The Cuties controversy is not over yet. It’s been over a month since Netflix apologized when its marketing rollout of the film-festival darling went very wrong, but following petitions and cancellation threats from subscribers, the streaming service is now being faced with a lawsuit over the movie by the Texas grand jury.
The French film is being faced with a charge under the state law forbidding “the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of an unclothed, partially clothed, or clothed child,” per the indictment made by Texas’ Tyler County district attorney. In order for the Netflix film to be considered illegal material, it must be proven to have “no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value” and “the prurient interest in sex,” per the lawsuit.
The indictment is directed at Netflix, which is maintaining its stance on the film. In an official statement the streaming service said (via Variety),
"Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. This charge is without merit and we stand by the film."
Cuties, written and directed by French filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré, is about a 11-year-old girl from a Muslim Senegalese background who pushes against her traditional upbringing when she joins a dance crew with group of girls her age. The backlash surrounding the film began when Netflix released their version of the poster, showing the girls from the film striking suggestive poses.
After Cuties earned its negative attention, Netflix switched out the poster for the film and issued an apology for the admittedly “inappropriate artwork.” As Doucouré has since explained, the Cuties poster did not reflect her intentions of the film and she first saw the streaming service’s marketing approach at the same time as the public did. The filmmaker received a flood of hateful comments as well. As Doucouré detailed,
"I received numerous attacks on my character from people who had not seen the film, who thought I was actually making a film that was apologetic about hypersexualiation of children. I also received numerous death threats."
Before the backlash, Cuties premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to high acclaim. Maïmouna Doucouré was awarded the festival’s foreign-language directing award and review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes features the movie with an 86 percent fresh score. Thor: Ragnarok’s Tessa Thompson attended the festival and defended the film’s content amidst the movie’s poster controversy.
An interesting detail about the Texas lawsuit is the fact that Tyler County’s district attorney is Lucas Babin, an actor and model who played Spider in School of Rock with Jack Black and a character called Rocky during the 2007 season of soap opera The Young and the Restless. Babin’s father is a congressman, Brian Babin, who signed a letter with 33 other Republican Hose Of Representatives urging U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr last month to prosecute Netflix for child pornography over Cuties.
During the controversy, Cuties has remained on Netflix and enticed a number of subscribers to watch who wouldn’t have otherwise heard of the title. An arraignment date has not currently been set for the lawsuit.