Controversy with Hounddog and American Crime child abuse
Let me just remind you of what the actress Dakota Fanning went through for the scene, although we don't know what she was told to act against it's fair to say that she was probably just asked to pretend she was being held down and she was fighting against someone holding her. She then was filmed doing just that. She had her clothes on and there was no one around her except for the usual behind the scenes crew, according to those on set there is no other actor with her in that scene, she's on her own.
Then, using the magical power of film, they film other scenes without her there of another person and cut them together to make it appear she is being attacked. Now add to that the fact that this film will be rated higher than a 12 and that throughout filming her mother, agent and many other people supervised and consented to this, as well as Fanning herself, and we have the facts.
So today I read more of the controversy from the Sundance Festival over at Variety. Andrew Vacchs a child protection consultant and attorney said...
"A 12-year-old girl can't consent to any damn thing," said Andrew Vachss, a child protection consultant and attorney who exclusively represents kids. "The process by which the child actor or actress gets to do this ... it's not like a kid wants a minibike or karate lessons. A lot of weight is being put on this child."
So if they can't consent to anything why are they acting? Why are they doing anything other than going to school and that's that? The attorney goes onto miss what actors are all about...
"Who's looking out for this kid? My question would be, 'What do you need my client in this scene for? You can't find an arm or a leg in Hollywood?'"
You might as well question why she's in any scene. Couldn't they get another actor to play the part? What's the issue with her acting distressed, on her own, fully clothed? She's done it aplenty in War of the Worlds, Man on Fire and Trapped. Well the deal is that as soon as child abuse is mentioned in any way (even though there was apparently no such thing while her scene was filmed) then it's an instant taboo subject.
Interestingly it's when this taboo subject is even mentioned that people leap on the bandwagon without finding out the facts.
The film's most vocal critic has been Catholic League president William Donohue, who put out a press release Friday asking the Dept. of Justice to investigate. He also wrote "to first lady Laura Bush requesting her assistance in this endeavor."
He's heard nothing from any of them by the way...
Donahue said he knows he could watch a DVD copy of the film ("they're making it available to social conservatives"), but he said he's not interested: "If someone tells me that there's a statue of Martin Luther King with an erection receiving oral sex, I don't need to see it."
Oh. Okay, so you're happy to accept allegations as fact without checking if they're real? You should work in a court of law. Vacchs disagrees and finds this nonsense.
"Are you serious? Investigating a public film as possible child porn? It's the red herring of all time to talk about child porn," he said. "There's so much actual child porn, and he's not calling for increased congressional funding or more investigative tools, but a scene needs to be investigated?"
Yes. I think you've hit the nail on the head there. Shh. Let's not talk about it, hide it all and it will go away. Let's not bring it into the open to discuss it. This is something that Catherine Keener suggests about another film at Sundance that features child abuse. An American Crime is based on a horrendous true story and seems to be gathering no controversy in comparison to Hounddog.
The story of Sylvia Likens prolonged torture, mutilation and murder by the hands of Gertrude Baniszewski, her own children and some children from the local neighbourhood. Read those Wikipedia articles at your own peril, some of it is very strong and may not be to your taste.
I read it, and it's terrifyingly awful. In an interview at Coming Soon, Keener, who plays Baniszewski, responds to a rather insightful and very relevant question.
ComingSoon: Normally, the topic of child abuse is not something you'd want to get into, so why did you decide to do this film?
Catherine Keener: Because it's normally a topic that you don't want to get into, I think, and I don't understand why that should be kept that way. It's just awful and horrible. There's sort of this taboo about the subject of child abuse, and I think it just should be busted wide open. Secrets aren't helping make it go away, and it has to stop. I just feel that if we can contribute to a little bit of discussion for it, then good.
I agree with Keener, and going back to the Hounddog issue I certainly don't think that Fanning was put in a more difficult situation than any of her acting roles to date. I think that some of these areas and topics need to be explored and not hidden away, The Woodsman (Filmstalker review) is a perfect example. Let's just hope that these films have as much message to give.