A Texas grand jury indicted Netflix over the controversial film Cuties this week, but the streaming service is not backing down. The indictment claims that Netflix knowingly promoted sexually explicit depictions of children in the new film, according to a report by Deadline. The company issued a statement in response, defending the lauded film.
"Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. This charge is without merit and we stand by the film," Netflix said in response to the indictment. This reply is in line with similar defenses Netflix has made since the backlash to Cuties began some time in August. At the time, the company acknowledged that its promotion of Cuties was misleading and inappropriate, as many critics have argued. However, it defended the film itself, arguing that critics would understand the message if they watched it.
The indictment was made in Tyler County, Texas, and it argued that Netflix shared "material which depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 years of age at the time the visual material was created, which appeals to the prurient interest in sex, and has no serious, literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."
This argument may be hard to defend, given that Cuties was lauded by film industry professionals and critics throughout the film festival season earlier this year. It is the first movie from writer and director Maïmouna Doucouré, and is based on her own experience as a Senegalese Muslim immigrant growing up in Paris, France. The film follows 11-year-old Amy, who joins a group of dancers trying to emulate what they see on social media.
Cuties debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award. However, even industry insiders who saw it at the festival were perplexed by Netflix's English-language promotions for the film, which did not convey the dark themes of the film.
"We're sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for this film," Netflix said back in August, in a statement to Entertainment Tonight. "This was not an accurate representation of the film so the image and description has been updated."
Despite the backlash, Cuties remains available to stream on Netflix at the time of this writing. The indictment names Netflix's co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos as the responsible parties.