Netflix faces growing political uproar over the film ‘Cuties’ as critics argue it’s ‘complicit’ in child trafficking

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  • The French film "Cuties" is drawing strong opposition from a growing number of Capitol Hill lawmakers who are demanding investigations into Netflix.
  • A controversial movie poster promoting the film in the US was pulled and replaced with another image. The film was released in the US on Sept. 9.
  • Opposition to the film's release has been driven mostly by political conservatives including Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, along with Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The coming-of-age French film "Cuties" is drawing strong opposition from a growing number of Capitol Hill lawmakers who are demanding investigations into Netflix, the movie's US distributor.

Centered around 11-year-old Amy, a Senegalese Muslim who explores life away from her traditional upbringing by performing with a girls' dance crew, the Maïmouna Doucouré-directed film has received rave reviews from film critics but was trashed on social media when its US promotional poster was released this past August.

The poster, which showed four young girls in provocative attire, was pulled and replaced with a different image, with Netflix issuing an apology, but the controversy surrounding the film has only grown more intense after its Sept. 9 release.

On Friday, Sen. Josh Hawley sent a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, demanding that the film be removed from the streaming platform.

"Netflix is airing a film called Cuties depicting children being coached to engage in simulated sexual acts, for cameras both onscreen and off," said Hawley, a Missouri Republican. "Your decision to do so raises major questions of child safety and exploitation, including the possibility of copycat behavior and exploitation of child actors."

Hawley then issued a September 18 deadline for Hastings to answer several questions, including whether or not he consulted with law enforcement to deal with the possibility of children who see the film imitating "hardcore pornography."

On Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sent to letter to US Attorney General William Barr, requesting that the Justice Department investigate Netflix in response to the film's distribution.

"I urge the Department of Justice to investigate the production and distribution of this film to determine whether Netflix, its executives, or the individuals involved in the filming and production of 'Cuties' violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography," he wrote.

Cruz reiterated that many scenes in the film are harmful to children and urged government action.

"As you know, the Department of Justice has a significant role in preventing the sexual abuse of children," he stated. "The Department enforces federal criminal law making it a serious crime to produce or distribute material involving the sexual exploitation of minors, including the filming of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) called for the Department of Justice to "take swift action" against Netflix and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Indiana) called for charges against the company. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic representative from Hawaii and onetime 2020 presidential candidate, used the #CancelNetflix hashtag as she charged Netflix of being "complicit" in child trafficking.

 

Despite the conservative-driven backlash, Netflix has continued to stand behind the film.

"'Cuties' is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children," a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. "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."

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