Netflix shares dropped 1.3 percent Monday following the streaming platform’s controversial release of the film Cuties.
The award-winning, French coming-of-age drama faced backlash as it previewed to American audiences who criticized the film for exploiting the young cast by inappropriately sexualizing them.
Cuties follows a young Senegalese girl in Paris who joins a dance clique to escape her family troubles. There are several scenes depicting the young actors dancing suggestively in revealing outfits.
While the directorial debut of French filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré did not stir much controversy when it opened in her home country on August 19 as Mignonnes, the hashtag #CancelNetflix began trending on Twitter shortly after its U.S. release.
The day after the movie appeared on Netflix on Wednesday, shares of the company fell 3.9 percent.
The movie is currently ranked seventh on the platform’s top 10 movies and shows in the U.S. today.
Parents, politicians and a number of conspiracy theorists have called for Netflix to remove the film. Senators Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton asked the Department of Justice to open its own investigation into the film, alleging that the visuals classify as child pornography.
“The film routinely fetishizes and sexualizes these pre-adolescent girls as they perform dances simulating sexual conduct in revealing clothing including at least one scene with partial child nudity. These scenes in and of themselves are harmful,” Cruz wrote in a letter sent to Attorney General William Barr.
Netflix shares have been on the decline since September 8, the day before the film’s release on the platform. They had been on the rise following the Labor Day weekend.
Netflix’s opening price today started at $480.62, compared with the daily average of $529.22 in the week prior to the film’s debut, according to data from Yahoo Finance.
Reviewers at the Sundance Film Festival, where Cuties won Doucouré a directing award in February, did not find the film vulgar. Film critics and the film’s director have defended the feature as a social commentary on the sexualization of young girls in today’s society.
During a Monday panel hosted by French film organization UniFrance, Doucouré said she thought the film’s U.S. release would have been accepted.
“It played to Sundance and was watched by American people there. I met the public there and they really saw that the film is about a universal issue,” she said. “It’s not about French society—the hyper-sexualization of children happens through social media and social media is everywhere. People agreed with that.”
“We need to protect our children. What I want to is to open people’s eyes on this issue and try to fix it,” she added.
Activist groups like the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) have also commented on Twitter using the hashtag #CancelNetflix.
In a statement released Friday, the NCSOE said, “While we commend Director Maïmouna Doucouré for exposing the very real threats to young girls having unfettered access to social media and the internet, we cannot condone the hypersexualization and exploitation of the young actresses themselves in order to make her point.”
Newsweek reached out to Netflix for comment but did not hear back before publication.