When good kids are forced defend bad adults
Dakota Fanning wants to know what all the fuss is about. The talented child actress, age 12, and has been trundled before the microphones to defend the infamous rape scene in her new movie Hounddog, which is making a disturbing splash at the Sundance Film Festival (along with a tender tale of man-horse love, and I wish I was kidding).
That she's being used as a foil by the film's producers to mollify critics ranks up there with the spectre of making a 12-year-old child act out a scene of forced sexual intercourse in the first place. Does anyone actually believe this kind of hardcore content -- even if filmed by circumlocution -- will not have an effect on a child? That she's "just an actress pretending" is no argument at all. A porn star can say the same thing.
Now I happen to like Dakota Fanning's work -- she can cry credible tears by the bucket on cue, and is one of the few child performers who can carry a movie. I don't buy the spin here. The same problem exists when kid actors are made to swear like Marines in "teenage sex comedies" to get a laugh. It's all of a piece with our culture's slow and steady effort to destroy innocence, perfectly within the tradition of Jodie Foster/Brooke Shields/Alyssa Milano/Britney Spears: start 'em off sweet, then switch 'em to slut 'cuz "you can't stay a child forever" to quote one of Hounddog's apologists.
What Miss Fanning's handlers want above all is an Oscar, the endowment of which would enthrone her securely in the Really Big Buck$ pantheon.
There is more to the story than an allegedly harmless, sanitized rape scene. Paul Petersen asks whether Fanning was even protected by North Carolina law that covers child exploitation. Petersen was a child star in the 1950s (he played one of Donna Reed's sons in the popular Donna Reed Show) and is founder/president of the non-profit advocacy organization A Minor Consideration, a resource child actors and their parents. (Disclosure: Mr. Petersen has helped our family with advice regarding our spectacularly photogenic eldest daughter.)
"Dakota Fanning acted out a rape scene, on camera, and in the script, was called upon to perform mutual masturbation with another actor, a scene which may or may not be in the final cut of the movie. Reports persist that the footage of the masturbation scene was conveniently destroyed. What we know for certain is that a professional movie crew was so outraged during filming of the rape scene that they walked off the set...."