Sen. Ted Cruz has made a career of taking a small mess and creating a much bigger one. And this apparently now applies to Netflix films, one of which the Florida senator has launched a crusade against in the past week.
Cruz has called on the Department of Justice to investigate Netflix over disproved claims that Cuties — the streaming service’s now-controversial French film about a Muslim girl exploring her sexuality alongside a local dance team — violated federal laws and promoted child pornography during filming. Cruz appeared on Fox News on Sunday and repeatedly referred to the movie as a "pornographic" film, stating that “If you have child pornography, if you have kids engaged in sexual activities, if you produce it, if you distribute it, you face criminal penalties. I guarantee you every pedophile in America is going to watch this movie.”
Cruz’s interview comes two days after he sent a letter to Attorney General Willam Barr urging the AG to investigate Netflix and the production crew behind Cuties to determine whether any child pornography laws were broken on set. The senator specifically noted that one of the offenses he took with the movie was a scene “exposing a minor’s bare breast.” But that claim was debunked, and the character in question was of age.
The senator's obvious dog whistle to QAnon and other conspiracy theorists over sex trafficking has actually managed to gain some traction. Since positioning itself in the cultural conversation thanks to Netflix’s initial misleading promotion art, Cuties has been the subject of backlash, criticism and the #CancelNetflix hashtag on social media. Some have decried the sexually-charged dance routines performed by middle school aged girls in the film as inappropriate, despite director Maïmouna Doucouré repeatedly noting that Cuties, like many women-centered coming of age stories, deals with the protagonists navigating young adulthood, exploring their femininity, and figuring out their identities.
Doucouré told Refinery29 that she specifically hired a psychologist for the young actresses, and stressed that she walked them through her thinking behind every scene in the film. “We communicated a lot about why I was making this movie,” she said. “It was important that they understand. I think this is a movie that will facilitate important conversations between pre-teens, teenagers, and their parents. I wanted the actresses to know the real activism that this movie was coming from, and the feminist ideology it represented.”
Perhaps Cruz is only attempting to heighten conspiracists who believe that Hollywood "Dems" are responsible for profiting off of sex trafficking, but by doing this, he is only aligning himself with the dangerous right-wing conspiracists his party keeps trying to distance from. Or, perhaps he is just pulling a Ted Cruz, and is truly that out of touch with the reality of a Netflix coming-of-age story.