Netflix stands by "Cuties" after streamer indictment in Texas over film’s “prurient interest in sex"

Netflix was served with a summons by Texas Rangers on Oct. 1

Published October 7, 2020 7:17PM (EDT)

"Cuties"  (Netflix)
"Cuties" (Netflix)

This article originally appeared on Deadline.

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A Lone Star State grand jury has indicted Netflix over the controversial "Cuties" film.

According to the Sept. 23 indictment out of Tyler County, Texas, the streamer led by Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos "knowingly promote visual 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."

Facing some serious charges, Netflix weren't backing down Tuesday as the one-page indictment became public via a local congressman's Twitter feed. "'Cuties' is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children," a spokesperson for the streamer said in a statement. "This charge is without merit and we stand by the film."

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Netflix was served with a summons by Texas Rangers on Oct. 1, claimed Tyler County D.A. Lucas Babin today. Naming co-CEOs Hastings and Sarandos, the charge is a state jail felony.

An award winner when it debuted at Sundance earlier this year, the Maïmouna Doucouré-directed "Cuties" focuses on the tale of an 11-year-old Senegalese-French girl who is battling with her traditional Muslim family and her dance troupe friends. The coming-of-age drama launched Sept. 9 on Netflix.

Even before that premiere, "Cuties" was caught in the spotlight thanks to a self-admittedly "inappropriate artwork" that was used by the streamer on the promotion poster and other material for the film. Under online and cultural siege, on August 20, Netflix said: "It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which premiered at Sundance. We've now updated the pictures and description."

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Still, that did little to dampen the outrage as the likes of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Fox News' Laura Ingraham, who came out against the film. On Sept. 3, Turkey told Netflix to block local access to Cuties.

And it became very personal, in the worst way.

"I received numerous attacks on my character from people who had not seen the film, who thought I was actually making a film that was apologetic about hypersexualiation of children," Doucouré told Deadline's Tom Grater on Sept. 3. "I also received numerous death threats."

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Netflix did see some subscription cancellations in the wake of "Cuties" hitting the streamer, it was reported. However, the rate of people voting with their wallets tapered off pretty quickly, and views were on par with the previous year within a week.

By Dominic Patten

Dominic Patten is working on a screenplay based on the life of William Randolph Hearst's longtime mistress, Marion Davies. He last wrote for Salon about the self-promoting activities of British author Will Self.

MORE FROM Dominic Patten

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