WOODVILLE, Texas (CN) — A Republican lawmaker announced Tuesday a Texas grand jury indictment against streaming service Netflix for allegedly promoting lewd material of children in the controversial French film “Cuties.”
The Tyler County grand jury in East Texas handed down the felony indictment on Sept. 23, accusing Netflix of promoting “visual material which depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child” younger than 18 years of age. The indictment claims the film “appeals to the prurient interest in sex, and has no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
The one-page indictment specifically calls out Netflix’s co-chief executive officers Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos for authorizing or “recklessly” tolerating the service’s promotion of the film.
Netflix quickly defended its role in distributing the film after the charge was announced.
“’Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” the company said in a statement. “This charge is without merit and we stand by the film.”
Netflix did apologize on Aug. 20 for its American marketing artwork for the film being more inappropriate than its artwork for the film in France.
Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin said he “knew there was probable cause to believe it was criminal” under the Texas Penal Code after watching the movie.
“The legislators of this state believe promoting certain lewd material of children has destructive consequences,” he said in a statement on Facebook. “If such material is distributing on a grand scale, isn’t the need to prosecute more, not less. A grand jury in Tyler County found probable cause for this felony, and my job is to uphold the laws of this state and see that justice is done.”
Babin has coincidentally had a long career as an actor and model in addition to being an attorney. He is best known for his role as antagonist Spider in the 2003 feature film “School of Rock” starring Jack Black. He most recently appeared in the television show “Cooking Styles of the Rich and Famous” in 2018, according to his IMDb profile. Babin has also appeared in global advertisements for Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Versace.
Babin’s father is U.S. Representative Brian Babin, R-Woodville, who signed a Sept. 17 letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr that described “Cuties” as containing child pornography. Thirty-four lawmakers signed the letter, asking Barr to prosecute Netflix for depicting child pornography instead of criticizing it as the film’s defenders claim.
“According to IMDB’s parental guide, 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 including a display of an 11-year-old child’s bare breast,” the letter stated. “One reviewer recently said, ‘What the Avengers movies are to comic-book geeks, Cuties is to pedophiles.’”
Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, said on Monday that he spoke with Netflix employees on the phone about his objection to the film and was left “unsatisfied” with their response.
“Asked whether the sexualization of young girls depicted in Cuties constituted criminal conduct, Netflix offered only conclusory statements in denial,” Lee said in a statement. “I am not convinced.”