January 20, 2007

Does the new Dakota Fanning movie violate the federal child pornography law?

It's a serious question. In the face of cries that the filmmakers should be prosecuted, the child actress is put forward to defend their film:
“That’s not who Lewellen is,” she said, sitting in her agent’s office in Universal City, braces on her teeth and a small crucifix over her sweater. “Because that has happened to her, that doesn’t define her. Because of this thing that has happened — that she did not ask for — she is labeled that, and it’s her story to overcome that and to be a whole person again.”

“There are so many children that this happens to, every second,” she added. “That’s the sad part. If anyone’s talking about anything, that’s what they should be talking about.”...

She added: “Lewellen is still very innocent, she’s still a child, but she’s also a little bit wise beyond her years because of the things she’s seen and been through. So I think that I should be able to do what I feel is at the right time for me.”

Speaking of which... Dakota Fanning is 13 years old. The law is there to protect her, not to support her free choice. I think it's exploitative even to use her to voice these arguments.

The linked NYT article refers to the Minor Consideration website run by Paul Peterson. He has this essay there:
It now appears Dakota Fanning was wearing a flesh-tone body suit (or a two piece suit) when she acted out the rape scene in "Hound Dog." Defenders of the production company were silent for two weeks when the controversy erupted, and now offer up this "cover up," days later, as proof that they were, in fact, concerned about the propriety of wardrobe worn in this rape scene using the talents of a twelve year-old child. These same voices are silent about what Dakota was wearing when she filmed the mutual masturbation scene. I keep pointing out to these people that it wasn't what Dakota was wearing, but what she was doing!...

I am trying to tell you that for a gifted child actor asked to portray a difficult emotionally loaded scene that over time there is NO difference between reality and pretend. In order to convince an audience to suspend disbelief you must, internally, believe utterly in the character and event you are portraying. That's the gift…and the curse.
ADDED: Here's a nice "Talk of the Nation" segment about child actors. I ran across it as I was looking for some information about how they get child actors to cry. I wanted to know how, for example, Chaplin got Jackie Coogan to cry in "The Kid"? Actually, in the clip they talk about how Vincente Minelli got Margaret O’Brien to cry in "Meet Me in St. Louis." (He told her that her dog had died.)

MORE: There's a lot of heated argument in the comments, so let me say that I think it's important not to assume we know exactly what Dakota Fanning was made to do in the film. Here's the director's defense of herself in Premiere Magazine:
"I think to some extent what they're accusing me of is putting Dakota through some ordeal or a simulation of rape, but that's not the case," says [Deborah] Kampmeier. "The scene was never run through from start to finish; it was shot in increments, over and over, never in a single take. The construction creates the impression of the violence, but doesn't represent the feeling on the set or something that might have traumatized Dakota, especially since there had been so much rehearsal.

Despite her problems financing the movie, Kampmeier was surprised by the vehemence of the reaction to its plot details. "I was naive — I had no idea this would come," she says. "Our decision was to not respond to any of it 'cause everything that's been written or said about us is false. But at a certain point it was so upsetting to read lie after lie and be powerless to change the public perception. I finally had to stop focusing on that and get back to the film."
It's quite a confusing story. Kampmeier complains that people are lying about her movie, but she also says that as she was seeking funding "No one wanted to touch the material" and that "potential investors... would... ask to remove the rape scene." She says she's upset about the misinformation, but refuses to provide the truth. The fact that everything said was a lie is the reason she gives for deciding to say nothing at all. There's something quite odd about that. And I don't understand the way she's acting so wounded. Her critics are people who care about the welfare of children. Why give them the cold shoulder? I assume the movie is intended to show concern about victimized children, so why act as if you actually don't care?

116 comments:

Revenant said...

I thought the Supreme Court threw out the part of the law that banned simulated child pornography. I can't say I've kept up to date on the subject though.

This quote annoys me, though:

for a gifted child actor asked to portray a difficult emotionally loaded scene that over time there is NO difference between reality and pretend. In order to convince an audience to suspend disbelief you must, internally, believe utterly in the character and event you are portraying.

Ugh! What Method-y nonsense. You don't have to be unable to distinguish fantasy from reality in order to be a great actor or actress. Maybe you have to believe in the character, but you don't have to believe that the character is *you*!

PatCA said...

I don't know if it violates the law but it does violate taboos. And that's the point, isn't it? After we all saw Borat over Thanksgiving, laughing and squirming at the same time, we wondered what boundary would be pushed out next. Now we know: The History Boys, Birth with Nicole Kidman, Little Children, Running with Scissors, all use child/adult sexuality as fodder for narrative. When filmmakers eschew traditional (moral) narratives, what else is left?

Ann Althouse said...

Revenant: I think you are thinking of a case about virtual pornography, where no actual children were used to make the film. As to what you call "method-y nonsense," that might be true with respect to the simulated hanging Paul Petersen saw as a child actor, but think about a child used to produce a rape or a masturbation scene, as seems to have occurred with "Hounddog." In some sense, this child is engaging in sexual behavior. How do you pretend to do something sexual and not do something sexual? You can say the sex is "simulated," but that just means there's no penetration. You still wouldn't want a child engaging in the activity that creates the appearance of penetration. It actually is sexual behavior. Imagine if you caught the babysitter doing that with your child with the child playing along. You'd call the police.

David said...

Worse than the "simulated" rape scene is the even worse sin of filming it! How about these voyeuristic pornographers helping pass Jessica's law? How about donating their proceeds to child protection laws and stiffer sentences for pedophiles! How about a national database accessible to the public regarding the current location of MDSO's let loose on society?

I shudder to think of the film if they choose to embrace the cause of NAMBLA! Oh, I forgot. Dennis Kucinich is already whining about equal access!

There is a precious term to sanitize rape: equal access!

Tim said...

"Ms. Fanning" is how the Times refers to her, as if all of us refer to 12 year old girls as Ms. (and on a side note, the reporter or editor needs an editor, as "Ms" [no period] is the appropriate spelling because "Ms" is not an abbreviation for another word or title - it is simply a fabricated word to satisfy certain social impulses unsatisfied or offended by Miss or Mrs.) The "Ms" title seeks to impute a certain maturity to her beyond her years, notwithstanding the report's disclosure of her age.

Anyway, yes, this is obviously wrong, and the Times is even more morally blinkered by having the ever-so-mature 12 year old actress defend the role. Let's turn the question around - would an editor of the Times defer to the judgement of his fifteen or sixteen year old daughter on the propriety of her being statutorily raped by her 18 year old boyfriend, or by the chance to make money acting in porn?

But dress it up as "art," complete with a showing at Sundance, and it's all good, save for us narrow-minded anti-sex types on the Right.

Anonymous said...

I'm not quite sure I understand Professor Althouse's argument. I am not familiar with the particular law, however, is the moral argument drawing the line at simulated sexual behavior? What about violence? What about horror movies that have historically employed children? Is the portrayal of fear damaging to the child's psyche? Would the Althouse argument be the same, that the "child" cannot tell the difference? That to act out fear or panic is to actually experience it? Is there such a thing as acting then?

The comparison of a child and their babysitter to this situation is somewhat misleading and irrational. This "child" is an accomplished actress, paid to play a particular role. None of the acts portrayed in the movie were a surprise, as she herself stated having read the script and most likely having discussed with both agents and parents.

A babysitter acting out a sexual scenario is a violation of the babysitter's duties and certainly not within the expected behavior of a child sitting at home without parental supervision.

Bruce Hayden said...

Before anyone here jumps on Ann for the difference between the kid having sex and appearing to have sex, they should read the relevant statutes that can be found at 18 U.S.C. Chapter 110, and in particular 18 U.S.C. § 2251 (Sexual exploitation of children), § 2252 (Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors), § 2252A (Certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography), and § 2256 (Definitions for chapter).

The definitions have to be read fairly carefully, but my latest reading would seem to indicate that this film violates the statute because it simulates intercourse and masterbation using a live, identifiable, minor.

Let me also note that obvious - permission by the minor is totally irrelevant here, and if this is indeed actionable under this chapter, permission by her guardian, instead of excusing it, is actionable all by itself.

Freder Frederson said...

Didn't we go through this whole routine thirty years ago with "Pretty Baby"?

And shame on you Ann. Aren't you a law professor? Shouldn't you at least be starting the discussion with some basic constitutional understanding of what pornography is? Shouldn't the scenes be judged in the context of the whole film? You haven't seen the film, yet you condemn it as "pornography" based on what you have read (although apparently not the NY Times story you linked to).

I mean really. If you are really concerned about Dakota Fanning's development and delicate sensibilities, you would have been appalled by her appearing in Man on Fire. That festival of gore and glorification of violence certainly warped the ten year old's mind.

ASX said...

What an utterly preposterous statement this is:

...over time there is NO difference between reality and pretend.

While the guy's concern is admirable, he's got the reality-denying faculties of a zealot.

Ann Althouse said...

Freder: The issue is the sexual exploitation of children, and the law is statutory. And your criticism of me is despicable. I said nothing about what is and isn't "pornography" (or "obscenity") as a matter of constitutional law. We're talking about criminal statutes. And free speech rights don't protect you from prosecution for crimes done in the filming. Suppose you murdered someone making a horror film? The context of the whole film is utterly irrelevant! It was only one scene -- would that be a defense? Your thinking is way off here. Shame on you.

Bruce Hayden said...

And shame on you Ann. Aren't you a law professor? Shouldn't you at least be starting the discussion with some basic constitutional understanding of what pornography is? Shouldn't the scenes be judged in the context of the whole film? You haven't seen the film, yet you condemn it as "pornography" based on what you have read (although apparently not the NY Times story you linked to).

The short answer is that there is a bright line with kiddie porn, and a much grayer one with adult porn. All those nice things, like artistic merit, etc., have almost no impact when we are talking about kiddie porn.

Keep in mind that the statutes are for the protection of kids - all kids. Dakota in particular in this case, and all kids in general. Because of this protection of kids, the 1st Amdt. has far, far, less power.

Note that Dakota can't legally give consent to this sort of thing (since she is a minor) and her parent or guardian giving consent would seem to violate 18 U.S.C. § 2251(b).

downtownlad said...

Wasn't Brooke Shield nude and underage in Blue Lagoon?

Bruce Hayden said...

Switching sides for a minute, the NYT article didn't really indicate whether the rape scene showed simulated sex, and didn't mention masterbation. What would be most obviously criminal would be the depiction of simulated (or actual) intercourse, masterbation, beastiality, and/or S&M.

We just don't know enough at present - the rape and mutual masterbation scenes may not have risen to the level of depicting simulated sex, explaining why the DA wouldn't indict. Alternatively, he could just be looking at N.C. law.

However, it may be dangerous for the distributors to depend on that, as the film would have to pass muster in each and every state in which it is shown.

Zeb Quinn said...

The legalities of the situation are nebulus and liquid. Does anyone seriously entertain any notion that anyone connected with this film are going to be charged with a crime, let alone convicted? The issue is one of judgment. As in, other than the green, what was going through the minds of Dakota Fanning's parents when they consented to allowing her to participate in this project?

Dave said...

"How do you pretend to do something sexual and not do something sexual?"

Put a banana in your pants??

So what's the logic here? An adult actress can willfully choose to simulate rape, a la Romance or Irreversible (yes, the French are nuts...), but a child actor can't? Why should this be a controversial notion?

Ann Althouse said...

It's important to separate the film from the underlying actions. I would assume that the film has been edited since the criticism and accusations began, with an eye toward the various state and federal statutes that could be violated. Seeing the film would not reveal the extent of what was done to the child. Those actions could violate laws against the sexual exploitation of children even if the graphic scenes are completely cut from the movie.

Freder Frederson said...

I said nothing about what is and isn't "pornography" (or "obscenity") as a matter of constitutional law. We're talking about criminal statutes.

I realize that six years into the Bush administration the Constitution is fading into obscurity but forgive me if I was under the mistaken impression that criminal statutes still had to pass constitutional muster.

Suppose you murdered someone making a horror film? The context of the whole film is utterly irrelevant! It was only one scene -- would that be a defense?

I have never heard of a constitutional right to murder someone based on the artistic merit of the act--which of course is a factor in deciding whether something is obscene. So I don't see how your example makes much sense or why it makes my "thinking way off" as context is extremely important when it comes to whether or not something is obscene (and for that matter whether or not a particular act of homicide is murder).

Bruce Hayden said...

Ann has a good point there - editing doesn't get the producers of the film off, nor her guardian/parent, though it may help the distributors. Filming "sexually explicit conduct" of a minor is sufficient.

Ann Althouse said...

Freder: You're simply being obtuse. There is no constitutional right to engage in sexual behavior with a child. Like murder, it is criminal. Now, apparently, this child was wearing a thin "naked suit" of some sort, and there was no penetration. But it seems that an adult male was in contact with her thinly suited body and rubbing against her in a violent sexual way. Do you really have trouble seeing why that might violate criminal statutes and why there would be no constitutional right that could be used as a defense? Really, are you trying to be dense here? Does the fact that it's an arty Hollywood movie utterly blind you? Picture your own young daughter being subjected to this kind of "pretend" by the an adult male. You would call the police.

Anonymous said...

The left has lost any kind of line in terms of protecting children from this kind of thing.

Allen Ginsberg -- the great poet of the left -- was a member of NAMBLA, and Camille Paglia defends pedophilia because the ancient Greeks allowed it.

This is all over the net (look up Ginsberg and Nambla) and is in Ginsberg's last poems in Fame and Death. William Burroughs was even worse, and Mailer called him a genius.

Michel Foucault -- the great theorist of the left -- theorized that child prostitution was something to laugh about -- and only a serious concern if you were a repressed wingnut. He says as much in his History of Sexuality Part One -- pp. 31-36 -- when he discusses a Monsieur Jouy -- a French menial labor who often employed children as prostitutes, as he ridiculed the legal hysteria over it.

Foucault thought it was just strange that the law would care about children.

For some reason, the left is like Moloch -- they just really don't care about children. I'm sure that Hollywood left and others will line up against any kind of law regarding the protection of children in this case, too. It's what the left themselves would call an "always already."

In David Horowitz' book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, he cites a professor named Gayle Rubin at the Unjiversity of Michgan at Ann Arbor as writing that the government's pursuit of child molesters was a 'savage and undeserved witch hunt' and she writes 'Local police, the FBI and watchdog postal inspectors have joined to create a huge apparatus whose sole aim is to wipe out the community of men who love underaged youth' (Horowitz 310-311).

Horowitz comments, "...she concentrates especially on the defense of pedophilia by refusing to see in it a form of sexual exploitation. For her, any law aiming at governing sexuality constitutes a 'sexual apartheid' (310).

It's quite amazing tha tsuch a person can teach this kind of thing at a major American university. But if she can teach it and others like her can teach it, and it can reach the unformed minds of hundreds of thousands of young people, then it's quite possible that the stricture will collapse, and we'll be right back in ancient Rome with the likes of Tiberius and Nero forcing children to do their bidding. It's an awful thing to contemplate.

Bruce Hayden said...

Freder,

As I noted above, this is quite different from adult porn as to the 1st Amdt. because the laws against kiddie porn are there to protect kids (this one and others). Adult porn, like prostitution, is arguably a victimless crime. Kiddie porn, where there is an identifiable kid (Dakota here) exploits the kid. She can't consent, and her parents can't either, just like they can't consent for her to engage in prostitution.

Alternatively (and Ann can correct this if necessary), you could look at it that courts apply "strict scrutiny" to 1st Amdt. cases, but in this case, the state has a compelling state interest in protecting minors, which allows the government to criminalize the making, distribution, etc. of kiddie porn, regardless of artistic merit, etc. It does not have such a compelling state interest when it comes to adult porn.

The results are the same though - the state (in this case, the feds) can constitutionally ban the making, distribution, etc., of kiddie porn, regardless of artistic merit, for the protection of children.

Brian O'Connell said...

To Freder and others who aren't getting the point, let's re-phrase. Pretend that everything that the adults induced Dakota to do, they did, but that there were no cameras and no movie. Would it still be alright for them to ask her to pretend to be raped or to pretend to masturbate someone?

How about if you asked a 12 year-old girl if you could pretend to rape her? Would that be ok? What if her mother approved?

I don't think that cameras being in the room improves the scenario.

Ann Althouse said...

The effort to portray this as a left vs. right political issue strikes me as ridiculous. People on the left -- many of them at least -- care about the sexual exploitation of children. There are people on both the right and left who do not want the government to concern itself with uncoerced sexual matters.

Bruce Hayden said...

Brian O'Connell

The difference here, at least as to federal law, is that the filming of it is really what allows the federal government to criminalize this sort of thing, presumably under Congress' power to regulate Interstate Commerce.

The states though are not so limited, and can criminalize inducing a minor to simulate intercourse or masterbation under its innate police powers. The feds can't, which is why the filming or something similar is required.

Anonymous said...

Ann's consistent repetition of the "imagine it was your daighter" argument is absolutely ridiculous and unfounded. This is not anything like a situation of a parent walking in on their unsuspecting child being rubbed up on in a sexual violent way by an adult male. This is a movie. And yes, the presence of cameras, scripts and salaries does make a difference.

Ann's argument that there is no difference between acting out a sexual scene versus actually experiencing it is also ludicrous. Why then draw the difference anywhere? Where does Ann draw the line between acting and reality? Should the girl be treated for delusions for her role in Charlotte's Web?

Anonymous said...

I'm not aware of any conservatives who would claim that pedophilia is ok. Could you name a name?

I also don't know of anyone on the left who has taken a strong public stand against pedophile activism.

Could you name someone?

I must be out of the loop.

Freder Frederson said...

Does the fact that it's an arty Hollywood movie utterly blind you? Picture your own young daughter being subjected to this kind of "pretend" by the an adult male.

Like I said before, this movie sounds like it has a much better message, has a point, is at least "arty", and although it has some very difficult scenes, is not as grossly offensive and not simply a pornographically violent snuff film like "Man on Fire" was. Yet where were the defenders of children and culture when (the then 10 year old) Dakota Fanning participated in that vile piece of crap? You're worried about her emotional development for being in a rape scene when she has watched a man be blown up by having a time bomb shoved up his butt? Let's have a little perspective here.

somefeller said...

It certainly seems to me like the filmmakers may be in trouble here. If the "acting" involved sexual contact, then there may be a child porn / child sexual abuse situation here. I don't think there's a carve-out or safe harbor for consent on the part of the actor (as stated, she's too young to consent to sexual contact) or because the purpose of the film is something other than child porn. There are lines one simply cannot cross with children, and this may be one of them.

Oh, and Kirby, put a sock in it. When you can come up with some examples of mainstream liberal politicians who want to legalize pedophilia or you can cite someone other than David Horowitz as an authority, maybe you'll have something to talk about. Otherwise, go back to the streetcorner and find something else to yell about.

Simon said...

Bruce,
Per 18 U.S.C. § 2252A (a)(3), "[a]ny person who knowingly advertises, promotes, presents, [or] distributes, ... in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer, any material or purported material in a manner that reflects the belief, or that is intended to cause another to believe, that the material or purported material is, or contains an obscene visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or a visual depiction of an actual minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct shall be punished as provided in subsection (b)." Since "sexually explicit conduct" includes "graphic or lascivious simulated masturbation," 18 U.S.C. § 2256 (2)(B)(ii), regardless of the liabilities of the manufacturers, wouldn't the distributors also be exposing themselves to liabilities defined in § 2252A(b)(1) unless they refuse to distribute this movie?

Old Dad said...

The age of consent in North Carolina is sixteen. In California it is eighteen. As I understand the federal child pornography statute, the scene as described is prohibited. The actress would have had to be eighteen or older to avoid it.

A layman's take. The people of North Carolina judge that citizens sixteen and older are mature enough to consent to sex. We might further reason that sixteen year olds are mature enough to consent to other sexually charged situations, such as acting in the scene in question. The people of the United States argue that eighteen is more like it. In any case, there seems to be consensus that twelve year olds may not consent, nor may they simulate sexual activity in a movie. The defense would not want me on the jury.

Moreover, why take a chance by subjecting a child to potentially harmful situations? Let me take a stab at that--for money and fame the filmakers endanger a child.

Despicable.

Anonymous said...

Ann, your argument seems inconsistent. Rather, you seem to be making two arguments then doing bait and switch.

First argument: the peripherals like consent and art don't matter because the law is statutory.

Second argument (as Revenant rebutted--well, I thought): reality trumps art in cases where sex, art, and minors are involved.

For the first argument, you can argue the law is the law. Period.

For the second argument, you can argue the merits of the law.

It seems to me you can't argue both at once since the first is absolute, and the second is subjective and sloppy besides since you're positing inevitable harm to any child actor under 16 or whatever the age is under law.

I don't mind child pornography law as an analogy to the achohol laws. Sure, there are kids under 21 who can handle alchohol, and adults over who can't, and the former will be penalized for the latter, but we set arbitrary limits anyway in an attempt to maximize safety.

*waves* First post, long-time lurker.

Anonymous said...

Not to be too snotty Ann, but wasn't it a few weeks ago you were comparing us prudes to Islamic Sharia law lovers when we objected to young girls simulating sex in their dancing?

This is a disturbing trend, but you've just broken the surface of what is going on out there. In reading about the child sex trade I was astonished to discover that other countries have lowered consent to nudity or even porn to below 18. I don't remember if the lowest limit is 16 or 14, whatever the case there are pay sites featuring these young girls online.

Understand that there is a huge market of "non-nude model" sites for young girls. I just did a Google search for those terms and got over 1,000,000 sites returned. Not all of them are for 10-15 year old girls but there are a ton of them. Don't believe me? Do the search and check one out. Prepare to be appalled. They market themselves as being about about girls wanting to get into acting/modeling/singing but are essentially the parents making money off of pedophiles' desire for their daughters. Otherwise why would they sell videos of the girls in question swimming or engaging in other "innocent" yet scantily clad activities.

Then there are the darker stories about what goes on in some cases -- including nude tapes sold or prostituting the daughter. Many of the girls "graduate" into nude modeling and porn.

Look, whatever the "artistic vision" of a movie like this it is going to wind up in all of the pedophiles' collections. This is dangerous in the extreme and opens up Dakota to a whole new level of danger and stalking.

We already push so many boundaries in our society that it seems natural to blast apart another one. We already have a subculture growing around nude or non nude little girls. Many parents are apparantly OK with the "prostitot" look. Our society can't stand for such material to be mainstreamed and given state approval. I hope the law stamps down hard on this movie. If somehow it manages to scrape by on a technicality then I hope the MPAA gives it an NC-17 to destroy its money making potential so as to discourage other film makers. If the Acadamy gives this movie any Oscars, which I understand is the mother's hope, then I. . .I don't know, I'm already pretty sick of Hollywood. I don't know if my opinion of them can get any lower.

Anonymous said...

A lot, too much, of my casload is working with sexual abuse survivors. My concerns is for the child. I have not, and likely will not, see the movie. But the mention of a 12 year old acting in a rape and mutual masturbation scene makes me physically uncomfortable. I fear that the process of repetitive simulation would have an effect on an adult, much less a child.

It makes my skin crawl to think of the child doing the acting.

Trey

Ann Althouse said...

ogonekru: "Ann's argument that there is no difference between acting out a sexual scene versus actually experiencing it is also ludicrous."

But the man actually is rubbing against the child in a sexual way! How is that not experiencing it? Imagine a pedophile who wants to get sexual pleasure through contact with real children. He writes screenplays and sets up a production company to make films in which he will be the lead actor. The films have scenes where the child actors, whom he casts, will be subjected to sexual attacks by him. The children's parents consent, the child wears at least a "nude suit," and there is no penetration. You don't see the problem? I do. In fact, just writing this out, I feel like I'm writing pornography!

Gerald Hibbs: Good point about the dancing. But I am showing you where I draw the line. In this case there is statutory law and an adult is engaging in sexual behavior with a child.

Simon said...

Re Gerald's and Old Dad's comments about age of consent: wasn't there some suggestion during the Alito nomination that Justice Ginsburg authored a report in the 1970s that called for the lowering of the age of consent to 12? Is that correct, and if so, has Justice Ginsburg changed her mind, and wasn't Fanning 12 when this was filmed?

Freder, you're presenting a false conundrum; by suggesting that it's inconsistent to react with hostility to this movie but not to Man on Fire, you assume that everyone was just fine with Man on Fire. That isn't true, but even if it were, first, the conduct at issue there wasn't illegal, as it may be here, and second, if someone had called for that movie to be censured, I suspect you'd have cried foul.

Anonymous said...

Tim: What would you prefer that Dakota Fanning be called? "Miss Fanning" (obviously superior to the fabricated "Ms.", because it is 100% all-natural, or something)? Just "Dakota"? (In other words, do you prefer sexist and patronizing or creepy and patronizing?)

"Fanning" is out because the newspaper seems to have some kind of stylistic rule against it. I don't think that stylistic rules should be broken just because some of the more braindead readers might completely gloss over the fact that Fanning is indeed 13 (or, you know, that the theme of the article is the supposed child pornography in her film role), just because the writers allow her a basic modicum of respect in calling her "Ms."

If Fanning were male and refered to as "Mr. Fanning", would you still feel that it was inappropriate? Also, why can't you just decide whether or not Fanning is mature based on her words and actions, instead of whatever preconcieved idea you have of twelve-year-olds (which is apparently so weak that it also needs to be reinforced within the article as well)?

Tim said...

"The effort to portray this as a left vs. right political issue strikes me as ridiculous. People on the left -- many of them at least -- care about the sexual exploitation of children. There are people on both the right and left who do not want the government to concern itself with uncoerced sexual matters."

Yes, this is mostly correct, but the Times article itself launches the political perspective in its complaint that: "When “Hounddog” was still shooting last summer near Wilmington, N.C., rumors about the rape scene kicked up a storm on the socially conservative end of the Web spectrum. Some suggested that Ms. Fanning was being exploited by the filmmakers, her parents and her agent. Hundreds signed a petition to persuade a local district attorney to prosecute the filmmakers under a law banning simulated sex with a minor.

It's pretty clear the Times views this as primarily a "socially conservative" political issue with potentially (probably?) adverse effects upon the freedom of "artists" to produce "art." That posters, including myself, picked up that point and ran in various directions with it is no surprise, notwithstanding your probably correct assumption that many if not the vast majority of adults care about the welfare of children, regardless of political affiliation or viewpoint. Your characterization of a "libertarian" perspective is probably more nuanced, in both your mind and those holding that perspective, than indicated, but that's another issue for another time, I suppose.

Revenant said...

think about a child used to produce a rape or a masturbation scene, as seems to have occurred with "Hounddog."

I would point to the movie "Pretty Baby". Brooke Shields turned out just fine, and that movie was a LOT more explicit than it sounds like Hounddog is.

In some sense, this child is engaging in sexual behavior. How do you pretend to do something sexual and not do something sexual?

Um, easily? Actresses and actors generally describe sex scenes as being uncomfortable and embarrassing, not sexually arousing.

Imagine if you caught the babysitter doing that with your child with the child playing along. You'd call the police.

That's a pretty silly argument, in my opinion. I'd call the police if someone took my daughter to another city without my permission, too, but that doesn't mean there'd be something freaky or wrong about my letting her go to another city, *with* my permission, with people I trusted.

Anonymous said...

Simon, that's another aspect I didn't address. We have NAMBLA lobbying for lowering consent ages. Insane psychologists are coming out saying sometimes being molested is just wonderful for the kids. Other countries are lowering consent ages for all sorts of adult behaviors.

If we allow stuff like this to be mainstreamed then it becomes terribly difficult to hold the line on consent where it is. It's taboo for a reason. What happens if we lose the taboo?

Think about it. If you have a secular world view and the psychologists are saying that kids enjoy the sex too then why not let anyone have sex with "consenting" children? Really, isn't it just about your Christianist hangups that you think children should be "protected" from this wonderful joyful thing? Heck, it's just some friction. What's the harm? Just give them a condom they'll be better for it.

There are lots of people making that argument out there already. Standards are falling left and right to the same argument in all sorts of other areas. Whose to say it won't work here?

Nude is beautiful man, what are you a prude?

Seven Machos said...

1. I can't believe anyone would look to the Constitution as a defense for child pornography and statutory sexual relations laws. It makes no sense. It reminds me of the time here when someone was arguing that it is unconstitutional to park illegally.

2. If a crime is committed, a crime is committed. You can dress it up in all the circumstances you want but if some actor was rubbing his penis up against Dakota Fanning, and she is 13, that's a crime. Period.

3. Agreed that this is not a left-right issue. It's simply criminal law. Where were Fanning's parents in all of this?

4. Brooke Shields did not appear nude in any movie underage; it was a stunt double.

Jacob said...

I'm not aware of any conservatives who would claim that pedophilia is ok. Could you name a name?
If I wanted to be snarky I'd say John Derbyshire.

[W]asn't there some suggestion during the Alito nomination that Justice Ginsburg authored a report in the 1970s that called for the lowering of the age of consent to 12?
There was indeed suggestion. It was not correct.

Anonymous said...

Somefeller for some reason said that only mainstream politicians count, but I think artists and academics and movies like this one have a much more powerful impact on ideology. Camille Paglia, Allen Ginsberg, Michel Foucault, Gayle Rubin, and the thousands of people like them who are in prominent positions are just as likely to exert an influence on the public's reasoning. I found a NAMBLA page that quotes each of these people (I've seen all of their quotes in their original contexts so nothing here is made up). Foucault is practically the cornerstone of postmodern theory. Ginsberg was not only an important and canonical poet but also a political leader of the 60s left...

Read it for yourself. It's just a page long for heaven's sake.

What I don't understand is whether the criterion of "serious art" makes it ok for the movie to be made. That was always used to get around the obscenity charge, and is why Burroughs' book Naked Lunch wasn't banned.

The movie isn't promoting pedophilia is it? It's simply depicting it? I think that's the way to get around the stricture probably, and if it wins an award it will end up as a cause celebre for free speech. But there are a lot of people -- very prominent people working in our best institutions -- I might add -- who think there should be no strictures at all. And at least on this list, they all appear to be major figures in the left:

http://www.qrd.org/qrd/orgs/NAMBLA/quotes

downtownlad said...

I'm not aware of any conservatives who would claim that pedophilia is ok. Could you name a name? - Kirby

Sure. How about every single religious conservative. They all think it's hunky dory for an 80 year-old man to marry a 13 year-old girl, and as long as it's blessed by the Church, then sure - go ahead and have sex with the girl.

After all - the Bible is full of stories like this (old men marrying 13 year-old girls) and having sex with them.

So if the Bible says its ok then it must be good!

Freder Frederson said...

That isn't true, but even if it were, first, the conduct at issue there wasn't illegal, as it may be here, and second, if someone had called for that movie to be censured, I suspect you'd have cried foul.

Well, it is uncertain as to whether the conduct here is illegal. Law enforcement officials where the movie was filmed apparently don't think so (and remember it was filmed in very conservative North Carolina--not porn capitol of the world San Fernando Valley). The law so helpfully linked to seems to require nudity as a threshold which seems to be lacking in this case.

The objection in this case, as was the case with Brooke Shields thirty years ago with Pretty Baby (when that film was the last straw before we descended into utter depravity) is that even if this wasn't illegal, it should be, because no matter what the merits of the film as a work of art, a bunch of perverts will get off on a couple brief scenes.

The point of my complaint about Man on Fire is that this society is so cavalier when it comes to absolutely over the top and gratuitous violence, even when it involves very young children, very few people complain. Yet when an apparently very serious film has a couple of scenes of a sexual nature, the right goes nuts. The hypocrisy is astounding.

Ann Althouse said...

Revenant: "That's a pretty silly argument, in my opinion. I'd call the police if someone took my daughter to another city without my permission, too, but that doesn't mean there'd be something freaky or wrong about my letting her go to another city, *with* my permission, with people I trusted."

Okay, so the new hypothetical has the babysitter asking your permission for playing pretend rape with your daughter. You say yes and the scene proceeds. Think you'd get in trouble if child services found out about it? Would you openly tell your neighbors that this is how you parent? You know very well that you would have to deny permission, that it would be deeply wrong to consent, and if you can even imagine yourself wanting to consent, you have a problem.

Now, why is it okay if you're paid and cameras are there to record this scene for anyone who wants to buy a ticket?

Tim: Good point about the NYT tagging the issue as conservative. So I guess I have to say that I find them ridiculous, but they are reporting who took action, in which case, I'm interested in why liberals don't care if children are subjected to sexual abuse. At least no animals were harmed.

Someone mentioned "Pretty Baby." That movie -- which I remember seeing when it came out -- was made before people became sensitized to child pornography and child sexual abuse. I don't think that movie would be made today. It's from another era. (And I want to add that Louis Malle is one of my favorite directors.)

Joe Baby said...

Meanwhile, many sources reporting that Hillary and Barack will be descending on Hollywood in the near future to raise money.

But it's just stunning to me that many people (producers, scriptwriters, etc.) thought this film was a good idea...it's as if the entire creative force behind the project was to bring Ed Meese out of retirement.

Seven Machos said...

Downtown Lad -- Please tell us about all the instances in the Bible when old men marry 13 year-old girls.

Craig said...

I'm no bible scholar, and I can't speak to whether "every single religious conservative [thinks]think it's hunky dory," but the Bible certainly contains sexual themes considered transgressive today (e.g., Lot and his Daughters).

Leland said...

From the LA Times:
"When we first met, I said to Dakota this is a difficult and dark world that she would have to enter into, but that I would be there with her every step of the way," said Kampmeier, 42. "It was not about manipulating her; she is a deeply talented and mature actor. To say she was violated to achieve her performance denies her talent. She moved very carefully and intelligently through the work. It was a heavy scene, but after we shot it, she was laughing and dancing because she knew what she had done was an incredible performance."

I'm sorry, but this argument seems pretty pathetic to me. Debbie LaFave was with her child victim every step of the way too. Debbie's victim was even mature enough to consider that he should have worn a condom to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Heck, he was 14.

Debbie LaFave is in jail for having sex with one of her students. Apparently if LaFave had just took pictures of the boy's face while he grinded on her wearing a body suit, then it is ok? After all, she was there with him, and that makes all the difference.

Simon said...

Seven Machos said...
"Downtown Lad -- Please tell us about all the instances in the Bible when old men marry 13 year-old girls."

I'll let others speak to the biblical question, but according to the Hadiths - which, granted, are not universally-accepted by Muslims - didn't Muhammed marry and consummate a marriage with a nine year old?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Downtown Lad, but people only lived to be about what 25 back then. Mary was about 14 when she married Joseph.

There are some countries in which 14 is still the age of consent. Look up Age of Consent in Wikipedia. On Malta the age of consent is 12.

But in America the age is 16 or 18 depending on the state, and the film was made in America, with Americans. And this is a legal question afterall, at least as it was posed in the original post. In terms of today's laws.

There were also slaves in the OT and that too was ok.

The laws as they are on the books have changed a little bit. There are more protections for children today than there were under the Roman empire (Suetonius on Tiberius is particularly jaw-dropping, but it's too gross to get into that).

To the emperor, children and women were just furniture.

Did Christianity play a role in changing that viewpoint?

A person is a person no matter how small!

Leland said...

Seven Machos wrote: You can dress it up in all the circumstances you want but if some actor was rubbing his penis up against Dakota Fanning, and she is 13, that's a crime. Period.

That's pretty much the way I see it too.

I do think that you can cut the film in such a way as to only show Dakota's face, and therefore the film is not child pornography. That doesn't negate the fact that Deborah Kampmeier payed Dakota to lie back in a body suit while some actor grinded oh her. The fact that the parents were pimps and the mom wanted to watch doesn't make it better.

downtownlad said...

Well Mary was estimated to be between 12-14. So that makes God the number one child molestor in my book.

Ann Althouse said...

Leland: "From the LA Times:
'When we first met, I said to Dakota this is a difficult and dark world that she would have to enter into, but that I would be there with her every step of the way," said Kampmeier, 42. "It was not about manipulating her; she is a deeply talented and mature actor. To say she was violated to achieve her performance denies her talent. She moved very carefully and intelligently through the work. It was a heavy scene, but after we shot it, she was laughing and dancing because she knew what she had done was an incredible performance.' I'm sorry, but this argument seems pretty pathetic to me."

Yes. It is amazingly easy to think of a pedophile who would say things like that about or to his victim. You're a very special, mature little girl. People who don't understand may say that this is wrong, but they are denying your talent and they don't know how carefully and intelligently we moved through this. Plus, afterwards, there will be candy.

downtownlad said...

Here's some dude in the Bible who married a 3 year-old.

http://parsha.blogspot.com/2006/11/parshat-chayyei-sarah-thre_116362670621037126.html

But they didn't consumate the marriage until 10 years later.

Ooops! That makes her 13 when she had sex!

I'll stop with the examples. But I'm shocked that any Christians find it surprising that there were child brides in the Bible.

Simon said...

Gerald Hibbs said...
"Insane psychologists are coming out saying sometimes being molested is just wonderful for the kids. Other countries are lowering consent ages for all sorts of adult behaviors."

See The Vagina Monologues ("if it was a rape, it was a good rape," etc.).

Jacob said...
"There was indeed suggestion [that Justice Ginsburg authored a report in the 1970s that called for the lowering of the age of consent to 12]. It was not correct."

That link demonstrates that Eugene Volokh has considered the available evidence and concluded that it's unlikely that it's correct. With all due respect to Eugene, that's not quite the same thing as definitively establishing "it was not correct."

downtownlad said...

"But in America the age is 16 or 18 depending on the state, and the film was made in America, with Americans."

http://www.coolnurse.com/marriage_laws.htm

Wrong. Even in New Hampshire a 13 year-old can get married as long as they have parental consent.

There are lots of cases of much older men marrying 13 year-old girls, with the full consent of their families. They often tend to be immigrant families, and conservative at that, with the full support of their Church.

When is the last time you heard conservatives trying to tighten up these laws, to prevent marriage before age 18.

Answer: You didn't. And you never will. Conservative Christians have zero problem with 13 year-olds having sex - as long as they're married.

Still sounds like exploitation to me though.

somefeller said...

"I found a NAMBLA page that quotes each of these people (I've seen all of their quotes in their original contexts so nothing here is made up). Foucault is practically the cornerstone of postmodern theory. Ginsberg was not only an important and canonical poet but also a political leader of the 60s left...

Read it for yourself. It's just a page long for heaven's sake."

No thanks, Kirby, I'll leave the NAMBLA web-surfing to you. And I'm quite familiar who Foucault and Ginsberg were, as are most educated people. But if you want to pat yourself on the back for knowing who they are, go right ahead. I also know enough about them to know that their views on underage sexuality aren't generally considered to be central to their work, and in any case, not many people spend much time thinking about Foucault and Ginsberg outside of the small group of people paid to take them seriously. Perhaps you could find a job doing that at the Family Research Council or someplace like that?

bearbee said...

A petition in support of the movie has gathered a number of items. I just skimmed.

The director stated the scene was done incrementally and put together through editing. Fanning's mother, her agent, and her teacher/child welfare worker were all present for the filming of the scene.
Assistant District Attorney of the Fifth District NC investigating the accusations after viewing the edited but unfinished version said she did not see it as being pornographic. A letter from the DA's office indicating no crime was committed.

There is a link to a film clip and interview with the director.

Simon said...

bearbee said...
"The director stated [that] ... Fanning's mother, her agent, and her teacher/child welfare worker were all present for the filming of the scene."

The mother of Noah, John, Paul, Luke, and Mary Yates was "present" at their deaths, but her consent doesn't make their murders any less a crime. There are limits to what a parent may consent to.

Old Dad said...

Jacob,

Produce an iota of evidence that John Derbyshire favors molesting children.

Downtownlad,

Hyperbole is your schtick, but what evidence do you have that "all", "most", some", a "few", a few radical "mormons" favor 80 year olds marrying 13 year olds?

That's crazy, and it hurts your gay marriage agenda.

Tim said...

Oh Susan,

"If Fanning were male and refered(sic) to as "Mr. Fanning", would you still feel that it was inappropriate? Also, why can't you just decide whether or not Fanning is mature based on her words and actions, instead of whatever preconcieved(sic) idea you have of twelve-year-olds (which is apparently so weak that it also needs to be reinforced within the article as well)?'

Indeed, children (as twelve year olds are, whether you like it or not) should not be called by titles suggesting adult status. As for whether or not I cannot "just decide whether or not Fanning is mature based on her words and actions, instead of whatever preconcieved(sic) idea you have of twelve-year-olds," I think it pretty clear I've decide Miss Fanning is not mature, in the sense most of us associate with adults and sexuality, regardless of her relative maturity to other children. I also think the Times and its fawning reporter do a disservice to readers and Miss Fanning by essentially taking the producer's side of the issue, not that I'd expect you to see that, let alone agree with my assessment.

Otherwise, it's i before e, except after c. It's a handy spelling rule to know and deploy when using words such as "preconceived," for however little that is worth.

Leland said...

If I was Deborah Kampmeier, Dakota's parents, or anyone else affiliated with the distribution of the film, I would be watching the results of this case very closely.

Anonymous said...

There have plenty of times watching films when I sob "God, why didn't you make me an actor?"

Brad Pitt in 'Thelma and Louise' taking down Geena Davis's panties or that guy in 'Dead Calm' with Nic Kidman. (Or indeed anyone who gets to lie naked with Nic Kidman as part of his day job.)

Donald Sutherland actually doing it with Julie Christie in 'Don't Look Now.' Life doesn't get any better.

But oh no, not with this one. What were the adult male actors doing participating in any of this? Howsoever simulated they were acting rape on a real 12 year old.

Not good at all.

Anonymous said...

Actually since there was no actual sex I don't think God could be considered a Child Molester.

-- I would leave that to a judge and jury of course but without penetration has there been sex? I don't think there was sex. (I'm starting to sound like Clinton.)

AJ Lynch said...

Kirby Olson said:

"The left has lost any kind of line in terms of protecting children from this kind of thing."

I disagree - there are some exceptions. Don't dare try to smoke a cigarette in the same car with or without the simulated sex.

AJ Lynch said...

In the NYT story, the movie director said:

"About the online petitions to have her arrested, she said that the district attorney’s office in Wilmington was busy prosecuting real sex crimes, like one in which a 10-year-old girl was impregnated by her father. “All these cases are reported in the newspaper, and nobody ever calls them about that,” she said. “But they get 10 to 20 calls a day from people insisting that my movie be prosecuted.” "

Why don't I believe this story by the director? Does anyone else here believe it?

vbspurs said...

Tim wrote:

"Ms. Fanning" is how the Times refers to her, as if all of us refer to 12 year old girls as Ms.

Tangentially, what was up with Hollywood actresses being referred to as "Miss" well into their dotage.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Joan Crawford!

Star of stage and screen, Miss Bette Davis!


And now, 12 year-olds are assumed bra-burners.

Weird.

Cheers,
Victoria

Kev said...

""Ms. Fanning" is how the Times refers to her, as if all of us refer to 12 year old girls as Ms."

Susan Brindle has the right idea: The Times' style manual uses honorifics, though I wasn't aware that they did so for minors (I thought they were usuallly referred to by only their first names in subsequent references).

My hometown Dallas Morning News also overdoses on honorifics, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness; in the past, they have referred to schlocky saxophonist Kenny G as "Mr. G" and cartoon pizza mouse Chuck E. Cheese as "Mr. Cheese." (My jazz-snob self would argue that the latter is a better title for the former, but that's just me.)

Bleepless said...

Has Fanning any parents? If so, they certainly deserve, say, five to ten.

Joe R. said...

Regardless of the legal issues, this is morally reprehensible. A child is being subjected to intense sexual situations so that adults can be entertained. I am not opposed to this idea from an artistic point of view. If they want to CGI kids into the movie, fine. But exploiting a child for the sake of art in an intensely sexual situation is morally reprehensible. I don't care if Jesus Christ himself was on set.

That's crazy, and it hurts your gay marriage agenda. No long thread is complete without gay marriage.

Actually since there was no actual sex I don't think God could be considered a Child Molester.
Was the capitalization really necessary?

Revenant said...

Insane psychologists are coming out saying sometimes being molested is just wonderful for the kids.

Well, maybe. But there are also perfectly sane psychiatrists and psychologists pointing out that consensual sexual relations between boys in their teens (even early teens) and adults of the boy's sexually preferred gender seldom cause psychological trauma.

That finding is profoundly unsurprising to most people who were once teenage guys. I've lost count of how many guys I've heard respond to news reports the latest hot female teacher/younger male student high school sex scandal by saying something along the lines of "where were these teachers when *I* was in school?".

Anonymous said...

People get extremely uptight about this and righly so - it is a very emotionally charged issue - I do like what Dakota Fanning said though, "this happens to children every second" - it happened to four of my younger sisters so I know how horrible it is. America needs to be less hung up about the reality of sexuality and when we can get out of the immature attitude that most people have about it then maybe there won't be so many twisted people out there in society.

Simon said...

Bleepless said...
"Has Fanning any parents? If so, they certainly deserve, say, five to ten."

Actually, I'd say they deserve, say, not less than 15 years nor more than 30 years. "Any parent, legal guardian, or person having custody or control of a minor who knowingly permits such minor to engage in, or to assist any other person to engage in, sexually explicit conduct" -- and recall, as I noted upthread, that the definition of "sexually explicit conduct" is not open ended, but is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2256 (2)(B)(ii) as including "graphic or lascivious simulated masturbation" -- "for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct shall be punished as provided under subsection (e) of this section, if such parent, legal guardian, or person knows or has reason to know that such visual depiction will be transported in interstate or foreign commerce." 18 U.S.C. § 2251(b). As I intimated above, subsection (e) of that section provides that "[a]ny individual who violates, or attempts or conspires to violate, this section shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 15 years nor more than 30 years."

Seven Machos said...

I shouldn't have dragged this conversation toward the Bible. I think I have done it one too many times here. However...

1. The issue for me is "old men." Two 13-year-olds marrying isn't much of a problem for me, particularly numerous generations ago.

2. Lot's daugthers actually raped Lot.

3. I don't think the God of the Old and New Testaments and the Allah of the Koran can really be considered the same entity.

Have at it.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Here's some dude in the Bible who married a 3 year-old.

More like, here's some speculation that Rebecca was 3 years old when she married Isaac. The Bible does not give her age at her marriage, only Isaac's.

MrBuddwing said...

Ten-point bonus for spelling "Vincente" correctly.

Ten-point penalty for misspelling "Minnelli."

Anonymous said...

Tim: Again, if Fanning were male and referRed to as "Mr. Fanning", would you find that inappropriate?

I love how you corrected my spelling, but completely ignored my question.

There is no male equivalent of "Miss" (a term that primarily identifies marital status), so there is no alternative but to call a 12-year-old boy "Mr." Generally, people that hear a name in the format "Mr. X" they will think of an adult--children just aren't put into situations where others would call them "Mr." that often. So why would it be okay to call a 12-year-old boy something that implies maturity, while a 12-year-old girl needs a diminutive to drive home the fact that she isn't old enough (or of the right gender, apparently) to say anything of worth.

I think that the Times would do a disservice to everyone by using the article to moralize. I don't see where they are overtly biased toward the film--there is a focus on Fanning, but it is relevant, since she is the one at the center of the controversy. How do you think the interview should have gone? "Miss Fanning, do you realize that your opinion is meaningless because you are a child? Can you tell me how you were coerced by your greedy parents into doing all those sick things? Do you know what 'coerced' means? Yes? Well anyway it means 'when bad people make you do bad, hurtful things that make you feel sad inside'..."

sonicfrog said...

I take this whole issue with a huge grain of salt.

Has anyone else been on the set of a movie while it is being filmed? Trust me, it's not how it looks on screen. It's a completely different animal than real life. The scenes you film is not anything remotely as real as it appears when you see the finished product. You often stop filming as soon as an actor makes a move to the left or right, or in this case, maybe up or down (just kidding). I've worked on set for a few AFI projects, and can tell you from experience, sex scenes and the like are filmed in a very scatter-brained way. It's more giggles than seriousness. It's the cutting and editing of the film (if done well) that will give the scene it's reality and impact. As far as the end produce goes, does it really matter that an actor or actress is of age? If the final product portrays the violent act against a young kid, it is still disturbing on an emotional level.

I have been teaching middle school and high school students for a while now, and trust me, this subject is familiar to kids of that age to a much greater extent than it was in my generation. They have decadence and debauchery thrown at them every day. They've grown up with it. Just look at the role models of their generation - Brittany Spears, Lindsay Lohan, or Nicole Richie. Or pick a rapper of your choosing.

Revenant said...

the new hypothetical has the babysitter asking your permission for playing pretend rape with your daughter. You say yes and the scene proceeds. Think you'd get in trouble if child services found out about it?

First of all, I don't use Child Protective Services as my moral compass. Their opinion as to whether that's appropriate is as irrelevant as the DEA's opinion on whether drug laws are fair and just.

Secondly, I wouldn't say yes, ergo I can't answer your question. Acting out a scene, as a professional actress, is not "playing pretend rape".

Finally, it is transparently obvious that a babysitter has no legitimate reason to simulate rape while film directors often do. It is equally obvious that a babysitter wishing to act out a rape scene deserves a vastly higher degree of scrutiny and suspicion than a film director does.

You know very well that you would have to deny permission, that it would be deeply wrong to consent, and if you can even imagine yourself wanting to consent, you have a problem.

I agree that in the ridiculous scenario you posed above I'd be a bad parent, but that scenario's got nothing to do with Fanning's situation.

We know that teenagers who go on dates have a pretty good chance of having sex, which in turn has a good chance of being unprotected -- certainly higher, in both cases, than the chance of an actress suffering psychological trauma from an acting job. But could I really expect to be taken seriously if I described the act of allowing kids to date as "giving boys permission to have unprotected sex with my daughter"? That's the kind of rhetorical stretch you're making here.

Revenant said...

Actually, I'd say they deserve, say, not less than 15 years nor more than 30 years.

Eesh. I'd say you have you head not less than 15 nor more than 30 feet up your ass. The DA looked at the movie and said there's no crime. A rational person, faced with a choice between (a) a director convinced a major Hollywood child star to do a porno film and got her parents and the DA to play along or (b) the "save the children" wackos have gone off in McMartin witch-hunt mode again, picks B.

sexually explicit conduct

Apparently you don't know what this term means. But in any case, based on the available information about the movie the scenes are neither graphic or lascivious, so the law doesn't apply.

Revenant said...

One more thing:

[the director] says she's upset about the misinformation, but refuses to provide the truth.

Uh, she's trying to get the movie released, isn't she? She's not only trying to provide "the truth" -- she's trying to get as many people to see it as possible.

How else is an artist supposed to provide "the truth" about their art, short of actually showing it to people?

The Exalted said...

But the man actually is rubbing against the child in a sexual way!

uh, no, he was not. its called "acting." you know, pretend.

for example, when the bad men took dakota fanning in Man on Fire, those men were not actually "kidnapping" her. yes, the actors physically picked her up and threw her into a car, but it was not actually "violent" or "involuntary." the act was pretend. likewise, when denzel washington got shot trying to save dakota, he wasn't actually attacked with violence. that was pretend also.

and -- your hysterics over some pedophilic conspiracy to film movies is awesomely absurd. glad you spent time thinking strenuously on it.

Leland said...

Here's my problem with the Director's viewpoint that this movie is really to bring the issue of child exploitation to people's attention.

I don't need a demonstration with a real child to know it happens.

The Lifetime Network covers such topics any given weekend without the need of having real children simulate sex.

You do not need to actually exploit children to convince audiences that children are exploited. The mark of a mature, well performed scene would be the conveyence of the same message without resorting to the use of a real 12 yr old to act out a rape scene. Kampmeier was looking for authenticity not a good facsimile.

To be fair to Hollywood, apparently most of that industry understands my viewpoint as Kampmeier has pointed out that it took 4 years to secure enough investors to produce the film. It seems much of Hollywood knows were the line is drawn.

bearbee said...

Kev said... My hometown Dallas Morning News also overdoses on honorifics, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness; in the past, they have referred to ....... . cartoon pizza mouse Chuck E. Cheese as "Mr. Cheese."

Mr. Cheese........this had me howling with laughter.

On a sleazy note, and apropos a post stating that 'the French are nuts', after seeing a movie with French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg I recall reading of controversial videos involving her then as a 12 year old child and her French performer father. The videos made in 1984 are located on YouTube.

'Hounddog' may have been made with the very highest of motives regarding child protection and safety, but what possible redeeming qualities are there in these two videos ?

While the overall level of American popular culture is dismal at best, these examples of French pop culture are stomach-churningly reprehensible.

Color me square.

BTW the director of Hounddog debuted with the movie 'Virgin' ......the theme teen rape and pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

I've worked on a big movie and made several short films. It is true that what is on screen can have little to do with what happened on the set. You could film a nauseating rape scene with minimal contact. I'll stipulate all of that. However that doesn't address my objections.

Let us say that there is a father who is sexually attracted to his daughter -- or even more often step-daughter -- but has managed to resist the attraction due to taboo. He sees this movie which inflames his imagination and starts a fantasy about a real little girl. . .etc to an evil end.

No one starts as an active serial killer or a pedophile or any of these transgressive things. It always builds in stages. It starts in fantasy until the fantasy is no longer enough and then they act on it. Taboo is the only thing holding many men back from doing this type of thing. Mainstreaming in any way undermines the taboo. Providing fantasy material that a normal person can watch without fear of censure will inflame someone with a tenuous grip and -- I would bet money -- lead to any number of little girls being molested who wouldn't have been.

Jennifer said...

There is no male equivalent of "Miss" (a term that primarily identifies marital status), so there is no alternative but to call a 12-year-old boy "Mr."

Actually, I believe Master is the relative equivalent of Miss. Sure, Master primarily denotes age whereas Miss primarily denoted marital status. But, in this day and age we seem to promote Miss to Ms at a certain age. And that age is not usually 12. Unless, I suppose you were trying to grant mini-adult status on what is really a small child.

Tim said...

Hmmm, "I love how you corrected my spelling, but completely ignored my question."

Well, you're welcome, but I didn't completely ignore your question, which you might discern (or not) if you read my answer. Here is one clue: your suggested alternatives are short of the preferred alternatives.

As for the Times, by focusing on Miss Fanning rather than the producers and director, they are clearly attempting to defend the film, since, after all, the "alleged victim" clearly doesn't perceive herself as a victim, so why should we? The Times then includes Miss Fanning's retort, " “There are so many children that this happens to, every second,” she added. “That’s the sad part. If anyone’s talking about anything, that’s what they should be talking about" as if we need a morality lesson from a twelve year-old actress who has an economic (and probably emotional) interest not only in the film's success, but also in being perceived as a "team player" within the industry, as there is no shortage of cute twelve year olds with parents itching to get them into movies.

The Times might be satisfied by the moral judgements of a twelve year old actress (peer review, perhaps?) in its ever-so-transparent defense of the film, but the rest of us shouldn't be distracted by such nonsense; thankfully, the law, which matters, will not be either.

Anonymous said...

This is all over the net (look up Ginsberg and Nambla) and is in Ginsberg's last poems in Fame and Death. William Burroughs was even worse, and Mailer called him a genius.

In Burrough's Naked Lunch, there is a character called "The Talking Asshole", where he teaches his anal tract to talk. I'm not sure what this has to do with Dakota Fanning, but after reading your entire post regarding liberal academia and Horowitz, I have to wonder just "where" the inspiration came from?

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"Finally, it is transparently obvious that a babysitter has no legitimate reason to simulate rape while film directors often do."

Only if you think that depicting the rape of a child in a movie is a "legitimate reason."


"Apparently you don't know what th[e] term ['sexually explicit conduct'] means. But in any case, based on the available information about the movie the scenes are neither graphic or lascivious, so the law doesn't apply."

The rule of construction that a term in a statute is presumed to bear its common, ordinary or everyday meaning only applies when the statute does not explicitly define its use the term. In this case, Congress has seen fit to tell us what it thought the term "sexually explicit conduct" meant, see 18 U.S.C. § 2256 (2)(B)(ii), and thus, when determining if a violation of any prohibitions on "sexually explicit conduct" have ocurred, it is the statute's internal definition that is the yardstick - not your understanding of the phrase, and not mine. It's wholly irrelevant whether Congress' definition is at variance with the ordinary meaning of the phrase, or even if it is reasonable. As long as the meaning Congress intended the term to bear is clear, that meaning controls.

vbspurs said...

Bearbee wrote:

French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg I recall reading of controversial videos involving her then as a 12 year old child and her French performer father.

Yes! Good one.

I found that repellent too, but as has been said -- the French (with the intelligentsia obsession), consider the first and last duty of an artist to PROVOKE.

If s/he provokes, he's halfway on the road to the Pantheon, to rest next to Voltaire.

The video is from the song "Lemon Incest" (Un zeste de limon), starring the unforgettable Serge Gainsbourg, and his daughter from his marriage to Jane Birkin.

Here it is.

Cheers,
Victoria

PatCA said...

I think there might be something to the allegation of gravitas intended by the use of Miss because, coincidentally, I just saw an AP photo of two child soldiers, no more than 10 yrs of age, I would say, referred to in the caption as "young men." I supposed this was used because they were "rebels," meaning Islamic, and AP always bends in favor of "rebels." How ludicrous.

In AP Style, which most papers use, a child should be referred to by the first name at the second reference or the surname if the seriousness of the story demands it. Nobody would use Ms. for a 13-year-old--unless they were trying to make her sound like a serious grownup.

Jacob said...

Old Dad,
I didn't say Derbyshire favoured molesting children I said that if I was going to be snarky I'd say he thought pedophilia is ok based on things like this and this.

Tom T. said...

Isn't "Miss" as much "a fabricated word to satisfy certain social impulses" as "Ms."?

Anonymous said...

And just to add, David Horowitz is a sick, racist human being. Burdened by the genes of his Pinko ancestors, like most neocons, he wasn't very bright to begin with. Please do yourself a favor if you believe this is worthy souce material, and go read a non-partisan critique of it.

He recently claimed "[t]here are 50,000 professors" who are "anti-American" and "identify with the terrorists."

This would mean Prof Althouse has one in eight chance of being a terrorist sympathizer, according to Horowitz. Echoing early pogroms against Jewish populations of the early 1900s Russian/Europe; he is now attaching red stars on the doors of Professors he disagrees with.

bearbee said...

vbspurs said...
If s/he provokes, he's halfway on the road to the Pantheon, to rest next to Voltaire.

Close.

"He was our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire... President Francois Mitterand said after Gainsbourg died in Paris on March 2, 1991:

Tim said...

"Isn't "Miss" as much "a fabricated word to satisfy certain social impulses" as "Ms."?

Only in so much as all titles are fabricated words to satisfy certain social impulses; but "Miss" itself is an abbreviation of another word, and its usage goes back to the 1600's. At a minimum we should be able to agree Miss's pedigree is much more established than Ms and much more appropriate for Miss Fanning; it is not quiet so clear (although it probably is reasonably clear) its usage wasn't conceived by politicizing the language.

Anonymous said...

Horowitz does indulge in spin. But when he's citing source material and putting it in quotes, I think it's accurate. He's trying to inflame, and I grant that.

But check out his math. There are 6000 colleges and universities in America. If there are 8 profs at each of those colleges who believe something along the lines of "Al-Qaida has its side of the story, too," then you have 48,000 profs. That doesn't QUITE match up with the statistic of 50,000 that Horowitz gives, but let's say you have 9.

You've overshot it by 4,000!

I don't know why you say he is sick. He always looks perfectly healthy.

Racist? Do you mean because he used to befriend the Black Panthers but got upset when they murdered an old friend of his? People do get older and they are often not as radical and utopian as they once were when reality sets in.

Everyone indulges in spin to some extent. You have to do this if you are going to make a living as a journalist. However, I don't think that Horowitz' spin is that bad, and it does get his ideas on the table.

In general, I think his ideas provoke further inquiry and that they are frounded in fact. Much of higher education is sympathetic to third world causes including Al Qaida.

Horowitz is Jewish and is trying to save Israel. Al Qaida and many other similar groups would like to smash Israel into the sea.

They've said so.

Horowitz finds sympathy for this notion to be repulsive. I'm with Horowitz.

I also think it's wrong to teach that children are capable of handling sexual relationships with adults. It's wrong: and I think that Horowitz in his book does establish this on a factual basis.

He quotes Gayle Rubin, who does in fact actually teach this in her classes.

Moreover, Michel Foucault says the same exact thing, and his books are taught in probably every one of the 6000 colleges in the country. I think it's something to worry about.

It's no funny to think that even one child could be hurt because of this mentality. It's a terribly serious matter, isn't it, to ask what is being taught? Shouldn't the colleges be in some sense responsible to the societies that pay for them?

Revenant said...

Only if you think that depicting the rape of a child in a movie is a "legitimate reason."

Obviously any story in which a child is raped has legitimate reason to contain a scene in which a child is raped -- the legitimate reason being, its in the story.

If you want to argue that it is never legitimate to write stories in which children are raped, argue with somebody else, as I'll be ignoring you.

Simon said...

"People do get older and they are often not as radical and utopian as they once were when reality sets in."

Indeed: Ann, reluctant Bush voter in '04, recounted in her last bloggingheads.tv appearence that she supported Jesse Jackson's candidacy in the 1980s. And I, a humble member of the more conservative wing of the Althousian commentariat, can trump that. Humiliating as this is to admit, I was not only a leftist when I was younger, verily, a communist, even: when I was fourteen, I had a Soviet flag on my wall and was busy absorbing Das Kapital and Marxism and the National Question. Eventually, you get older, and you realize that ideas have consequences. You realize that Stalinism and Soviet oligarchy were not an aberration, they were an entirely predictable product of the socialist mindset. It isn't enough to say that you don't want to carry it that far, you have to repudiate the entire mindset.

And, in fact, the experience of realizing in my late teens what a fool I'd been vis-a-vis the left and the horrific practical consequences of socialism is one reason why I empathized with Ann's complaints with the Chicago conferees - it had resonance in my own experience.


Revenant said...
"Obviously any story in which a child is raped has legitimate reason to contain a scene in which a child is raped -- the legitimate reason being, its in the story."

It's far from uncommon for Shakespeare plays to involve massive battles. It is, however, extremely rare for said battle to be graphically depicted on stage. Ergo, there is no legitimate reason to depict the rape of a child on screen, even if the story calls for the audience to become aware that the child has been raped.

Joe Baby said...

Maybe I'm just the overly sympathetic dramatic type but I could probably understand the ramifications and horror of child rape without having to witness one.

But if Dakota Fanning says it was tastefully done, well OK, here's my $8.50.

sonicfrog said...

Gerald Hibbs said:

Providing fantasy material that a normal person can watch without fear of censure will inflame someone with a tenuous grip and -- I would bet money -- lead to any number of little girls being molested who wouldn't have been..

The problem is more the "tenuous grip" rather than the fantasy material. Lets face it, fantasy material for the potential child molester is everywhere. Look at any TV show featuring young girls or teen (except maybe "Ugly Betty"). "Heroes" has hot, sexy cheerleaders, one even featured in a rape scene (good thing I'm gay, or that last sentence could get me in trouble). Most Japanese Anime cartoons have very provocative and sexual looking young schoolgirl characters. Even children featured in clothing ads could provide all the fantasy material a molester would need to spur those impulses. We won't even get into the hype and amount of coverage cases like Jeane Bonnet Ramsey's get. If you're a person who has the urges to molest a child, there is no shortage of stimulie to feed those urges.

Elsie said...

And comedienne Kathy Griffin joked about Dakota Fanning entering rehab some time ago, and she was in hot water up to her ears. Now, in the spirit of "independent film-making", this sweet-faced child is starring in a dark, disturbing movie where she performs sexual acts. Yes, in essence, that is what she does. I never got the whole "indie" thing. It all seem like a perfect excuse to sell us unfiltered trash.

Revenant said...

It's far from uncommon for Shakespeare plays to involve massive battles. It is, however, extremely rare for said battle to be graphically depicted on stage. Ergo, there is no legitimate reason to depict the rape of a child on screen

How much cocaine did you have to snort before that argument looked like it made logical sense? Yes, Shakespeare generally had battles take place offstage. It does not follow that he didn't have a legitimate reason to have them ON the stage. Obviously he had legitimate reasons to show battle scenes -- he just opted not to, most probably because you can't stage a battle with a dozen actors on a thirty-foot stage without inspiring giggles.

The story contained a rape, ergo there was legitimate reason to show a rape. Could showing the rape have been avoided? Sure. Showing the gunfight at the end of "High Noon" could have been avoided too -- they could have just cut to the marshal leaving town and added some expository dialog about how that sure was a tough gunfight. That would have satisfied all the people who get their panties in a bunch over make-believe violence, but it wouldn't have been a very good movie.

Maybe you're trying to say that the very fact that it could have been avoided means showing it isn't legitimate -- that's certainly the level of reasoning I'd expect from a guy who thinks a faked non-nude masturbation scene is "graphic or lascivious masturbation" meriting 30 years in prison -- but that's obviously an idiotic position to take. Among other things, it means that there's never any legitimate reason to show or write anything at all, as there is always another, less direct way it could have been done.

Anonymous said...

Downtownlad, in the future, please write that all Conservative Christians except one are supportive of pre-pubescent, heterosexual marriage. Let this post serve as a public announcement that I, a conservative Christian (and psychologist)am against the practice.

Hope that helps.

Trey

Harkonnendog said...

Don't you have to be a little sick or twisted to watch something like that?
I mean who will pay money to see something that disgusting?

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about this issue and the posts. I have come to believe that I can trust, and we should ALL trust, the Hollywood system to have a child's best interests at heart and place them above any purient or purely monetary concerns.

I mean, look at what well adjusted adults most child actors turn out to be. They have relatively few problems with relationships or addiction. Given the data, I think it is best to trust the director and producer, along with the child's parents (backstage parents are known for their emotional maturity and excellent parenting skills) to know what is best for that child.

Sarcasm off.

Trey

Anonymous said...

Would it be too much to ask that we actually see the movie before condemning it? From what I understand, the only thing we see of Dakota during the rape scene is a close up of her face. Then again, I haven't actually seen the movie so I can't honestly comment on it. But I do find it very disturbing that so many have chosen to condemn it without knowing the actual facts.

So a question for movies in general - many movies have depicted bad things happening to children, including abuse, neglect, hunger, bullying, murder, etc. Rape may be horrible, but so are these. For example, in Schindler's List Ralph Fiennes brutally murders children in cold blood onscreen. In Hide in Seek, psyhotic Robert DeNiro murders his wife at the beginning of the movie, then attempts to kill his daughter (portrayed by Dakota Fanning) at the end of the movie. I would think that Dakota's character in this movie would be just as traumatized by her father attempting to kill her, as her character in Hounddog being raped. But did either Schindler's List or Hide and Seek spark such an outrage? I don't think so.

So is it just rape being portrayed in a movie specifically that raises objections, or should anything horrible happening to a child not be depicted in a movie?


"I have to say I have started to feel very sorry for these people who are out to silence this," the film's writer-director, Deborah Kampmeier, told The Los Angeles Times. "These are really wounded people, just like the characters in the film."

Couldn't have said it better.

Revenant said...

I mean, look at what well adjusted adults most child actors turn out to be. They have relatively few problems with relationships or addiction

Ironically, while child actors do often turn out to be basket cases, Brooke Shields and Jodie Foster -- who both starred as child prostitutes in violent and explicit movies -- turned out just fine.

In any case, the point about how bad it would be to let Hollywood raise kids is a silly one, since Fanning's being raised by her parents. I look forward to hearing sarcastic criticism of the idea that parents are better suited to decide what's best for their kids than government bureacrats are. :)

Anonymous said...

No sarcasm, but you missed my point. My point is that I think it is harmful for child actors to portray sexual material when they are too young. I think 12 is too young.

Why not argue with the point instead of the penumbra?

Trey

Revenant said...

Why not argue with the point instead of the penumbra?

Because you forgot to make that point in the post I was responding to.

I've already amply dealt with the notion that 12 is automatically too young, and see little point in further refuting it unless a new argument in favor of it is offered up. Your argument hinges on the notion that random internet know-it-alls are better judges of a child's interests than (a) her parents, (b) her associates and employers, and (c) law enforcement officials. Color me unimpressed.

Leland said...

Obviously any story in which a child is raped has legitimate reason to contain a scene in which a child is raped -- the legitimate reason being, its in the story.

This is true if your screenplay writer is unimaginative and the director has no talent, which fair enough seems to be the case here. Revenant can play devil's advocate and trivialize others who have already made this point, but the fact remains that creative writers and skilled directors have tackled the subject of rape and child abuse many times without having to actually show the rape and abuse.

Further, Revenant's point is useless in the argument that is appropriate to use a 12 year old to produce the rape scene. Maybe he believes Dakota that she is uncapable (probably due to lack of talent) of properly playing a 12 year old at say age 14, but Jody Foster pulled it off and received an Oscar, without having to simulate sex on the set with Robert De Niro.

I think it is rather dubious for Kampmeier to claim she is making a movie to draw people's attention to sexual child abuse, yet she has no problem about using a child in a sex scene and is offended when others do take issue with such a decision. If I was her, I wouldn't get to excited about a film festival award in which her movie with a child rape scene is put up against bestiality. To be fair, the bestiality movie managed to get across its story without having to portray the act on the set and screen (once again, proving Revenant's point is foolish).

Ann Althouse said...

"To be fair, the bestiality movie managed to get across its story without having to portray the act on the set and screen (once again, proving Revenant's point is foolish)."

Good point!

Anonymous said...

Rev wrote: "Your argument hinges on the notion that random internet know-it-alls are better judges of a child's interests than (a) her parents, (b) her associates and employers, and (c) law enforcement officials. Color me unimpressed."

Sorry, I did not write clearly. I meant to put forth that I know better than people with a financial stake in the child's acting. Me. Not an internet whothefuckisthat. Me!

I bet that colors you even MORE unimpressed! I have worked with abused and exploited children since 1991.

Now you are a sharp person, I have read and appreciated your posts. You are not really saying that the producers and directors of a film who make or lose money on it are worthy and or effective protectors of child actors. And if you sat where I do everyday, you would be much more agnostic about any particular parent's ability to make good choices for their child. Especially a parent that is making their living off their child.

Secondly, I am not aware of any bona fide respected people in mental health who support adult/child sexual interactions as healthy. That is child abuse. It is illegal, unethical, perverted, and sinful!

So maybe we need to get out the paisley unimpressed to color you now!

Trey

Harkonnendog said...

"Would it be too much to ask that we actually see the movie before condemning it?"

Well, if the movie features a scene during which a 13-year-old girl, who is played by a 13-year-old girl, is raped? Then yeah, it is too much to ask.

That's sort of the point- that this movie has a special circumstance that warrants condemnation even before it is viewed. Kind of like OJ's book.

Eugenics PI said...

This debate is reminiscent of the The Milgram Experiment: A lesson in depravity, peer pressure, and the power of authority.