Netflix Asks Federal Judge to Halt ‘Cuties’ Child Porn Indictment in Texas

The streamer says Lucas Babin, a district attorney in Tyler County, is leading a “bad-faith effort” to target their First Amendment rights


Netflix has asked a federal judge to prevent a Texas district attorney from bringing child pornography charges against the streamer for its release of the French film “Cuties.”

Tyler County DA Lucas Babin indicted Netflix in September 2020 for distributing “Cuties,” accusing the film of depicting the “lewd exhibition of minors.” The streamer now says “Enough is enough” in its latest legal filing on Thursday and says Babin is trying to stifle Netflix’s First Amendment rights, demanding the case be thrown out.

“As Babin is well-aware, ‘Cuties” violates no laws: it contains nothing obscene, it contains no scenes of children engaged in ‘sexual conduct,’ it contains no ‘lewd depictions of minors.’ Indeed, other prosecutors in Texas have not only refused to take up for his ill-advised indictment(s), they have also conceded that ‘Cuties’ is not criminal but has ‘serious political, literary, and artistic value.’ But this one prosecutor—out of all the prosecutors in America— has indicted Netflix not just once but five times,” Netflix wrote.

The additional indictments were a procedural move by Babin, in which the original indictment was dropped a day before a hearing was set and was then charged with four new indictments claiming the film violates Texas state law against child pornography.

“Cuties” is a French drama from French-Senegal director Maimouna Doucouré about 11-year-old girls join a children’s dance troupe, and Netflix has repeatedly defended the film as a “social commentary about the negative influence of social media and the hyper-sexualization of young girls.”

But the film was the subject of massive controversy upon its release in 2020, first because of an American poster for the film that showed the film’s protagonists in revealing dance attire striking suggestive poses. Netflix removed the poster and apologized, saying it didn’t represent the content of the film. But it nevertheless became the target of a QAnon-linked campaign to have it removed from Netflix, accusing the whole film of impropriety and even targeting its director online.

French-Senegal director directed “Cuties,” and her film is the story of a girl who rebels against her religious mother by joining a dance team, only to experience new emotional issues when her new dance team sexualizes herself and her team. Both she and Netflix have repeatedly defended the film as one that hopes to stop the exploitation of young girls and the hyper-sexualization of children.

Netflix in its filing acknowledged the “extraordinary nature” of the “Cuties” case in asking for a federal court to step in and said Babin is engaging in a “bad-faith effort” to pursue Netflix.

“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,” the filing reads. “Without the Court’s intervention, Netflix will suffer irreparable harm by being forced to continue playing Babin’s game in state court and
defending itself against even more baseless charges.”

A hearing is expected to be held Friday in Texas.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.