Netflix is facing criminal charges over “Cuties“, a film that has been criticized for promoting the sexualization of children and exploiting young actors.
A grand jury in Tyler County, northeast of Houston, charged the streaming giant with “promoting material in Cuties film which depicts lewd exhibition of pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 yrs of age which appeals to the prurient interest in sex.”
Texas Rep. Matt Schaefer tweeted a copy of the indictment Tuesday and got plenty of responses.
The film had “no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value,” the grand jury decided.
Jurors decided the opposite at the Sundance Film Festival, where “Cuties” won the award for World Cinema Dramatic Directing. Netflix bought worldwide rights to the film shortly before it debuted at Sundance, Complex reported.
The film was written and directed by French-Senegalese Muslim Maïmouna Doucouré. It tells the story of an 11-year-old Muslim girl living in Paris who rebels against her strict parents and joins a girls’ dance group.
Doucouré claims the focus of the film is on a young girl discovering her sexuality and feminine voice. She grew up in France with traditional parents from Senegal and said that “Cuties” explores the question of whether we should “have the right to choose which women we can be in this world.”
The director said she got death threats because of a promotional poster, released only in the U.S., that featured four girls in suggestive poses. A new poster was issued.
“We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for ‘Cuties.’ It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which premiered at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description,” a Netflix statement said, as reported by Deadline.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Netflix had broken any laws banning child porn.
Cruz wrote to Attorney General Bill Barr, saying the film “sexualizes young girls, through dance scenes simulating sexual activities, including one scene exposing a minor’s chest,” CBS Austin reported.
Cruz asked the Department of Justice to investigate the production and distribution of the film, including anyone involved.
With calls to “Cancel Netflix” trending on social media, Netflix defended its promotion of the award-winning film, encouraging people to watch it. The film is 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,” Netflix said in a prepared statement.
The controversy around “Cuties” has “mobilized the conservative American right in Texas and beyond in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election,” Arab News reported.
“Why no individuals indicted? People need to be in prison for this,” IronBarrister tweeted.
Other Twitter users called hypocrisy for indicting Netflix over a film that capitalizes on child dancers in provocative poses when child pageants do the same legally.
“Y’all seen Dance Moms? Y’all on Instagram? Mamas selling pics and vids and calendars of their baby girls in bikinis and dance wear every day. In plain sight. On mainstream social media. Will they be indicted too?” one person tweeted.
“This movie needed to be made and every parent should watch it. Enjoy losing on appeal,” another tweeted.
A guilty verdict in Texas could lead to a prison term, but analysts said more likely Netflix would be fined and forced to pull the film.
“This is a political stunt. The case will get discussed because an award winning movie has serious artistic value even if you don’t like it” Kevin Baum tweeted.