Netflix’s Chief Executive Ted Sarandos has come out in support of a recent film it distributed across the world. In an interview with Deadline, he criticized Americans for being the only culture who have come out and spoken against the film.
“It’s a little surprising in 2020 America that we’re having a discussion about censoring storytelling… It’s a film that is very misunderstood with some audiences, uniquely within the United States… The film speaks for itself. It’s a very personal coming-of-age film. It’s the director’s story, and the film has obviously played very well at Sundance without any of this controversy and played in theaters throughout Europe without any of this controversy.”Jake Kanter, Deadline, October 12, 2020
The interview and statement came at the heels of Netflix being indicted by a grand jury in Texas who have charged the company for distributing inappropriate and illegal material.
A USA Today writes:
“The culture war around “Cuties” went next level last week when a Texas grand jury brought criminal felony charges against Netflix. Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin announced in a statement on Oct. 6 that the streaming giant had been indicted for “promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child.” Texas Rangers served Netflix, Inc. with legal papers on Oct. 1 for streaming the French coming-of-age film, which centers around an 11-year-old French-Senegalese girl who joins a dance group known as “The Cuties.”USA Today, October 15, 2020
Cuties was released on September 9th and received with an avalanche of criticism by people infuriated by the film’s extreme depiction of sexuality among young women. The film infamously depicts adolescent girls twerking, seducing adult men, flashing their naked bodies to a crowd, playing with used condoms and watching adult pornography.
While it’s unlikely that the felony charged will have any effect outside of the state of Texas, the charges mark the high water mark of the backlash against Netflix’s choice to purchase and distribute the film after it’s critically acclaimed premiere at Sundance in January.
The culture war surrounding the film has made some progressives reflexively defend the film. Numerous Film Critics have widely embraced Cuties as a film that satirizes child sexuality by contrasting the immorality of the children’s actions with the tyrannical nature of patriarchal Muslim families.
Film critic Alyssa Rosenberg went as far as to say that conservatives would find a great deal on a thematic level to agree with:
“It’s a real shame that so many conservatives are condemning “Cuties” when they might find a great deal to like about the movie — and no, I don’t mean they harbor a secret taste for twerking preteens. This is very much a film about what happens to kids when their parents aren’t physically or emotionally present in their lives. It’s highly skeptical of social media platforms and what sexualized mainstream culture teaches children about what behavior is normal or desirable. Though its characters post provocative dance videos and wear revealing costumes, “Cuties” doesn’t present their actions as liberated or admirable: Instead, the movie repeatedly shows other characters reacting with sadness or disgust when these girls try to act like grown women.”Alyssa Rosenberg, The Washington Post, September 11, 2020
I have no doubt that the female director of Cuties had less than meaningful intentions to make a film that said something important about the sexualization of children in European culture but the extremes of this portrayal obviously pushed too many boundaries. The massive cultural push back against child sexuality certainly reflects the outrage of thousands of Netflix subscribers objecting to paying for such disgusting content.
It didn’t help that Netflix’s awful advertising for the film downplayed the satirical elements and rebranded the French satire as an unironic movie about pre-teen girls twerking for adults. Netflix’s description made the film sound as though the girls twerking was a good thing to fight back against their conservative cultures.
“Eleven-year-old Amy starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew.”
Following the film’s trailer being released in August, numerous screenshots began floating around the internet of pedophiles supporting the film and praising it’s depiction of scantily clad young girls which set the conservative portions of the internet on fire. Naturally, the far-left dismissed these criticisms as the mad ramblings of “Q-Anon.”
As The New York Times wrote:
“Calls to remove the film have gained particular traction among supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, who believe top Democrats and celebrities like the artist Marina Abramovic are behind a global child trafficking ring. “Netflix just normalized pedophilia,” one QAnon-supporting Facebook page posted on Friday.”Alex Marshall, The New York Times, August 21, 2020
The backlash did briefly catch Netflix’s radar. According to Variety, In the month of August Netflix’s cancelation rate briefly rose to eight times it’s normal levels before settling back to normal rates after the controversy died down.
Whatever ends up coming out of the felon trial, it’s unlikely that much will be done to remedy the film’s release on Netflix at this stage outside of Texas. The film’s director and crew will not be extradited to the United States. The movie will likely remain on the platform for the time being.