An Argentine film on Netflix called Desire (find the film here via Netflix) is being slapped with allegations of child pornography and could face a government investigation after the conservative news site PJ Media reported it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the FBI.

Ultimately after this, the conspiratorial factions on the alt-right began chanting "Pizzagate!" (one of their baseless pet conspiracies about pedophilia among Democrats in Washington D.C. - and the conspiracy theory behind more than a few of Roseanne's craziest tweets) en masse to express their digital outrage at those "Luciferians" on the left.

Putting aside this stupidity which obviously deserves nothing from us of serious intellect besides a laugh, we are still left with the question: is there any veracity to the argument that the film is pornographic? To find that answer, we must look at purpose and context of the scene itself and the entire film.

The film opens with two little girls watching a western when one of the little girls starts imitating a cowboy riding his horse by bouncing up and down on her pillow. Director Diego Kaplan uses dramatic music, slow motion, and a close up on the child actor's face to show the effects of her accidentally having her first orgasm. Her mother then rushes in and spirits her daughter to the hospital, not knowing what had happened. Kaplan said the scene was filmed without exploitation and "under the surveillance" of the actress's mother.

Having watched the film myself on Netflix, I can attest that the scene in question is not exploitative and is there merely to show the genesis of what makes the lead grown female character what she is in the film (in short, the scene is there as a part of the entire growth arc of the character) – there is further zero nudity. Is the scene suggestive and a little creepy? Yeah. Is it pornography? In my opinion, no. It is clearly not intended as such when one views the whole film to understand the correct context and purpose of the film itself (something a reasonable legal definition of "pornography" will depend on) – that purpose and context is not titillation, it is to show the inherent drama of the basically nymphomaniac character (she often compares sex to barbiturate use).

"Pornography" is a notoriously difficult thing to define under American law, with Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once famously quipping in Jacobellis vs. Ohio in 1964, "I know it when I see it." Jacobellis v. Ohio was all about whether the state government of Ohio could ban the showing of Louis Malle's 1958 film Les Amants (“The Lovers”), which was found to be non-pornographic by the Court. Because of that fact, and the fact that showing the scene – if it is deemed "pornographic" – would be violating the law in "distributing child pornography", we cannot show you video of the pertinent scene here.

Still, Diego Kaplan did say the following to IndieWire about his movie and the offending scene. IndieWire's quote below actually starts with “Despair is a film.” As this is likely a confusing typo – and I have no way at the moment to confirm or falsify my hypothesis – I have omitted that sentence. Kaplan's quote in its spirit is uneffected.

...When we see a shark eating a woman on film, no one thinks the woman really died or that the shark was real. We work in a world of fiction; and, for me, before being a director comes being a father.

Of course this scene was filmed using a trick, which was that the girls were copying a cowboy scene from a film by John Ford. The girls never understood what they were doing, they were just copying what they were seeing on the screen. No adult interacted with the girls, other than the child acting coach. Everything was done under the careful surveillance of the girls’ mothers. Because I knew this scene might cause some controversy at some point, there is “Making Of” footage of the filming of the entire scene.

Everything works inside the spectators’ heads, and how you think this scene was filmed will depend on your level of depravity.

Indeed, most all film tricks work entirely “inside the spectators' heads” and that can be be-deviling at times. Still it is such a huge part of what makes film as an art form so magical, that we may willfully suspend our disbelief at the unreality we are seeing and drift away for a time into what is still a work of fiction.

Netflix has so far been mum on Desire, despite social media backlash, and what I believe to be the likely fact that most people are not so hopelessly stuck, stubborn, tightly-wound and myopic, that they may see what's really happening with Desire – namely, people are throwing themselves into a tizzy over their pet cause of the day – and knowing recent history and the seemingly more prevalent goldfish-rivaling attention span against us as a people, they'll soon find another pet cause, putting this one out to a swift mental pasture.