Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

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.)

Petersen writes:

"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...."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lovely poem about Naomi

A budding Canadian poet named Erin McNulty, age 14, penned a sweet poem/reflection upon learning about our loss of Naomi. When I was 14, I could barely pick my nose! It might help to know that I'm known in my hometown of Halifax as P.D. (for Pat David --- long story).

Erin's poem is a beautiful example of the little-but-large impact Naomi has had, and continues to have, on us who remain here below.

Naomi Rose

"I'd never thought
I'd be walking through this valley,
having to choose
the hour of
my daughter's death."

As I heard P.D.'s words,
being read aloud by my mom,
I felt tears prick my large brown eyes.

How could he have done that?
Put emotions into words,
and almost make me start to cry?

Why is Naomi dead?
She deserves a chance at life,
why has God taken her away?

But now she's an angel,
watching over all of us,
keeping us out of harm's way.

I find myself thinking,
all about that little girl,
even though she lives a million miles away.

But I was touched by her,
by that beautiful baby,
and the love that I feel will stay.

Thank you, Erin!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ponder without fear, like the Bible says

All things being equal, and not taking into account drastic climatic shifts or increases in forest predators, how much wood -- in kilograms, now -- could a woodchuck chuck if said beast could chuck wood?

Also, if there's any way to gracefully segue from the following awkward social faux pas, I want to hear it. You meet someone for the first time, and after the preliminary introductions, they say, "How's it going?" and you reply incorrectly with, "Nice to meet you, too," or some similar non sequitur. You feel like a moron, but making light of it only adds another layer of awkwardness, not to mention crushing obviousness.

Or how about this? As you know, if you're Catholic, dear Seize the Dei reader, holding hands during the Our Father has, unfortunately, become de rigeur in many parishes nowadays. It's all so "meaningful" and "community-building" and "stranger welcoming" and "pastorally fitting." And about as spontaneous as preparing your tax returns. My question: what is the best way to perform that little squeezie-poo of the joined hands that we all do at the end of the "for thine is the Kingdom" part? If you squeeze too hard, you send a "let go of my hand already" message to your brother or sister. If you continue the exact same hand pressure, you might seem clingy or something more creepy. At present I simply opt out of the whole ritual by bowing my head, hermetically sealing my eyes shut, and clasping my hands together in that famous Serenity Prayer pose. (Confession: I'm not above pretending not to understand English, or making like I'm deaf, just to get out of it. If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.)

And while I'm at it, what's with that automatic Rite Of the Raising Of the Arms thing at the very end of the prayer, anyway?

I'll bet Catholics and lemmings share a lot of DNA.

Monday, January 08, 2007

He's baaaack

A special hello to readers of Lay Witness magazine who may be dropping by because of my essay on losing Naomi (LW printed my blog URL). If you're a Catholic but not a subscriber, I recommend Lay Witness the monthly the flagship publication of Catholics United for the Faith. LW is timely, practically oriented, orthodox and always readable. My piece is titled "Grace at the Heart of Grief." (They ran a sweet picture of Naomi.) If it makes it to the online edition of LW, I'll let you know.

Christmas in Nova Scotia with my side of the family was fun, although not white, much to the chagrin of our four-year-old Mariclare.

The year 2006 has definitely been my poor mother's annus horribilis. She lost a close friend in mid-2006. Then her granddaughter Naomi Rose died in Sept. Then her eldest sister Rose died Dec 16. Rose (and her husband, my Uncle Don) would have been married 65 years -- no , that's not a typo -- on Christmas Day. Then a good friend and golf partner had a severe stroke on Dec 23, and was disconnected on Dec 26.

As real and heartfelt as this Christmas was for her, merry it was not.