SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee might ask the U.S. attorney general to investigate the controversial Netflix show “Cuties” for possibly violating child exploitation laws.
The Utah Republican also called on the media services giant to cease distributing the movie “in the interest of protecting children in both the United States and internationally from this horrible abuse.”
Lee said in a letter to Netflix on Friday that his staff is reviewing the French-African film released Wednesday to decide whether to refer it to federal law enforcement.
“It would be most helpful if you could provide my office with an explanation on your views as to whether or not the potential exploitation of minors in this film constitutes criminal behavior by Friday, Sept 18, 2020,” the letter says.
“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 conservatives say that some scenes in film amount to child pornography, and they are canceling their Netflix accounts.
“Many have raised concerns — which I share — regarding the film’s depiction of the exploitation of young girls’ bodies,” Lee wrote.
In the letter, Lee says he has concerns with the movie’s young actresses’ influence on other young girls, but his larger concern is with the possibility that the inappropriate scenes might encourage the sexual exploitation of young girls by adults.
Lee said he understands the movie has a broader storyline but its “sexualization of young girls — if not itself the sexual exploitation of the child actors — will certainly contribute to child sexual exploitation by others.”
The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars combating child trafficking, child sexual exploitation and child pornography both domestically and abroad, he wrote.
A Netflix spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that “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,” according to the statement.
Netflix last month reacted to complaints about the coming-of-age film, which won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City earlier this year. After issuing a promotional poster that featured four girls in suggestive poses, the company issued a new poster and apologized in a statement to Deadline magazine last month.
“Cuties” is rated TV-MA, meaning it is intended to be viewed by mature, adult audiences and contains content that may be unsuitable for children under 17.
“My concern is not necessarily that the film is rated TV-MA, but that the ‘explicit sexual activity’ that led to the TV-MA rating involves sexually suggestive dancing by girls as young as 11 years old,” Lee wrote.