Texas Grand Jury Reportedly Indicts Netflix Over 'Prurient' Content

Texas Grand Jury Reportedly Indicts Netflix Over 'Prurient' Content

WOODVILLE, Texas — A Texas grand jury has reportedly indicted California streaming company Netflix, alleging that one of the films distributed via their popular home-viewing service presents material “which appeals to the prurient interest in sex and has no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

The indictment was reported by local news after Texas State Representative Matt Schaefer (R) tweeted “Netflix, Inc. indicted by grand jury in Tyler Co., Tx for promoting material in ‘Cuties’ film which depicts lewd exhibition of pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 yrs of age which appeals to the prurient interest in sex.”

The indictment, according to local station KLTV and a single page that Schaefer included in the tweet, specifies the grand jury agreed with Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin in his claim that Netflix

knowingly [promotes] visual material which 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 at the time the visual material was created, which appeals to the prurient interest in sex, and has no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value, to wit: by issuing or selling or providing or delivering or distributing or disseminating or transmitting or publishing or exhibiting or presenting or advertising the film titled “Cuties,” also known as “Mignonnes,” or offering or agreeing to issue, sell, provide, deliver, distribute, disseminate, transmit, publish, exhibit, present, of advertise said film, and the promotion of said film was authorized or recklessly tolerated by a high managerial agent of Netflix, Inc., namely, Wilmot Reed Hastings Jr. or Theodore Anthony Sarandos Jr., acting in behalf of Netflix, Inc. and within the scope of the agent’s office or employment at Netflix, Inc.

DA Babin — who is also a former fashion model and actor who appeared in movies like “School of Rock” and “Brick” — revealed through a statement that “after hearing about the movie ‘Cuties’ and watching it, I knew there was probable cause to believe it was criminal under Section 43.262 of the Texas Penal Code."

"The legislators of this state believe promoting certain lewd material of children has destructive consequences," Babin argued. "If such material is distributed 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.”

Tyler County vs. Artistic Merit

“Cuties” (original title, “Mignonnes”) is a French film available through Netflix and written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré, a Sengegalese-French filmmaker. The movie is inspired by Doucouré’s youth and centers on a Senegalese-French girl from a strict Muslim family. Amy, who is the main character and 11 years old, becomes interested in her neighbor’s dance group, called Cuties.

The film is critically acclaimed, and — despite the unqualified assessment of DA Babin and the Tyler County grand jury — its artistic value has been certified by nominations at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival, where Doucouré won a directing prize.

Grand juries only determine if there’s sufficient evidence for a criminal case to move forward. In many cases, local district attorneys hold significant sway over grand jury indictments, so this prosecution hinges at the singular point on the view of the District Attorney from Tyler County, a "Deep-Red" county outside of Houston, close to the Louisiana border.

Once Again, the 'Prurient' Argument

Babin’s indictment hinges on the phrase “prurient interest in sex.” As XBIZ explained during the scandal when the Small Business Administration’s application for COVID relief overtly discriminated against sex workers and sexually oriented businesses, to prove something is prurient, it has to be shown that it shows “a shameful or morbid interest in sexuality.”

However, adult industry attorney Lawrence Walters from the Walters Law Group told XBIZ that “underage material can be prohibited using concepts such as lewdness, lasciviousness or prurience.”

"'Prurience' is only one prong of the Miller obscenity test which applies if the content depicts adults,” Walters said. “While adult content cannot be criminalized unless it is legally obscene, the bar is lower where the performers are under 18.”

“It remains to be seen whether the 'Cuties' movie depicts material that is illegal under Texas law,” he added. “However, this is election season, so we frequently see these emotionally charged prosecutions in such times.”

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