23 September: A Texas grand jury in Tyler County has indicted Netflix over allegedly promoting lewd visual material of clothed or partially clothed minors in the French movie Mignonnes / Cuties, according to the New York Post. The charges mention that the visual material “appeals to the prurient interest in sex, and has no serious, literary, artistic, political or scientific value”.
Netflix, Inc. indicted by grand jury in Tyler Co., Tx for promoting material in Cuties film which depicts lewd exhibition of pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 yrs of age which appeals to the prurient interest in sex #Cuties #txlege pic.twitter.com/UJ1hY8XJ2l
— Matt Schaefer (@RepMattSchaefer) October 6, 2020
Cuties portrays the story of Amy, an 11-year-old Senegalese girl of Muslim parents living in Paris. It follows the protagonist’s rebellion against her upbringing by joining a dance group with girls her age. The movie has been harshly criticised for alleged exploitation and sexualisation of children.
In a statement to the New York Post, Netflix responded to the indictment.
“Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualisation of young children. This charge is without merit and we stand by the film.”
Prior to the release of the movie on 9 September, Netflix was criticised for sexualising the child actors in its movie poster. This forced the streaming company to publicly apologise for the “inappropriate artwork”, further claiming it did not properly represent the message of the film.
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. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.
— Netflix (@netflix) August 20, 2020
Writer and director Mainmouna Doucre stated the movie is a “powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up”, encouraging those who “care about these important issues to watch the movie”.
The debate surrounding the movie led the hashtag #CancelNetflix to trend following the movie’s premiere in September. Additionally, a Change.org petition urging people to cancel their Netflix subscriptions received over 600 thousand signatures.