The introduction of the film Cuties on Netflix has gotten a great deal of attention. The streaming service has been called out all over social media and the airwaves for promoting the sexualization of young girls. The outcry has now reached the next level. A grand jury in Texas has indicted Netflix for its controversial release.
The September 23 indictment from a Tyler County, Texas court levied the charges on Co-Chief Executive Officers Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos. Netflix, according to the filing, “knowingly promoted 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.”
Served with a summons on October 1 by the Texas Rangers, Netflix quickly responded to what amounts to a state felony. “Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” their statement replied. “This charge is without merit, and we stand by the film.”
The Netflix film originally appeared at Sundance and follows an 11-year-old Senegalese-French girl who is growing up under the strict tutelage of her traditional Muslim family. The immigrant family moves to a housing project in Paris and that incites the drama of the film. In turn, the girl falls into a dance troupe made up of her fellow classmates. The girls obviously inspire the immigrant to carve out a new identity and suggestive social media posts and provocative dance becomes part of the 11-year-old’s rebellion. That said, Netflix’s Cuties does feature some uncomfortable scenes of young girls dancing in suggestive manners and clothing.
However, the Netflix controversy didn’t break out over the film’s content. Prior to the premiere, the release of the promotional poster began the widespread outrage. The image featured the four lead girls in provocative poses and outfitted in form-fitting shorts and crop tops.
Netflix had no recourse but to apologize. The service admitted that the artwork was “inappropriate,” but felt compelled to defend their decision to stream the film. “It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which premiered at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.”
The Netflix controversy did not die down, though. Among the many detractors were Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, while the nation of Turkey called for Netflix to block the film.
As for Cuties filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré, she was taken aback as the controversy suddenly took off. Attacks came in from all corners of social media. The posts questioned her character and included death threats. Doucouré simply didn’t know what was going on. Doucouré then went and took a look at the Netflix poster.
Given her inspiration for doing the film, the irony is inescapable. She had an interest in how younger amateur talent emerged, and the idea crystalized when coming across a show in her old Paris neighborhood. Doucouré was struck as she observed young troupes performing in sexually suggestive numbers and outfits. The approval of their African mothers in the audience couldn’t be missed either, she told Tom Grater of Deadline.
Doucouré would go on to defend herself and the Netflix offering in Screen Daily. “The work grew out a desire to explore what it means to approach womanhood between two cultures as well as the wider theme of the hyper-sexualization of youngsters in modern society,” she told Melanie Goodfellow.
Nonetheless, the mass misunderstanding did initially result in some Netflix subscription cancelations. But as the story has progressed, the numbers have definitely leveled off. This leaves the court case as the primary concern for Netflix. If there are any significant updates with this indictment, we will be sure to let you know.