Netflix settles one court case, while its battle over ‘The Cuties’ film continues.
In 2018, Netflix created an interactive experience called Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and streaming app won an Emmy. In the film, a video game designer prepares to pitch a new product that is based on a fantasy novel he calls a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book. However, Chooseco LLC, a children’s book publisher, owns the trademark to ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ and has filed an infringement lawsuit.
U.S District Court Judge William Sessions III refused Netflix’s motion to dismiss the case earlier in 2020 despite its First Amendment defense. Now, the parties have disclosed they have reached a settlement in the case with the stipulation that the judge vacate Netflix’s earlier motion to dismiss. Sessions has agreed to this, choosing to allow the settlement to proceed. Chooseco will continue to maintain its ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ trademark, and in fact, has recently applied for trademark of downloadable animated video recordings featuring multiple choice endings.
Meanwhile, Netflix is facing a lawsuit over its film The Cuties, which was harshly criticized for explicit content under a Texas law forbidding “the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of an unclothed, partially clothed, or clothed child,” according to the indictment made by Texas’ Tyler County district attorney. Cuties details an account of a 11-year-old girl from a Muslim background who defies her upbringing when she joins an all-girls dance group. Netflix released a poster as part of its marketing campaign that shows the girls striking suggestive poses, and many believed the poster inappropriately sexualized young girls. When it was met with disdain, Netflix switched out the ad, admitting it was inappropriate.
In order for the recent lawsuit to proceed on the grounds that the film is ‘illegal,’ it must prove the project “has no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value” and “the prurient interest in sex.” Netflix has responded to the allegations, defending the film instating, “Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. This charge is without merit and we stand by the film.”
Director Maïmouna Doucouré received an award when the production debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, and it was highly regarded and well-received. When the poster began to circulate, however, Doucouré said in an interview she “received multiple death threats surrounding the incident,” and that Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos had “called her directly to apologize.” She added, “I, of course, had hoped that it would have prompted a debate on the hyper-sexualization of preadolescents. But never in my dreams had I imagined that my point of view would become so misinterpreted.”
The director claims the story of Amy, the film’s protagonist, is actually based on her own life experiences once upon a time. She added, “My aesthetic take, aesthetic perspective is to hold a mirror in front of the world so that we as adults are able to see what we have created, what is our responsibility towards our children, in the way we have brought them up.”