The ongoing legal battle—and attendant controversy—surrounding Netflix’s film Cuties hit a new wrinkle this evening, as Deadline reports that the streamer has filed a request asking that the federal government step in and block a child pornography charge the company is facing Texas in relation to the film.
Maïmouna Doucouré’s 2020 movie has garnered criticism from conservative critics from roughly the moment Netflix announced it had acquired the movie after its award-winning Sundance debut. The film centers on an 11-year-old French-Senegalese girl who becomes fascinated by a dance troupe made up of some of her classmates, who use age-inappropriate dance moves and outfits. The whole thing is pretty clearly intended as a sharp critique of the culture of sexualization that children are exposed to basically from birth—but has been grabbed on to by the loudest and persistently attention-seeking voices of the American right as a cudgel to bash anyone supporting it of being peddlers of child pornography.
Notably, Texas District Attorney Lucas Babin (a former actor, by the by) decided to put these “child porn” allegations to the test a few years ago, having indicted Netflix, way back in 2020, with a charge that Cuties “depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 years of age ... and has no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
Netflix—which has stated that it now finds some of the marketing images it used for Cuties “inappropriate,” but which has resolutely stood by the film itself—has now essentially asked the federal courts to step in and force Babin to knock it off. Calling it an “extraordinary case,” Netflix’s request to the federal court states that, “Babin’s singular and bad-faith effort to pursue Netflix for exercising its free speech and petition rights under the First Amendment on trumped up charges that he cannot prove as a matter of law require extraordinary measures.”
Netflix’s complaint notes that it’s unusual for a federal court to step in on a matter like this, but characterizes Babin’s persistent treatment of the company as both so extreme, and so spurious, that it requires federal intervention. A hearing is reportedly set to examine the request tomorrow, March 4.