Four state attorneys general are calling on Netflix to remove "Cuties" from the streaming service, saying the controversial film sexualizes young girls.
In a joint letter sent Monday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urged Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to pull the movie, saying "Cuties" is “fodder for those with criminal imaginations, serving to normalize the view that children are sexual beings."
“It whets the appetites of those who wish to harm our children in the most unimaginable ways,” the letter adds.
The AGs note that although "Cuties" director Maïmouna Doucouré intended to combat child sexualization rather than promote it, the film “does more harm than good."
Earlier Monday, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., criticized the film as he introduced legislation in Congress to ban the sale of childlike sex dolls.
“A film that shows girls as young as 11 engaging in highly sexualized dance routines is inappropriate," Buchanan said in a news release. "I support artistic expression in film but this is exploitative, dangerous and borders on child pornography.”
“You can’t say you’re making a movie that explores the topic of sexual exploitation of children by then sexually exploiting children," he added.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., have all spoken out against the film, with Cruz asking U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate whether Netflix, its executives or the filmmakers violated federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography.
USA TODAY has reached out to Netflix for comment.
Even as critics pile on, Doucouré is standing by her film.
In a virtual panel discussion with uniFrance on Monday, the French director said "Cuties" was intended to "sound an alarm," noting that "hyper-sexualization of our children is everywhere" thanks to social media.
"It's feminist, but it's so important and necessary to create debate and try to find solutions all together," she said. "Watch the film and understand that we have the same fight."
Backlash to "Cuties" began when artwork debuted in late August and drew criticism on social media for showing the film's cast of children in midriff-baring uniforms and short shorts striking various dance poses. Netflix issued an apology for the "inappropriate" image promoting the film, which follows 11-year-old Amy's struggle to find her identity amid contrasting cultures.
A day after the film debuted on the streaming service, the hashtags #CancelNetflix and #BoycottNetflix were trending on social media, and a petition sprang up calling for "Cuties" to be removed.
Following the film's release, Netflix responded to the criticism in a statement provided to USA TODAY: "Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. 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."
Netflix subscribers who watched the film have also taken to social media to share their thoughts.
User @cheetukun tweeted, "Just watched the Cuties Netflix movie and it’s seriously not that bad. The internet be over exaggerating. Person shrugging."
Twitter user @justsomeguycc wrote, "So... I watched Cuties. It's not what people think. Most of the of the scenes make sense in context, except for the ending dance scene. It's supposed to make you uncomfortable, and it does, but it's shot like W.A.P., so it ironically does the thing it's criticizing."
User @YasMohammedxx wrote, "Ok I watched #Cuties, so now I can give my informed opinion. It’s an incredibly powerful movie w some really important themes. I also think the msgs could‘ve definitely been achieved without the excessive dancing scenes. It would’ve still come across clearly w way less."
User @weisenbutchfeld tweeted, "so i watched cuties. let's start off by saying that it is the worse thing i have ever seen, and it deserves all of the negative attention that it's getting."
User @iKromatica wrote, "Just watched the Movie "Cuties" on Netflix and its disgusting, distasteful and really more like a porn. Just don't watch it."
Contributing: Carly Mallenbaum, Cydney Henderson, Morgan Hines, Kim Willis and Charles Trepany
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Cuties' backlash: State attorneys general ask Netflix to pull movie