Netflix Urged by Senator to Pull Controversial ‘Cuties’ Film

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley called on Netflix Inc. to take down “Cuties,” a controversial coming-of-age film from France, adding to a firestorm over whether the film exploits minors.

The Republican from Missouri sent a letter to Netflix Co-Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings saying the film “raises major questions of child safety and exploitation, including the possibility of copycat behavior and exploitation of child actors.” He demanded answers to a series of queries by Sept. 18, including questions about how the film was marketed and who its viewership is.

Netflix didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

“Cuties,” which was honored by the Sundance Film Festival in January, centers on an 11-year-old girl who rebels against her conservative Muslim family and joins a dance troupe. It was made by Maïmouna Doucouré, a French-Senegalese director.

The controversy surrounding the film has swelled since it debuted on Netflix Wednesday, inspiring the #CancelNetflix hashtag on social media. Petitions to boycott Netflix and demand the removal of the movie have attracted hundreds of thousands of signatories on Change.org.

Netflix has said that the film is social commentary decrying the sexualization of young children, rather than endorsing it.

“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,” the company told Variety.

In his letter, Hawley described the film as “depicting children being coached to engage in simulated sexual acts, for cameras both onscreen and off.” He also asked why Netflix rated the movie TV-MA for “language” without mentioning its sexual content.

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