Netflix has been indicted in Texas on charges that the film Cuties contains obscene representations of children. The indictment follows the controversial reaction of conservative groups to certain scenes in the film where young girls dance provocatively.
A grand jury in Tyler County, Texas, accuses Netflix of “Promoting obscene visual material depicting a child,” a criminal act in Texas that was introduced into state law in 2018, Reuters reported. The prosecution alleges that Cuties, a film about a group of young girls forming a dance troupe, “depicts the obscene exposure of the genitals or pubic parts of a dressed or partially dressed child who was under 18 at the time of the creation of the visual material,” According to the filing of the indictment.
The file also states that said content “appeals to a fierce interest in sex and has no serious, literary, artistic, political or scientific value”. (The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it awarded director and screenwriter Maïmouna Doucouré the Sundance World Cinema Award in 2017.) Netflix was called up on October 1, with co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos individually appointed. The company rejects the justification for the accusations; a Netflix spokesperson recounts The edge that “cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. “
Netflix, Inc. indicted by the grand jury of Tyler Co., Tx for promoting material in the movie Cuties which depicts obscene exposure of the pubic area of a dressed or partially dressed child under the age of 18, which appeals to itching interest in sex #Cuties #txlege pic.twitter.com/UJ1hY8XJ2l
– Matt Schaefer (@RepMattSchaefer) October 6, 2020
The charge is one of the “dumbest and most absurd” in the state, said Texas-based defense attorney Paul Saputo. Texas law specifically notes that content cannot have any “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” The fact that Doucouré won first prize at one of the world’s most renowned film festivals and garnered critical acclaim from some of the most respected critics proves that Cuties contains serious artistic value, according to Saputo.
“This is absurd – the prosecutor thinks he knows more about art than a Sundance jury,” Saputo said.
Cuties was caught in a maelstrom of controversy when it debuted on Netflix a few weeks ago. The French film criticizes the sexualization of girls by society and follows an 11-year-old Senegalese girl who rebels against her strict parents by joining a dance troupe. Cuties uses scenes designed to make the viewer uncomfortable, while Doucouré explores the loss of childhood innocence. Film critics praised Doucouré and Cuties for his take on childhood, but prominent conservative figures, QAnon conspiracy theorists and parent groups took to social media to get #CancelNetflix trending while decrying the film as obscene.
The accusation has absurd consequences, Saputo said. If the argument is that Netflix promotes content that exhibits obscene behavior, it can also be argued that Netflix paid subscribers have content that contains depictions of children engaging in obscene behavior. Does The State of Texas Charge All Netflix Subscribers?
“This whole scenario is laughable,” Saputo said.
Since the ban on obscene material featuring children applies to anyone under the age of 18, Saputo argued that as defined in the law, teenagers dancing on Instagram and TikTok could be considered promoting obscene representations of children. Since the law was introduced in 2018, he has never had a client or heard of a client charged because “I don’t think there is a prosecutor who wants to support the argument”.
The Netflix situation is another story, he added. Saputo believes that if prosecutors go ahead, the district attorney’s office likely already supports the argument.
“Netflix is going to have to hire a criminal defender and find some critics who can attest that the film is art,” Saputo said. “It’s not going to be difficult.”