Netflix Charged for ‘Lewd Exhibition’ of Children in ‘Cuties’ Film

October 7, 2020 Updated: October 7, 2020

A grand jury indicted Netflix for promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child after the streaming platform released “Cuties,” a film that includes hypersexualized portrayals of young girls.

The grand jury in Tyler County, Texas, found that California-based Netflix did “knowingly promote visual material which depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or public area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 years of age.”

The depiction “has no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value,” the one-page indictment stated.

Lucas Babin, the county’s district attorney, said he watched the movie.

“After hearing about the movie ‘Cuties’ and watching it, I knew there was probably cause to believe it was criminal,” he said, citing state law.

“The legislators of this state believe promoting certain lewd material of children has destructive consequences,” he added. “If such material is distributed on a grand scale, isn’t the need to prosecute more, not less? A grand jury in Tyler [C]ounty found probable cause for this felony, and my job is to uphold the laws of this state and see that justice is done.”

Netflix attempted to dismiss the accusations.

“’Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” a spokesperson said in a statement to news outlets. “This charge is without merit and we stand by the film.”

“Cuties,” first released in France, contains 10 scenes that show sexuality or nudity, according to IMDB. In one scene, a young girl “fully exposes” one of her private areas, the movie rating and review website said.

That girl was of age when at the time of filming, Dean Garfield, a Netflix vice president, said in a letter to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Head of Acquisitions Alexis Hofmann, "Cuties" Director Maïmouna Doucouré, and President and CEO of BAC Films David Grumbach attend the "Cuties" premiere
Head of Acquisitions Alexis Hofmann, “Cuties” Director Maïmouna Doucouré, and President and CEO of BAC Films David Grumbach attend the “Cuties” premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival at Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 23, 2020. (Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

Garfield argued that the movie also doesn’t not depict sexual acts, simulated or otherwise, or glamorize or promote the sexualization or exploitation of children.

“The film’s central theme is that the conduct of the Cuties is not sexy, arousing, or alluring. Rather, given their ages, it is inappropriate, shameful, and a hallmark of a cultural failing,” he said.

Lee responded by saying the company acknowledged the conduct of the young girls “is inappropriate, shameful, and a hallmark of a cultural failing.'”

“I couldn’t agree more. What I cannot understand, however, is how Netflix can condemn the conduct depicted in ‘Cuties,’ while celebrating the film and filmmakers who asked several underage girls to stand in front of a camera and engage in that same ‘inappropriate, shameful’ conduct for all the world to see,” he added.

Shortly after the U.S. release of the film, several Republican lawmakers called on the Department of Justice to charge Netflix for distribution of child pornography.

Later in September, 34 GOP House lawmakers wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr making their case.

“’Cuties’ clearly meets the United States’ legal definition of child pornography,” the letter stated. “’Cuties’ contains, ‘a scene where an 11-year-old girl dressed in a tank and panties is splashed with water and begins twerking in a frenzied kind of way,’ and numerous other, equally distressing depictions of minors.”

The Department of Justice hasn’t commented on the requests and didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber