Lawmakers in Washington, most of them Republicans, called Friday for the Justice Department to take legal action against Netflix for streaming the highly controversial film “Cuties" -- claiming the comedy-drama sexualizes young children and "serves as fodder for pedophiles."

The critics included U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind. -- as well as U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.

“There’s no excuse for the sexualization of children, and Netflix’s decision to promote the film ‘Cuties’ is disgusting at best and a serious crime at worst,” Cotton told the Daily Caller. “I urge the Department of Justice to take action against Netflix for their role in pushing explicit depictions of children into American homes.”

"There’s no excuse for the sexualization of children."

— U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

The film, centered on an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant living in Paris, is the debut work of French director Maïmouna Doucouré. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah last year and earned Doucouré a best directing award.


In the film, the main character, Amy, ends up joining a clique of girls who call themselves the “Cuties” – and perform highly provocative and eroticized dance numbers while scantily clad – as a way of rebelling against her conservative Muslim parents.

Banks told the Daily Caller he was disturbed by the film as a parent.

Netflix is catching backlash for its film 'Cuties.' (Netflix)

Netflix is catching backlash for its film 'Cuties.' (Netflix)

“As a father of young daughters, I find it sickening. Not only is this movie fodder for pedophiles, it encourages very young girls to defy their parents’ wishes and share pornographic images of themselves with strangers. Our culture has come a long way in recent years, recognizing the power of television, movies and magazines to affect young girls,” he said. “The lessons taught in this film are not ones I want my daughters learning. The DOJ should be readying charges against Netflix for distribution of child pornography.”

"The lessons taught in this film are not ones I want my daughters learning."

— U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind.


Netflix has defended the film as actually trying to speak against the over-sexualization of children in society and has urged critics to watch the movie to understand its perspective, but there is no doubt that some scenes in the film involving the girls are sexualized.

“''Cuties' is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” a spokesperson said Thursday. “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.”

Netflix’s decision to show the film has also garnered an online petition and a trending Twitter hashtag to #CancelNetflix.

Other prominent lawmakers have also spoken out against it.

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., tweeted Friday that Netflix “should explain to the public why it is distributing a film, ‘Cuties,’ that appears to sexually exploit children and endanger child welfare.”

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, wrote on Twitter the film would “whet the appetite of pedophiles & help fuel the child sex trafficking trade.”

Still, some have dismissed the criticism as a misunderstanding based on the film's most controversial segments.

Emily Nussbaum, a writer for The New Yorker, said critics have taken the film "out of context," which is a "drag, since the film critiques just what its haters think it supports."

Doucouré, for whom the film is partly a self-reflection as she’s the daughter of Senegalese immigrants in France, said she’s now receiving death threats over the film, according to Deadline.


“I received numerous attacks on my character from people who had not seen the film, who thought I was actually making a film that was apologetic about hyper-sexualization of children,” she said.