Following the August backlash generated by Netflix’s marketing material for its Sundance film acquisition Cuties, the streaming service is now facing legal action over the French film.
A Tyler County, Texas, grand jury indicted Netflix on Sept. 23, per USA Today, for promoting “lewd” visual material “against the peace and dignity of the state.” The specific indictment obtained by the outlet accuses the streamer of promoting and distributing content 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.” The indictment also states that Cuties holds no “literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
The movie, written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré, follows 11-year-old Senegal immigrant Amy who moves to France and becomes involved in a hip-hop dance crew with girls from her school. The movie was awarded the Sundance festival’s Directing Jury Award in January and earned an 82% score on Rotten Tomatoes prior to this summer’s public controversy. Doucouré has said that her intent was to explore how young women are exposed and objectified in the social media era.
Netflix stock hit an all time high of $556.55 on September 1. On September 9, when Cuties was released on the online platform, its stock hovered around $500. As of this writing, following dips below $500 after the film’s release, Netflix stock is trading at $526. Some industry analysts expect Q3 subscription cancellations to be slightly higher than normal due to the controversy.
According to a statement made by Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin on the office’s official Facebook page, the indictment is a “state jail felony.”
“The legislators of this state believe promoting certain lewd material of children has destructive consequences,” Babin said in the statement. “If such material is distributed on a grand scale, isn’t the need to prosecute more, not less? A grand jury in Tyler County found probably cause for this felony, and my job is to uphold the laws of this state and see that justice is done.”
In response, Netflix has argued that the film is trying to highlight society’s treatment of young girls and women in the internet age. “Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” Netflix said in a statement to USA Today. “This charge is without merit and we stand by the film.”
Some have argued that the criminal charge is a form of film censorship and violates the First Amendment. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, meanwhile, has once again called for Netflix to remove Cuties from its platform.