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Since its Sept. 9 premiere on Netflix, the controversial French film Cuties has made the streaming service the target of social media critics, Congressional representatives and prominent legal experts. Now, the debate is being escalated to the White House. The Parents Television Council is calling on President Donald Trump and the Justice Department to investigate Netflix not only for its choice to stream Cuties but also what they allege is a “pattern of behavior” in sexualizing children in its content.
“We are ultimately asking the President to instruct the DOJ to investigate Netflix not just for this film, but for its pattern of behavior,” Melissa Henson, program director of the Parents Television Council, told Fox News in a statement. “We hope to get Netflix to be more responsible and refrain from sexualizing kids for entertainment going forward.”
Even before this latest escalation, the conservative-leaning PTC made its support of the larger #CancelNetflix campaign known on social media and its website, which features a petition supporting what it calls “Netflix Reform.”
— Parents Television Council (@ThePTC) September 10, 2020
— Parents Television Council (@ThePTC) September 16, 2020
Cuties — which tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who joins a dance crew that models its routines after age-inappropriate content they see on social media — is the specific target of the organization’s ire. But in an open letter addressed to President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the PTC also cited the animated series Big Mouth and the British series Sex Education as other examples of Netflix programming they consider to be problematic.
Big Mouth, which was co-created by and stars comedian Nick Kroll, explores the thorny topic of pre-teen sexuality, with its characters adjusting to the onset of puberty in hilariously uncomfortable ways. “Big Mouth is particularly vile in its attempts to sexualize pubescent children,” the PTC’s letter states, citing examples taken from the show’s IMDB page. “There is a strong link between sexualized media and the victimization and exploitation of children,” the letter continues.
Sex Education, meanwhile, follows a teenager (played by Asa Butterfield) who establishes a secret “sex therapy” clinic at his school. “The content depicts adult actors who appear to be high-school-aged characters engaged in graphic sex scenes with [dialogue] that one would expect only to find in XXX films,” PTC president, Tim Winter, wrote in a separate Sept. 14 letter addressed to Senator Tim Hawley, who was one of the first government officials to join the #CancelNetflix campaign.
Interestingly, even as #CancelNetflix continues to make headlines, evidence is suggesting that it’s losing steam in terms of financial impact for the company. According to Variety, the post-Cuties surge of Netflix cancellations was short-lived. A report provided to the paper by the data analysis firm, 7Park Data, indicates that there was a temporary spike in cancellations following the film’s September 9 premiere, particularly in the central and southern regions of the U.S., but that subsided to previous levels a week later. The report also indicated that Netflix’s overall subscriber base has not been adversely affected.
That information underscores Netflix’s choice to steadfastly stand by Cuties, and its director, Maïmouna Doucouré, throughout the controversy. “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,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a Sept. 10 statement.
Doucouré herself has adamantly pushed back against charges that she took advantage of her young cast. “I created a climate of trust between the children and myself,” the filmmaker said in a recent interview with the online magazine Zora. “I explained to them everything I was doing and the research that I had done before I wrote this story. I was also lucky that these girls’ parents were also activists, so we were all on the same side.” The director has also emphasized that she and the film’s critics are ultimately fighting “the same fight” against the sexualization of children. “We need to protect our children. What I want to is to open people’s eyes on this issue and try to fix it.”
Cuties is currently streaming on Netflix
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