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Nothing cute about 'Cuties'

Have you ever watched something that made you gasp in horror?  A recent segment on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News TV show about a new Netflix film called Cuties has awakened the mamma bears in the nation.  Cuties isn’t cute; it’s criminal and exploitative of girls 5-11 years old.  The clip is reminiscent of footage obtained by undercover journalists of child sex trafficking victims.  Is there nothing Hollywood won’t do to make a buck? How can Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, not see the depravity of what his company is promoting?

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The backlash Netflix has received on social media is appropriate but solves little. Congress and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice (DOJ) should investigate not only the production of this film but its marketing and distribution.  American mothers should be demanding justice for these little girls.

Netflix’s own actions prove they know they were wrong. After the initial public outrage with the release of its horrible marketing image of four scantily clad minor girls in hyper-sexualized poses, they apologized and changed it to a picture of the main actress by herself.

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They also recast their effort to normalize this type of exploitation with an outrageous synopsis that they also amended once it was exposed. It read, “Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions.”

She is just exploring her femininity, you see. That’s Netflix’s marketing for you. The paragraph reads now, “‘Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.” Neither explanation comes close to describing the level of sexual provocation scripted for the children used, and I do mean used, for entertainment. Cuties is the perfect tool for pedophiles to use for grooming young children.

Now they are selling it as a “social commentary against the sexualization of young children.” So let’s be clear, it’s not okay to sexually exploit children to make a film about the sexual exploitation of children.

This is not a matter of taste. We are talking about law and public policy here. I was glad to see Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) showing interest in this question, tweeting, “Maybe @Netflix would like to come talk this over before Congress.” He later sent a letter to Mr. Hastings asking some important questions.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii 2) also expressed outrage tweeting, “@netflix child porn "Cuties" will certainly whet the appetite of pedophiles & help fuel the child sex trafficking trade. 1 in 4 victims of trafficking are children. It happened to my friend's 13 year old daughter. Netflix, you are now complicit. #CancelNetflix.”

She’s right. The film, once released, proved to be even more disturbing than advertised, as we have seen now. The Daily Caller writes, the movie “not only includes many close up shots of little girl’s crotches and buttocks, the film also links young girls to pornography, discussions of sexual acts, a child photographing her genitalia, and more.”

This is illegal. Federal law prohibits the sexual exploitation of children prohibiting and using minors “with the intent that such minor engage in, any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct or for the purpose of transmitting a live visual depiction of such conduct” (18 U.S. Code §2251). Though usually associated with sexual intercourse, DOJ is clear that “the legal definition of sexually explicit conduct does not require that an image depict a child engaging in sexual activity.”

This is precisely what the public is subjected to in Cutie. I know that federal law has traditionally focused on naked depictions of children when it comes to child pornography, but the intense focus on these young girls’ sexual body parts and scripted behavior in this film is blatant and designed to portray these minors as sexual objects. This is done to appeal to the most abnormal, unhealthy, degrading, shameful, and prurient interests — to use the words of the Supreme Court in Miller v. California, where it explained obscene materials that are not protected by the First Amendment.

This is not protected speech. The mere fact that these little girls have some clothing on does not vindicate such shameful exploitation of children.  Most Americans agree and emphatically reject this filth. Yet, the fact remains that Netflix is happy with the free publicity.

I call on Attorney General Bill Barr to strike a blow for the safety of children by opening an investigation into Netflix for possible criminal and civil rights violations.  Hollywood’s sexualization of children and coarsening of the culture for profit isn’t new, but they have reached a new dangerous low.

Like the frog in the pot, we have failed to notice until obscenity is now being piped into our homes, and what’s worse, we are paying Netflix to do it.  This is a moment for unity among women on the left and on the right.  Let them hear us say together: “Enough!”

Penny Young Nance is president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest women’s public policy organization. She is the author of the book "Feisty and Feminine: A Rallying Cry for Conservative Women" (Zondervan 2016).

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