U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is "unsatisfied" with Netflix's response to his letter raising concerns over the controversial movie "Cuties," released last month, and is reiterating his call for the streaming platform to cease distribution of the film.
"Cuties," originally titled "Mignonnes," is a French-language film centered on 11-year-old Amy, who becomes a member of a dance group dubbed the "Cuties." Two analytics companies that purport to track Netflix subscribers reported in September that the streaming service saw an uptick in cancellations amid the controversy over the coming-of-age film, which some critics say sexualizes young girls.
In Monday's announcement, Lee said in addition to his letter, he discussed his concerns in more detail with Netflix employees by phone. "I have to say that I am unsatisfied by Netflix’s response," he said in the statement.
“Asked whether the sexualization of young girls depicted in Cuties constituted criminal conduct, Netflix offered only conclusory statements in denial," the statement continued.
Lee felt perplexed as to how Netflix could "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."
“I reiterate my call for Netflix to cease distributing Cuties. Until it does so, Netflix lacks the moral standing to speak to any cultural issue,” he concluded.
USA TODAY has reached out to Netflix for comment on Lee's new statement.
On Sept. 11, Lee sent a letterto Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, expressing his concern with the depiction of the young actresses and that it "might encourage the sexual exploitation of young girls by adults."
He asked that Netflix drop the film from its selection and informed the streaming service his staff was reviewing the film to potentially hand it off to the United States Attorney General for investigation.
In a letter dated Sept. 18, Netflix responded to Lee, stating in bold letters: "Netflix opposes the exploitation of children. Cuties is a film that exposes and condemns the persistent problem of the sexualization of girls in society."
"'Cuties' is not pornographic, does not contain underage nudity, and does not depict sexual acts, simulated or otherwise," the response states. "The film does not glamorize or promote the sexualization or exploitation of children – just the opposite. The film's central theme is that the conduct of the 'Cuties' is not sexy, arousing or alluring. Rather, given their ages, it is inappropriate, shameful, and a hallmark of a cultural failing."
"The film shines a painful light on the message that young girls face everyday: 'Sexiness is valued. Childhood is not,'" the letter continues, explaining the movie's themes and scenes are "uncomfortable and upsetting" by design. "By forcing the audience to see how society is inured to, and even encourages the sexualization of children, the film makes it impossible for viewers to ignore the consequences of exploitation that are actually occurring in our communities."
Contributing: Rasha Ali
From USA Today.