Republicans’ crusade against the French film Cuties, which garnered widespread controversy as it debuted on Netflix last month, just reached a new level of stupidity: A Texas grand jury has indicted the streamer for “promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child.”
A press release from the office of Tyler County Criminal District Attorney (and former model and actor) Lucas Babin states that per state law it is illegal to “knowingly promote 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.”
The release includes a statement from Babin, who said that “after hearing about the movie Cuties and watching it, I knew there was probable cause to believe it was criminal....”
Cuties is a remarkable feature debut from French director Maïmouna Doucouré. The coming-of-age film follows Senegalese immigrant Aminata (Amy) as she befriends a dance group at her new school—and practices increasingly sexual dance moves as she struggles to reconcile her family’s conservative traditions.
The majority of those who have railed against the film on social media do not seem to have actually watched the film, but instead appear to be reacting to second-hand descriptions—some of which have proven flat-out inaccurate. At least, it should be abundantly clear to anyone who’s watched Cuties that the film has no interest in promoting the sexualization of young girls, but instead to examine why it happens and, more importantly, the effect such sexualization has on the tweens themselves.
A spokesperson for Netflix told The Daily Beast, “Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. This charge is without merit and we stand by the film.”
When Netflix began promoting Cuties in August, a poorly chosen promotional image misrepresented the film—marketing it with the very sexualization it seeks to deconstruct. The streamer apologized for the mistake, but the damage was done; the Christian right and internet reactionaries have united in a crusade against the film, and Republican lawmakers have been on a tear ever since.
In mid-September Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Babin’s father, Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), urged the Department of Justice to investigate Netflix.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) also submitted his own letter with the same demand—and included a false claim that the film at one point displays a child’s bare breast, a claim that seemingly stemmed from an erroneous IMDb parental guide.
In the weeks after #CancelNetflix began trending in August, the streamer did see a spike in cancellations—but it proved to be short-lived.