Early in September, a movie from France caught the ire of rightwing commentators. It was called Mignonnes (or Cuties in America), and it drew outrage for depicting a group of prepubescent girls who get into twerking. The filmmakers said it was a critique of the hypersexualization of underage girls, yet some people claimed it looked like an endorsement. Throughout the controversy, its American distributor, Netflix, has remained steadfast, changing the much-critiqued poster yet declining to remove it from its service. But now they’re in legal hot water in Texas.
According to The New York Times, a grand jury in Tyler County, not far from Houston and home to about 21,600 people, has indicted Netflix for “promoting certain lewd material of children,” according to a statement from the criminal district attorney. The charge was based on a Texas law which makes it illegal to “knowingly promote” content that depicts the genital area of a child, clothed or partially clothed. The content must appeal to “the prurient interest in sex and has no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”
The D.A.’s statement said the punishment was a state jail felony, though it’s unclear who exactly will be charged.
In their own statement, Netflix continued to defend the film, as well as themselves. “‘Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” it read. “This charge is without merit.”
Cuties premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where director Maïmouna Doucouré took home the Directing Award for a dramatic picture. It also holds 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Many of the critics who gave it positive reviews were targets of online harassment and death threats.