Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos is defending the streamer’s decision to release Cuties, saying that the controversial movie that depicts pubescent girls performing raunchy dance numbers has been “misunderstood” in the United States.
“Frankly, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more discussion about the First Amendment implications of this film. It’s a film I would argue is very misunderstood with some audiences, uniquely in the United States,” Sarandos said during his MIPCOM Online+ keynote address on Monday, according to multiple reports.
Netflix acquired Cuties (Mignonnes) in January after it played to a warm reception at Sundance. The French-language movie tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who attempts to escape the strictures of her Senegalese-Muslim family by joining a tween twerking troupe.
The movie contains scenes of the underage girls performing simulated sexual dance routines on stage.
“It’s the director’s story and the film has obviously played very well at Sundance, without any of this kind of controversy and played in theaters throughout Europe without any of this controversy,” he reportedly said.
“I think it’s a little surprising that in 2020 in America, we’re having a discussion about censoring storytelling.”
His remarks follow harsh condemnation of Cuties from members of Congress who have called the movie child pornography. Politicians including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) have publicly condemned the movie.
A grand jury in Texas recently indicted Netflix over Cuties, citing the promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child.
Netflix’s marketing campaign for Cuties, including the poster and trailer, spotlighted the girls’ raunchy dance routine. The original French promotional poster took a more discreet approach by showing the girls dancing and throwing confetti in the streets.
Sarandos also serves as Netflix’s chief content officer and is responsible for all of the movies and TV shows that the streamer makes available to subscribers around the world.
Netflix has previously defended Cuties, saying that the movie offers “social commentary” against the sexualization of children.
“Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” a Netflix spokesperson said. “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.”