Netflix has been indicted by the Texas Tyler County grand jury over a controversial French film ‘Cuties’ that it is airing on their platform.
The streaming service was served with a summons on October 1, and faces a charge of promotion of lewd visual material depicting children after streaming the French film Cuties, reports The New York Times.
According to Section 43.262 of the Texas Penal Code, it is illegal to knowingly promote visual material that depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child.
The offence is a state jail felony, said the Tyler County District Attorney’s Office in a statement.
In a statement to E!News, Netflix defended their decision to stream the film. “Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” a company spokesperson said. “This charge is without merit and we stand by the film.”
Cuties, also known by its French title ‘Mignonnes’, was written and directed by Senagalese director Maïmouna Doucouré and tells the story of Amy, an 11-year-old Muslim Senegalese immigrant who moves into a housing project in Paris. She befriends a group of bold girls who form a dance team, and as Amy joins the team she struggles to follow her family’s wishes to be modest and obedient.
The film successfully premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year, but was caught up in a wave of controversy in August after Netflix premiered a different poster and description for the film. The original French poster depicting the girls having fun while shopping was changed to them striking ‘provocative’ poses during a dance routine.
Social media users quickly accused the film of promoting the sexualisation of children and accused Netflix of promoting paedophilia.
The film premiered on Netflix on September 9, prompting a new wave of social media backlash. It has received terrible reviews on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes to ruin its ratings. Petitions have since been created to urge the streaming service to remove the film from their platform, and others are threatening to cancel their Netflix subscription entirely. #CancelNetflix was the top trending topic in the United States on Thursday, September 10.
Doucouré still stands by her film, and explains that she made it precisely to bring attention to the problematic and overt sexualisation of children in society.
“That’s why I made Cuties: to start a debate about the sexualization of children in society today so that maybe —just maybe— politicians, artists, parents and educators could work together to make a change that will benefit children for generations to come,” she wrote in part of a piece for The Washington Post.
“It’s my sincerest hope that this conversation doesn’t become so difficult that it too gets caught up in today’s ‘cancel culture.'”