The Parents Television Counsel is calling on Netflix to remove the controversial Argentinian film Desire from the streaming service, saying the company is placing profits ahead of corporate responsibility in distributing what it considers child porn.
The film depicts a 9-year-old girl masturbating for the first time and experiencing an orgasm while watching a John Ford cowboy film with a young friend.
The scene, in which the girls imitates the cowboy by sitting on her pillow and bouncing up and down, employs slow motion, the sound of heavy breathing and close-ups of the child’s face.
PTC president Timothy Winter wrote to CEO Reed Hastings, urging him to immediately remove “child-porn content like Desire” from the service.
“Netflix has gone from merely showing a reckless disregard for the millions of families that keep your streaming platform alive and viable, and callously placing profits ahead of any sense of corporate responsibility, to potentially engaging in criminal activity,” Winter wrote. “And at such a momentous time in Hollywood as this, where #MeToo is exposing grotesque behavior and holding those accountable for engaging in it, how an Netflix affirmatively engage in the distribution of such disreputable content?”
A spokesperson for Netflix did not immediately respond to Deadline’s request for comment. However, director Diego Kaplan issued a statement to IndieWire, saying the controversial scene as was filmed under the watchful eyes of their girls’ mothers.
Of course this scene was filmed using a trick, which was that the girls were copying a cowboy scene from a film by John Ford. The girls never understood what they were doing, they were just copying what they were seeing on the screen. No adult interacted with the girls, other than the child acting coach. Everything was done under the careful surveillance of the girls’ mothers. Because I knew this scene might cause some controversy at some point, there is “Making Of” footage of the filming of the entire scene.
Everything works inside the spectators’ heads, and how you think this scene was filmed will depend on your level of depravity.
Netflix began distributing the movie, to little notice, in December 2017. Desire become a focus of online backlash in June, after conservative commentator Megan Fox wrote a blog post saying she had reported Netflix to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The PTC has been increasingly vocal in its criticism of Netflix, raising safety concerns about the teen suicide drama 13 Reasons Why (“Nobody has to watch it,” Hastings responded when asked about the criticisms during the company’s annual shareholder meeting).
The advocacy group similarly took issue with the animated series Big Mouth, in which the teenage characters find their lives upended by puberty in a way that Winter found “sexualizes children in the most disgusting and disturbing terms possible.”
Netflix’s considerable clout make it an obvious target for advocacy groups, though the media company’s head of original programming, Cindy Holland, addressed a question about programming for the family and faith audience in her recent appearance during the Television Critics Association press tour.
“It’s a very important audience to us. It represents a significant percentage of the population, not only here in the U.S., but around the world,” Holland said. “I grew up in a place that was very much steeped in those traditions, and I want to make great programming for my cousins and their families, too. So it is something that we are focused on really building out a robust slate of sort of family-friendly programming.”