On October 8, 2020, a Texas grand jury indicted Netflix for “promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child,” by streaming the French award-winning film “Cuties” on its platform. As Netflix prepares to face criminal felony charges, public controversy over the film continues to catch fire on both sides of the political spectrum, but for very different reasons.
According to Texas senators and many other conservatives, the Netflix film “Cuties” hyper-sexualizes 11-year old girls as they are shown posing and dancing in a provocative manner throughout the film. Texas senator, Ted Cruz, even went as far as to say that the creation of the film, and Netflix’s streaming of it, amounts to a “production and distribution of child pornography,” and that “pedophiles around the world will find ways to manipulate this film in abusive ways.” Other right-winged supporters agreed with Senator Cruz’s position and called for Netflix to be “#cancelled” on several social media sites, and argued that the film’s content promotes pedophilia and child sex trafficking. Unsurprisingly, the film has also been the target of QAnon conspiracy theorists and the #savethechildrencampaign, who have used the film to attempt to legitimize their claims on child sex abuse in Hollywood and sex trafficking in general.
However, others have explained that the content and message of the film have been simply misunderstood, and that both sides have “the same fight about the issue of hyper sexualizing children and believe in protecting children.” Cuties is not a film that promotes lewdness, but rather is a “coming of age” story that comments on girls’ transition into adulthood and the pressure young girls have to “rush and grow up” especially in the age of Instagram and TikTok. Maimouna Doucouré, the creator of Cuties, explains that the film is actually a “criticism of the very things it’s being accused of promoting.” The film aims to demonstrate “what it means to approach womanhood between two cultures, as well as the wider theme of the hyper-sexualization of youngsters in modern society.”
The CSE Institute stands firm in our beliefs and mission of combatting sexual exploitation, especially for vulnerable women and children. The themes in Cuties are incredibly important; we must recognize and address the hyper-sexualization of young girls. But in the case of Cuties, QAnon and other conspiracy theorists have twisted the realities of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation to create mass hysteria and public outcry. Truth matters. The CSE Institute stands with survivors as they voice their lived experiences.