Following social media controversy over the French film “Cuties,” a conservative parents group is calling on President Donald Trump to have the Department of Justice investigate Netflix over claims its programming has sexually exploited children.
The coming-of-age story, released internationally via Netflix earlier this month, follows an 11-year-old girl as she navigates her maturing sexuality while finding a place in her religious family — to awkward and sometimes appalling ends.
And it’s those uncomfortable moments that prompted an outcry among concerned parents who call the film yet another example of Netflix’s “corporate practice of graphically and grotesquely sexualizing children through its entertainment programming,” according to Parents Television Council (PTC) President Tim Winter.
In a letter addressed to Missouri’s Sen. Josh Hawley last week, the group urged the White House to order a Department of Justice investigation into the streaming service.
“Mr. President, more than 30 members of Congress have now spoken out against ‘Cuties,’ and many have called for Congressional hearings or an investigation. But the problem with sexualizing children on Netflix runs deeper than just ‘Cuties,’ ” wrote Winter, whose letter was made public in a press release.
“There is a strong link between sexualized media and the victimization and exploitation of children,” Winter claimed. He cited recent reports, including the news that US Marshals have rescued more than 70 children who were considered “at-risk” of abuse and human trafficking, as well as a $35 million DOJ grant to aid the victims, as proof of the entertainment industry’s culpability.
“Please instruct your Attorney General to investigate Netflix to protect children from sexualization and exploitation,” Winter commanded.
Their letter called out a number of other popular features appearing on Netflix, including the star-studded animated series “Big Mouth,” which makes light of puberty, and the British comedy-drama series “Sex Education,” which focuses on mental health and safe sexuality.
Winter’s letter includes a “cc” to Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. Jim Banks and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard — all of whom have spoken out against the film, alongside a chorus of worried parents on social media. In just over a month, a Change.org petition to have the movie removed from the streaming platform has reached over 650,000 signatures.
Netflix has defended the film by calling it a “social commentary against the sexualization of young children … a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up.”
They also issued an apology following backlash for the problematic images used to promote the film to American viewers — which differed from its European marketing.
“We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties. It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description,” they wrote on Twitter last month.
The “Cuties” writer and director, French-Senegalese filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré, also recently penned an op-ed for the Washington Post. In it, she wrote, “We, as adults, have not given children the tools to grow up healthy in our society,” and she hit back at conservative parents for stifling the message, rather than addressing the core issue.