Netflix Programming Merits Federal Investigation, Urge Advocacy Groups

"Cuties" (Image credit: Netflix)

LOS ANGELES—The Parents Television Council and Enough is Enough, advocacy groups that focus on internet safety and programming for children, are asking U.S Attorney General William Barr to open up an investigation into Netflix on whether it violated federal statutes against child pornography by distributing the French film “Cuties.”

“Cuties” has been surrounded in controversy since its debut on the streaming platform. The story follows a group of 11-year-old girls that try to win a dance competition with a dance routine that PTC describes as “highly eroticized.” Other sexual situations are presented in the film, though no child nudity is depicted. The film is rated TV-MA.

In September, Netflix was indicted by a grand jury in Tyler County, Texas, for the “promotion of lewd visual material depicting [a] child” in “Cuties.” Some conservative U.S. Senators, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), have also criticized the film and called on Netflix to take action.

“We are urging the Attorney General to thoroughly investigate whether Netflix has violated federal law in its distribution of the film ‘Cuties,’” said PTC President Tim Winter. “It is time for Netflix to be held to account for its apparent infatuation with sexualizing children in its entertainment programming, of which ‘Cuties’ is one of many examples.”

The PTC and EIE also refer to other Netflix programming, including series “Sex Education” and “Big Mouth.”

“It’s past time for Netflix and other streaming platforms to get on board with America’s zero-tolerance policy of child pornography or face criminal charges,” added Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough is Enough.

In an interview with Variety, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos (opens in new tab) responded to the “Cuties” controversy, saying that the film is misunderstood and action against it raises First Amendment concerns about government efforts to pressure the company.

“The film speaks for itself,” Sarandos told Variety. “It’s a very personal coming of age film, it’s the director’s story and the film has obviously played very well at Sundance without any of this controversy and played in theaters throughout Europe without any of this controversy. It’s a little surprising that in 2020 America we’re having a discussion about censoring storytelling.”

Sarandos said that Netflix has no plans to alter the film.