‘Cuties’ controversy entangles Obamas as pressure grows to pull ‘child porn’ Netflix film
By Valerie Richardson – The Washington Times
The growing uproar over “Cuties” threatens to engulf the Obamas as they come under pressure to use their influence at Netflix to pull the provocative French film accused of glorifying the sexualization of girls.
Critics on the right have called on Netflix producers Barack and Michelle Obama to condemn “Cuties,” a French film released on the streaming service Sept. 9 that already has prompted calls by Republicans for a Justice Department investigation into possible child-pornography violations.
The Federalist didn’t mince words in a Monday article by Fox News contributor Rachel Campos-Duffy headlined, “Michelle Obama is Complicit in Netflix Child Porn Film ‘Cuties.’”
“At a time the left has declared that ‘silence is violence,’ Michelle Obama’s silence on Netflix’s controversial movie ‘Cuties’ has not gone unnoticed,” read the op-ed, co-written with Evita Duffy. “It is also undermining her brand as ‘America’s mom’ and chief defender of female empowerment across the globe.”
The Obamas certainly have the connections: Last year they signed a reported $50 million production deal with Netflix. What’s more, the streaming media company’s board includes former Obama National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, a 2012 Obama campaign bundler whose wife, Nicole Avant, served in the Obama administration as ambassador to the Bahamas.
The Washington Times reached out to the Obamas for comment but did not receive a reply.
Radio talk-show host Larry O’Connor said the Obamas “are enriched by the company that has presented this trash to the world,” but they “refuse to say anything … anything at all about this horrible issue.”
“They are the tip of the spear in demanding that every day Americans disrupt their own lives and their family harmony on the most divisive and controversial political topics,” Mr. O’Connor said Friday in an op-ed on Townhall.com. “Yet, on this fundamental, non-controversial and unifying idea that children should be protected and sexual exploitation of minors should be universally condemned, they can’t say a word.”
Netflix saw its stock price drop for the fifth day Monday as #CancelNetflix continued to roar on social media, spurred by former subscribers posting their cancellation receipts in a campaign to compel the service to remove the film.
“Cuties” also faces opposition in Congress. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, asked Attorney General William Barr to investigate whether Netflix has “violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, and Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican, on Friday called on the Justice Department to prosecute Netflix for trafficking in child pornography, while Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, sent a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings asking him about the “exploitation of child actors.”
A few Democrats have joined the outcry, notably Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who tweeted Friday that she had canceled her Netflix subscription over “Cuties,” which she described as “child porn.”
Christine Pelosi, daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a former San Francisco assistant district attorney, tweeted that the film “hypersexualizes girls my daughter’s age no doubt to the delight of pedophiles like the ones I prosecuted. Cancel this, apologize, work with experts to heal your harm.”
Obamas could ‘stop this in its tracks’
Netflix has defended the coming-of-age film, which centers on a French-Sengalese girl named Amy who “starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.”
“‘Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” a Netflix spokesperson said in an email. “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.”
Filmmaker Maimouna Doucoure won the directing award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and the critical reviews have been mostly positive. In what may be one of the most skewed Rotten Tomatoes ratings ever, the film received a glowing 88% score from critics and a desultory 3% score from audiences.
In a Monday interview on Medium, Ms. Dourcoure urged those offended by the movie poster released last month to watch the film, predicting they would be surprised.
“I’m hoping that these people will watch the movie now that it’s out,” she said. “I’m eager to see their reaction when they realize that we’re both on the same side of this fight against young children’s hypersexualization.”
The New Yorker’s Richard Brody said “Cuties” had become “the target of a right-wing campaign,” while the Verge’s Julia Alexander blamed a “QAnon conspiracy theory” in an article retweeted by Mr. Hastings.
Tufts University professor Daniel W. Drezner on Monday accused Mr. Cruz of stoking the “hysteria” by railing against the movie without having seen it.
“The film is mostly a cautionary tale about what happens when preteen girls lack parental authority figures and instead seek approval from social media likes,” Mr. Drezner said in the Washington Post op-ed. “In other words, ‘Cuties’ is a film with a rather conservative message. By my plain-language reading of U.S. law, it does not come remotely close to the ‘child pornography’ label.”
Not buying the “cautionary tale” explanation was Live Action’s Lila Rose, who tweeted, “You don’t fight child exploitation by exploiting children. You don’t stop child pornography by creating, selling and distributing child pornography.”
On the IMDb “Parents Guide,” the movie received a “severe” rating for “sex & nudity,” citing “Frequent scenes of 11 yr old girls dancing lewdly where the camera pans in and zooms in on the children’s buttocks and midsections.”
The original IMDb description, however, said that “one of the female child dancers lifts up her top to fully display her bare breast,” in a screenshot captured by the Blaze.
Mr. Drezner downplayed the shot, calling it “a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene in which the film’s protagonists are watching video of a rival, older dance troupe in which one of the dancers exposes one breast. It happens too fast for anything to be sexualized.”
Before the film’s release, there was a dust-up its poster, which Netflix removed, but the movie featuring close-ups of scantily clad girls twerking and writhing makes the poster look tame, according to conservative pundit Tammy Bruce.
“They said that the poster that caused outrage didn’t reflect the film. They were right. The film is worse. It is beyond what we would have imagined,” said Ms. Bruce on Fox’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “The fact is, it is awful. It is the exploitation of children. This is not an indictment; it’s a celebration.”
She added that “curiously silent are the Obamas” as well as Ms. Rice.
“A word from any of these people could stop this in its tracks,” said Ms. Bruce, “and they should say something.”