Netflix is at the center of controversy this week after it published and promoted a movie that many are calling child pornography. Now, some lawmakers in Texas are calling for action to be taken against the movie streaming giant.
“Cuties,” which was released on the platform this week, depicts the “coming of age” of a group of preteen girls who form a sexually suggestive dance troupe.
The film not only includes “many close-up shots of little girls’ crotches and buttocks,” but it also links young girls to pornography, discussions of sexual acts, a child photographing her genitalia, and more, as a review by the Daily Caller News Foundation found.
Netflix has responded to the controversy by doubling down on their support for the film, calling it “a powerful story.”
As of publishing, the movie review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes shows movie critics have given the film an average rating of 88 percent, while audiences have given the movie a dismal 3 percent rating.
In a post on Twitter, State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler) stated that he had asked the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to investigate the film for “possible violations of child exploitation and child pornography laws.”
— Matt Schaefer (@RepMattSchaefer) September 10, 2020
Schaefer’s tweet quickly went viral, gathering tens of thousands of likes and retweets, as well as responses from other Texas legislators.
State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) pledged to file legislation to make pedophilia a crime in the Texas Constitution, adding, “We MUST never normalize this kind of wickedness in our Texas.”
Thank you @repmattschaefer! Next session I will file a bill to make pedophilia a crime in our Texas state constitution. We MUST never normalize this kind of wickedness in our Texas. #txlege https://t.co/iICPCsZZlX
— Senator Bob Hall (@SenatorBobHall) September 10, 2020
State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) also said his office was looking into different legislative options “to make clear this immoral behavior and societal conditioning has no place in Texas.”
Thank you @RepMattSchaefer! My staff and I are also looking into different legislative options to make clear this immoral behavior and societal conditioning has no place in Texas. @SenBobHall, we look forward to working with you as well. #CUTIES #txlege https://t.co/VXS697ovFl
— Rep. Tony Tinderholt (@reptinderholt) September 11, 2020
But does the film actually constitute child pornography? A look at case law would suggest it might.
The 1986 court case United States vs. Dost created a six-factor guideline as to whether a piece of media constitutes child pornography:
- Whether the focal point of the visual depiction is on the child’s genitalia or pubic area.
- Whether the setting of the visual depiction is sexually suggestive, i.e., in a place or pose generally associated with sexual activity.
- Whether the child is depicted in an unnatural pose, or in inappropriate attire, considering the age of the child.
- Whether the child is fully or partially clothed, or nude.
- Whether the visual depiction suggests sexual coyness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity.
- Whether the visual depiction is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer.
Though the list is not exhaustive and not all points need to be met in order to be classified as child pornography, some who have seen the movie say it meets all or most of these points.
Paxton’s office told Texas Scorecard, due to long-standing policy, that they cannot confirm, deny, or comment on potential or pending investigations.