Netflix has been indicted by a grand jury in Texas for ‘promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child’, after the streaming company refused to take down a controversial French film.
Cuties, directed by French-Senegalese Maïmouna Doucouré, tells the story of Amy, an 11-year-old girl who chafes against her strict Muslim parents and finds solace with a dance troupe.
Inspired by music videos and social media, the girl group learn and practice provocative and sexualized choreography in preparation for a dance competition.
Doucouré says that the film, set in a poor suburb of Paris, is inspired by her own experiences, and is a social commentary on the need to protect children.
Cuties, released by Netflix on September 9, tells the story of a French dance troupe
The French-Senegalese director of Cuties, Maïmouna Doucouré, has defended her film after coming under a barrage of criticism over claims it hyper-sexualizes young girls
‘It’s because I saw so many things and so many issues around me lived by young girls, that I decided to make this film and sound an alarm and say we need to protect our children,’ Doucouré explained.
But the film, debuted at Sundance in January, has sparked anger since its September 9 Netflix release.
On September 23 a grand jury in Texas indicted the California-based streaming company, accusing them of broadcasting lewd material in their state.
Netflix said Cuties ‘is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children’ in a statement to NBC News. ‘The charge is without merit and we stand by the film.’
Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been leading the campaign against the film.
Cruz sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr, saying the film ‘sexualizes young girls, through dance scenes simulating sexual activities, including one scene exposing a minor’s chest.’
He explained on social media: ‘Following Netflix’s disturbing promotion of ‘Cuties,’ I sent a letter calling on the DOJ to investigate whether Netflix, its executives, or the filmmakers violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography.’
Cruz urged the Department of Justice to investigate the production and distribution of the film, including anyone involved.
Democrat Tulsi Gabbard found rare common ground with Cruz, agreeing that the film was unacceptable and accusing Netflix of being complicit in encouraging pedophilia and child trafficking.
‘Netflix child porn ‘Cuties’ will certainly whet the appetite of pedophiles & help fuel the child sex trafficking trade. 1 in 4 victims of trafficking are children. It happened to my friend’s 13 year old daughter. Netflix, you are now complicit. #CancelNetflix,’ Gabbard wrote.
Republican politician Cruz wrote to Attorney General Bill Barr calling on him to investigate
Democrat Tulsi Gabbard accused Netflix of being complicit in encouraging pedophilia
Actress Evan Rachel Wood wrote: ‘Anyone who says this is a conspiracy or this isn’t a child exploitation needs to seriously wake up, none of this was necessary for the story. These are 11-year-old girls… Cuties crossed so many lines… It was shot in a predatory manner without any sense of serious consequences.’
The outrage spilled over on social media with tens of thousands of people calling for a boycott of Netflix.
Tweets with the hashtag #CancelNetflix became the top trending topic for several days.
Ryan Fournier, who campaigns for younger Trump voters, was delighted at the campaign
Furious viewers continue to mount a cancel Netflix campaign as the controversial French film ‘Cuties’ hit the streaming service on Wednesday amid claims it supports child abuse
Social media users have hit out at people defending the movie, with dancing 11-year-old girls
Some social media users accused the movie of ‘child porn’
‘Unbelievable that they released ‘Cuties’. So child porn is ok now Netflix? Raise your hand if you agree this is disgusting,’ wrote Twitter user David Fischer, adding the hashtag #CancelNetflix.
‘If you watch 11-year-olds twerk, you’re a pervert. If you direct 11 year olds to touch themselves on camera, you’re a pedophile. If you support Netflix making and airing #Cuties, you’re enabling abuse,’ said Republican candidate for Congress James P. Bradley.
Some critics hit out at those who are defending the movie and claimed that it should not be sold as art.
‘Netflix is comfortable with this. Plenty of people will defend it. This is where our culture is at,’ said Daily Caller writer Mary Margaret Olohan.
‘If you call ‘Cuties’ art or a ‘social statement’. I call you a child abuser. We have no time for niceties while children are being sexualized for mass entertainment,’ added writer Sonia Poulton.
The campaign to cancel Netflix appeared to be growing judging by recent tweets
Yet Netflix have stood behind the film and its director.
A first wave of criticism, in August, led Netflix to withdraw ‘inappropriate’ artwork used to promote the film, which was released in theaters that month in France.
The artwork was markedly different to that used to promote the film in France, showing a group of young, fully-clothed girls skipping down the road.
Netflix also said it apologized for having used ‘inappropriate’ images.
The US artwork (left) was dramatically different to the French one (right). Netflix apologized
Cuties tells the story of 11-year-old Amy, a dancer with the Cuties dance troupe in Paris
‘We’re deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork that we used for Cuties,’ a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement at the time.
‘It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film, which premiered at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.’
Doucouré also received a phone call from the streaming site’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos, who made a personal apology for the error, she revealed.
‘We had several discussions back and forth after this happened. Netflix apologized publicly, and also personally to me,’ she said.
Netflix has changed the synopsis for the movie now reading: ‘Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.’
However, before being changed, it read: ’11-year-old Amy lives with her mom, Mariam, and younger brother, awaiting her father to rejoin the family from Senegal.
‘Amy is fascinated by disobedient neighbor Angelica’s free-spirited dance clique, a group that stands in sharp contrast to stoic Mariam’s deeply held traditional values.
‘Undeterred by the girls’ initial brutal dismissal and eager to escape her family’s simmering dysfunction, Amy, through an ignited awareness of her burgeoning femininity, propels the group to enthusiastically embrace an increasingly sensual dance routine, sparking the girls’ hope to twerk their way to stardom at a local dance contest.’
While the streaming site accepted full responsibility for the blunder, the damage was already done, with both Doucouré and her movie facing furious attacks from thousands of outraged viewers.
She revealed she even received death threats after the ‘hyper sexualized’ poster and trailer went online.
‘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 hyper-serialization of children,’ she told Deadline.
‘I also received numerous death threats.
‘I discovered the poster at the same time as the American public.’
She said the outrage and scandal had been ‘a strange experience’.
She said: ‘I hadn’t seen the poster until after I started getting all these reactions on social media, direct messages from people, attacks on me. I didn’t understand what was going on.
‘That was when I went and saw what the poster looked like.’
Netflix continues to defend the film as ‘a social commentary against the sexualization of young children.’
They said: ‘It’s an award winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up – and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie.’