Netflix is facing a criminal charge amid the ongoing backlash against the French documentary Cuties, which follows the life of an 11-year-old girl in Paris looking to join a "free-spirited dance crew." The film, which was given the Best Direction award at the Sundance Film Festival, was the subject of a grand jury indictment for promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child filed on Sept. 23 in Tyler County, Texas, according to Texas Rep. Matt Schaefer.
NBC News, which obtained a copy of the indictment to confirm Schaefer's tweet, accuses the streaming platform of promoting, distributing and exhibiting material that "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" for the "prurient interest in sex," accusing the film of having no serious "literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."
Netflix, Inc. indicted by grand jury in Tyler Co., Tx for 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 #Cuties #txlege pic.twitter.com/UJ1hY8XJ2l— Matt Schaefer (@RepMattSchaefer) October 6, 2020
Netflix defended the film in a statement to NBC news. "Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children," the statement said. "This charge is without merit and we stand by the film." This isn't the first time the streaming giant has had to step in to defend the film after first marketing it using a poster of young girls in crop top dance outfits. "It's an award-winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up — and we'd encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie," Netflix said in a separate statement last month.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee said in a public statement Monday that he was "unsatisfied" with the company's response to his questions after speaking to Netflix employees on the phone about the matter, calling on Netflix to stop distributing the film over a "moral question" and legal question regarding its contents.
"What I cannot understand, however, is how Netflix can condemn the conduct depicted in Cuties, while celebrating the film and filmmakers who asked several underage girls to stand in front of a camera and engage in that same 'inappropriate, shameful' conduct for all the world to see," Lee said.