After reading a response from Netflix to his concerns about its movie “Cuties,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Monday that he still questions whether it constitutes criminal exploitation of minors — and is renewing his call to pull the film.
“Asked whether the sexualization of young girls depicted in Cuties constituted criminal conduct, Netflix offered only conclusory statements in denial,” Lee complained in a statement about questions he asked three weeks ago. “I am not convinced.”
“Cuties” won an award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
It is about a young Senegalese girl in Paris who joins a “free-spirited dance clique” to escape family dysfunction. Netflix says the girls mimic suggestive choreography of mature performers they see on social media, but adds that the main character ultimately rejects resulting oppression that comes with that to return to childhood and innocence.
A letter to Lee from Dean Garfield, vice president of global public policy for Netflix, said, “Cuties is not pornographic, does not contain underage nudity, and does not depict sexual acts, simulated or otherwise. The film does not glamorize or promote the sexualization or exploitation of children — just the opposite.”
He added, “The film’s central theme is that the conduct of the ‘Cuties’ is not sexy, arousing or alluring. Rather, given their ages, it is inappropriate, shameful and a hallmark of a cultural failing.”
Lee said about that last sentence, “I couldn’t agree more. What I cannot understand, however, is how Netflix can condemn the conduct depicted in ‘Cuties,’ while celebrating the film and filmmakers who asked several underage girls to stand in front of a camera and engage in that same ‘inappropriate, shameful’ conduct for all the world to see.”
The senator added, “I reiterate my call for Netflix to cease distributing ‘Cuties.’ Until it does so, Netflix lacks the moral standing to speak to any cultural issue.”
Netflix, in its letter, said that it “opposes the exploitation of children. ‘Cuties’ is a film that exposes and condemns the persistent problem of the sexualization of girls in society.” It adds that attacks on the film have come largely “from those who have not watched the conclusion of the film in which innocence and childhood are restored.”
The letter also said that Netflix and its partners give paramount importance to the safety and well-being of children and minors in its productions. It said Netflix acquired the finished “Cuties” shortly before the Sundance Film Festival, but its producers vowed that its production complied with laws relating to minors.
It said some danger has come to the actors and filmmakers because of attacks on the film.
“Unfortunately, the misinformed and vitriolic social media commentary about the film has fomented threats toward the director, and we have had to provide additional security to the creator and cast to ensure their safety and that of their families,” Garfield wrote.
Several conservative groups, including Parents Television Council, have urged Netflix users to cancel their subscriptions because of the film. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also called for Netflix to take down the film.