senegal living in Paris who joins a “twerking dance squad,” upsetting her conservative single mom. Cruz wonders whether distribution of the movie violated any federal laws against the alleged production and distribution of child pornography.
“I urge the DOJ to investigate … whether Netflix, its executives, or the individuals involved in the production and distribution of the film violated any federal laws,” Cruz wrote.
Specifically, Cruz alleges the film “routinely fetishizes and sexualizes” pre-adolescent girls performing dance sequences in provocative outfits simulating sexual conduct.
“These scenes in and of themselves are harmful,” Cruz wrote, suggesting the images could encourage pedophiles globally to imitate “this film in abusive ways.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) joined the dispute, calling on the DOJ to take “swift” action.
“Like any parent, I find @Netflix decision to peddle child pornography disgusting,” Cotton tweeted Sept. 12. “And it’s criminal.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is the lone Democrat criticizing the movie’s release, claiming it would “whet the appetite of pedophiles” and help “fuel” child sex trafficking.
“Netflix, you are now complicit,” Gabbard tweeted.
Netflix, which began streaming Cuties on Sept. 9, changed the film’s initial marketing after receiving criticism on social media. The service contends the movie criticizes — not endorses — the sexualization of minor girls in the media.
“Cuties is 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,” Netflix said in a media statement.
The Parents Television Council, a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment, this week said it stands by its earlier criticism that the TV-MA-rated Cuties sexualizes children.
“By removing the offensive poster and replacing it with a more innocuous one, Netflix might actually have made the situation worse by suggesting that Cuties is nothing more than a cute, coming-of-age movie,” Melissa Henson, program director for the Parents Television Council, said in a statement.