You are gonna have to bear with us while we try and make sense out of this latest news around Cuties. Things get complicated. Not the whole “Nonce Bait” vs. “Legitimate Expression” culture war thing, just the runners and riders involved.
Lucas Babin was a model for Gucci, Versace, and Calvin Klein, among others. He was also in a Paris Hilton music video, The Young And The Restless, and School of Rock. Then, in a complete career change, he went to law school, qualified, and ended up elected as district attorney of Tyler County, Texas, where his hometown of Woodville was located.
He also didn’t like Cuties much.
In a filing against Netflix he stated that the streamer:
“…knowingly promoted 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.”
Cuties has been at the center of controversy ever since it appeared on Netflix. It tells the story of an 11-year-old Senegalese-French girl who is caught up in the conflict between the morals and ambitions of her traditional Muslim family and those of her dance troupe friends. The controversy started when it was first advertised with a risqué campaign. Netflix dropped that and replaced it with something tamer ahead of the launch.
The touchpaper was, however, already lit. After it was launched on the platform in September 2020 it was hit with a grand just indictment. Netflix hit back stating Babin was abusing his office and sought injunctive relief on the grounds of Netflix’s constitutional rights. On December 14, U.S. District Judge Michael Truncale granted Netflix’s injunctive wish. Babin then lept to appeal court but the district court found that Babin prosecuted Netflix in bad faith following discovery and a seven-hour evidentiary hearing.
According to Judge Willett:
“Babin contends on appeal that the district court’s finding in this respect was not only erroneous but clearly so—a contention, we are mindful, that must also surmount considerable deference to the district court’s credibility determinations. After carefully reviewing the record and the parties’ arguments at this preliminary stage in the proceedings, we are not left ‘with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.’ To the contrary, sufficient evidence supports the district court’s findings.”
“Netflix has shown at this stage that it has been subjected to a bad-faith prosecution, an injury we have already deemed ‘irreparable. Our precedent similarly establishes that injunctions protecting First Amendment rights ‘are always in the public interest.’ Netflix has therefore shown that it is entitled to preliminary injunctive relief.”
So not the result Babin would have wanted, in any way.
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