SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee again called for Netflix to cease distribution of the controversial film “Cuties,” and says the media services giant lacks the “moral standing” to speak out on cultural issues.
The Utah Republican said in a statement Monday that he’s unsatisfied with Netflix’s response to a letter he sent the company three weeks ago as well as a phone conversation he had with Netflix executives about the movie.
“Asked whether the sexualization of young girls depicted in ‘Cuties’ constituted criminal conduct, Netflix offered only conclusory statements in denial. I am not convinced,” said Lee, who believes the Department of Justice should investigate the company.
“But setting aside the legal question, there is a more pressing moral question. Netflix itself acknowledges that the conduct of the young girls in ‘Cuties’ is ‘inappropriate, shameful, and a hallmark of a cultural failing.’ I couldn’t agree more,” he said.
“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.”
Lee reiterated his call for Netflix to stop distributing the film, which was released in the United States last month.
“Until it does so, Netflix lacks the moral standing to speak to any cultural issue,” he said.
“Cuties” is about an 11-year-old who rebels against her conservative Muslim family by joining a “free-spirited” dance crew, according to Netflix. But others say that some scenes in the film amount to child pornography, and some have canceled their Netflix accounts.
Netflix defended the French-language film as a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. It made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival as “Mignonnes.”
“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 in an earlier statement.
Lee said after a “long” phone call with Netflix executives in mid September that his concerns were not put to rest, and in many ways they were intensified by the conversation. Considering not only the content of the movie, but also how it was initially promoted in the U.S., he said he finds it hard to accept that the making of the movie didn’t involve the sexual exploitation of children.
Other federal lawmakers have also raised concerns about the film, demanding it be removed from the platform and that Netflix be the subject of a federal criminal investigation.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, tweeted last month, “@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.“