Netflix Indicted in Texas for 'Lewd Visual Material Depicting a Child' over Cuties Film Controversy
The court filing accuses the film of having "no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value"
On Tuesday, Republican Rep. Matt Schaefer of Texas' 6th District tweeted a photo of court documents filed Sept. 23 in Tyler County, Texas, accusing the entertainment company of "promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child" when it distributed Cuties in a grand jury indictment.
Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin said in a press release that “after hearing about the movie Cuties and watching it, I knew there was probable cause to believe it was criminal....”
According to the press release, the District Attorney's Office claims that Netflix, by distributing Cuties, "knowingly promote[d] visual material that depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child, which appeals to the prurient interest in sex and has no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value."
A spokesperson for Netlfix told PEOPLE in a statement on Wednesday: “Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. This charge is without merit and we stand by the film.”
Cuties, which is rated TV-MA on the streaming platform, follows Amy (Fathia Youssouf), an 11-year-old girl from Senegal who joins a dance team dubbed "the Cuties" at her school and gradually rebels from her traditional, conservative family.
While the coming-of-age film, directed by Maïmouna Doucouré and originally titled Mignonnes, has been criticized, it's been praised by many — including film critics – for its handling of sensitive topics. It was also well received at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the world cinema dramatic directing award.
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“Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” a Netflix spokesperson told PEOPLE in a statement at the time. “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.”
Back in August, Netflix issued a public apology following backlash over the marketing poster created for Cuties, with critics claiming that it sexualized children. The controversial poster featured the four young girls in the film dressed in revealing dance outfits while striking suggestive dance poses.
"We're deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Mignonnes/Cuties. It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance," Netflix tweeted on Aug. 20. "We’ve now updated the pictures and description."