Texas Sen. Ted Cruz published an open letter to the Justice Department on Friday, calling for a federal investigation into the movie Cuties — and Netflix for hosting it. The controversial film is a coming-of-age story about an 11-year-old girl learning to dance, which is under fire for showing underage girls dancing in a way that some, such as Cruz, see as inappropriate. Cruz wants Attorney General William Barr to determine whether Netflix is breaking any child pornography laws by hosting the film.
Cuties has caused a wealth of controversy all across the internet, but it did not break into the legal realm until this week. In his letter to Barr, Cruz wrote that the movie "sexualizes young girls, including through dance scenes that stimulus sexual activities and a scene exposing a minor's bare breast." He continued: "I urge the Department of Justice to investigate the production and distribution of this film to determine whether Netflix, its executives or the individuals involved in the filming and production of Cuties violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography."
Cruz posted his letter publicly on his website, arguing that "pedophiles across the world in the future will manipulate and imitate this film in abusive ways." However, others questioned what Cruz hoped to accomplish considering that the movie was made by French director Maïmouna Doucouré, and was only licensed by Netflix.
Cuties is a French-language film about a Senegalese immigrant living in Paris, France. It was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, lauded for its commentary on racism and xenophobia, adolescence and femininity. Vulture critic Alison Willmore argued that the only reason it is getting negative press now is that Netflix "gave it a misleading poster and summary."
So... Netflix bought Maïmouna Doucouré's MIGNONNES, gave it a misleading poster and summary, and now people are review-bombing it sight unseen on IMDb and Google and petitioning for it to be removed?— Alison Willmore (@alisonwillmore) August 20, 2020
These teasers for Cuties led to widespread controversy before the film even hit Netflix on Sept. 9. Entertainment professionals and critics who saw it before then argued that it was being misrepresented and that it does not over-sexualize its underage lead actors at all. In fact, a Netflix spokesperson issued a statement to Fox News defending the film on this score.
"Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children," they said. "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."
So far, Cruz has not revealed whether or not he has seen Cuties himself, nor have other outspoken critics of the film. It is available on Netflix in the U.S. at the time of this writing.