WOODVILLE, Texas (ChurchMilitant.com) - Netflix is on the verge of legal trouble over the controversial film Cuties.
A grand jury in Tyler County, Texas indicted Netflix Sept. 23, and Texas Rangers served the summons Oct. 1.
In the indictment, the streaming website is accused of helping spread lewd images of underage children, owing to the movie Cuties.
Cuties portrays a young Muslim girl in France breaking with her family's moral code to join a dance group. But many have expressed concern over the sexualized way the film portrays young girls.
Tyler County's district attorney (DA) Lucas Babin said in a press release Tuesday, "After hearing about the movie Cuties and watching it, I knew there was probable cause to believe it was criminal under Section 43.262 of the Texas Penal Code."
The DA's statement explained, "Section 43.262 of the Texas Penal Code says it is illegal to knowingly promote visual material that depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a partially clothed child."
But Netflix says the film acts as a warning about the impact of sexualized culture on minors. A spokesperson for Netflix told Fox News of the indictment, "Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children" (emphasis added).
"This charge is without merit and we stand by the film," the spokesperson stated.
Cuties is a French-language film (originally titled Mignonnes) that has garnered critical acclaim. It was released on Netflix Sept. 9 with subtitles in English.
The movie has been accused of normalizing pedophilia because it features 11-year-old girls in skimpy outfits practicing crass dance moves, with close-up shots of their private parts and even a scene where one girl bares her breasts.
Last month, widespread backlash to the film caused the hashtag "#CancelNetflix" to trend on Twitter.
In mid-September, the film's director responded to the social media firestorm.
"I wanted to make a film in the hope of starting a conversation about the sexualization of children," director Maïmouna Doucouré claimed in a Sept. 15 op-ed for the Washington Post. "The movie has certainly started a debate, though not the one that I intended."
But opponents of the movie say the message about sexualizing children could have been conveyed without the lewd outfits, dances and camera shots.
"Cuties" is a commentary on child sexual exploitation in the same way that "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is a commentary on violence in film. Which is to say, it is not a commentary at all. It is a gratuitous exhibition of the thing it supposedly means to criticize.— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) September 10, 2020
Conservative commentator Matt Walsh wrote Sep. 10 on Twitter, "It is a gratuitous exhibition of the thing it supposedly means to criticize."
Doucouré went on to write:
We, as adults, have not given children the tools to grow up healthy in our society. I wanted to open people's eyes to what's truly happening in schools and on social media, forcing them to confront images of young girls made up, dressed up and dancing suggestively to imitate their favorite pop icon.
At one point in the film, a young woman's breast is exposed. Defending this, Doucouré claims the woman was over 18 years of age; the nudity is only on camera for about a second; and viewers see the exposed breast indirectly, in a video the main characters are watching on a cell phone.
One source of the outrage against Cuties was an advertising image in August that showed young girls striking highly sexual, vulgar poses while wearing halter tops and tight shorts. In August, Netflix issued an apology for the image, calling it "inappropriate" and "not OK."
The indictment in Texas comes after many politicians and pundits — mainly conservative — called for the makers and distributors of the film to face criminal charges.
"By the way, this is why we need decency laws," Walsh tweeted Sept. 10. "This s**t should be illegal. Everyone involved should go to jail. That's the reaction of a healthy society."
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was among those calling for law enforcement to take action. On Sept. 11, he sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice calling for an investigation into Cuties "in order to determine whether Netflix, any of its executives or anyone involved with the making of Cuties violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography."