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Officials in Texas have taken criminal action against Netflix in regard to the French-language film "Cuties," which has been the subject of intense criticism in recent months.
A grand jury in Tyler County indicted the company on September 23 and the summons was served on October 1, the Tyler County District Attorney's Office announced in a press release Tuesday. The indictment accuses Netflix of promoting "lewd visual material depicting a child" by releasing and advertising the film "Cuties," according to a copy of the indictment shared via Twitter by Texas state Rep. Matt Schaefer. It states that Netflix promoted such material for the "prurient interest in sex," and that there exists no "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value" in it.
The film, which is also known by its French name, "Mignonnes," follows the story of an 11-year-old girl who begins to rebel against her conservative upbringing by falling in with a "free-spirited dance crew." Ahead of its release to U.S. audiences in September, "Cuties" caused controversy due largely in part to the poster released to promote the film, which shows a group of young girls wearing revealing dance outfits and striking inappropriate poses. The French theatrical poster, however, shows the same group of girls, this time fully clothed and waving shopping bags.
The streaming giant issued an apology for both the poster and the description of the film on its website, writing on Twitter, "It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance."
However, the company has since stood by its decision to keep the film available on its streaming service. In response to the recent legal action taken against them, the company issued a statement to NBC News reiterating its claim that the film is actually taking a stand against what critics have accused the story of promoting.
"'Cuties' is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children," its statement, issued on Tuesday, reads. "This charge is without merit and we stand by the film."
In addition to attracting backlash on social media, which culminated in the trending hashtag "CancelNetflix," Netflix and the film "Cuties" have also drawn criticism from numerous politicians. Sen. Josh Hawley sent a letter to Netflix last month calling for the movie to be taken down; Sen. Ted Cruz also penned a letter to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation.
While the film has received some critical acclaim, having won the director, Maïmouna Doucouré, the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award at Sundance, Doucouré has also faced a wave of criticism due to the film, which she described as her "personal story" that draws on her own experiences as well as those of other children who are surrounded by Western culture but have conservative families.
“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,” she told Deadline last month. “I also received numerous death threats."
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