Sen. Ted Cruz, D-Tex., became the latest Republican politician to criticize Netflix for streaming the French film “Cuties,” calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether the film violated child pornography laws by exposing “a minor’s bare breast”—but that allegation is not true, and appears based on a false rumor.
The rumor originated from IMDB’s “Parent’s Guide” for the independent French film, which initially said “Cuties” shows “female breast nudity of a minor during an erotic dance scene,” according to screenshots circulating widely online.
The guide has since been changed to accurately describe the movie, which only briefly shows the bare breast of a woman, who is not underage, dancing in a video, according to a Forbes viewing of the movie. (Neither IMDB nor Netflix immediately responded to a request for comment, but Netflix confirmed to the Washington Examiner that reports of a minor’s bare breast being shown are untrue).
A spokesperson for Cruz did not immediately respond to questions from Forbes asking if anyone in his office actually watched the movie before calling on the DOJ to “investigate whether Netflix, its executives, or the filmmakers violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography.”
“Cuties” does feature young girls with revealing dance uniforms dancing suggestively, which has also drawn criticism for sexualizing girls and “exploiting child actors,” though Netflix and director Maïmouna Doucouré have defended the award-winning film as a “social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” and “a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up.”
As the culture war over the film intensifies, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AZ), Jim Banks (R-IN) along with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) also slammed the film this week for “peddling child pornography” and helping to “fuel the child sex trafficking trade,” but did not make the specific claim that a minor’s breast was exposed.
Before Netflix acquired “Cuties,” the independent French film had received mostly positive reviews and won an award at the Sundance film festival. The controversy began when Netflix released its marketing campaign for the movie, which used an image of the young girls posing provocatively. QAnon supporters, who believe President Donald Trump is fighting a child sex trafficking ring run by global elites, and outraged parents flooded the internet with calls to boycott Netflix over claims the movie “sexualizes” an 11-year-old for the “viewing pleasure of pedophiles.” Netflix eventually apologized and changed the poster and the description for the movie, which originally said the main character Amy “becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions.”
“Cuties basically makes the case that both the traditional rules of Amy’s family and the ‘freedom’ afforded by the internet to children who are too young to quite comprehend what they’re doing are different ways of controlling girls’ bodies,” writes Vox reporter Alissa Wilkinson.
As QAnon rises in popularity and seeps into mainstream politics, social media has been filled with posts about the issue of child trafficking. Hashtags like #SaveTheChildren have been hijacked by conspiracy theorists. And in July, a QAnon-linked conspiracy falsely claiming furniture company Wayfair was secretly selling children trended on Twitter. Statistics cited by QAnon adherents, such as the fact that 800,000 children go missing every year in the U.S., have been debunked. In fact, the majority of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are someone the child or family knows, according to RAINN.