January 26, 2007

"Ms. Fanning’s commitment to this material is unwavering in its creepiness."

NYT film critic Manohla Dargis writes about the movie "Hounddog," saying something that resonates with me:
“Hounddog” and the media storm that accompanied its world premiere on Monday expose the contradictions that grip Sundance, which insists on its commitment to quality even as it continues to program work that suggests otherwise. A Southern gothic about a white girl (Ms. Fanning) who learns how to sing the blues from a kindly black man after she is raped, the film had earned censure sight unseen from the likes of Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel.
(Oh, so it's also another one of those movies about how white people learn the meaning of life from idealized black people? Can't we retire that cliché?)
As sincere as it is stupid, “Hounddog” is pure art-house exploitation, as evidenced by the images of its 12-year-old star dressed in a wet T-shirt and panties, of her writhing on a bed and of her awkwardly grinding in a hootchy-kootchy pantomime to the Elvis Presley song of the film’s title. As in “The Accused” (the Jodie Foster rape movie), the film’s narrative momentum builds to the rape, which is discreetly staged; unfortunately, it is also presented with some of the same tropes of the classic movie love scene: there is a shot of the girl’s clutching hand and, after the assault, a close-up of her face. Ms. Fanning’s commitment to this material is unwavering in its creepiness.
Dargis obviously can't stand Sean Hannity and his ilk, but she's not letting that keep her from seeing what's wrong with this. By contrast, read this wrongheaded blather by Meghan O'Rourke in Slate, which concludes:
The problem for an American audience weaned on this waif, and chock-a-block with repressed feelings about adolescent sexuality itself, is that Dakota Fanning the actress (if not the character she plays) has chosen to take on this graphic a role. She has opened Pandora's box. Once she has become part of the sexual economy of adolescence—about which Americans are so clearly conflicted, living as we do in a hypersexualized era that is also peculiarly hyperprotective of children—she can't go back.
Sorry, Meghan, those of us who do not want to see a 12-year-old girl dressed in a wet T-shirt and panties... writhing on a bed and... awkwardly grinding in a hootchy-kootchy pantomime are not repressed and conflicted and hyperprotective.

25 comments:

Abraham said...

Oh, so it's also another one of those movies about how white people learn the meaning of life from idealized black people? Can't we retire that cliché?

It's such a cliché that there's an established name for it: the magical negro.

Tim said...

"Sorry, Meghan, those of us who do not want to see a 12-year-old girl dressed in a wet T-shirt and panties... writhing on a bed and... awkwardly grinding in a hootchy-kootchy pantomime are not repressed and conflicted and hyperprotective."

This is so right.

Why is it so hard for some people to realize that while sexuality is part of maturing, sex itself is part of being mature, and responsible adults would not, cannot, be party to a twelve year old's explicit (yes, explicit, despite the fact its an "act") acting out of her sexuality, let alone celebrate it as "art"?

Sometimes I think we're reduced to simply wondering what in hell is wrong with some people.

Tim said...

And, of course, the use of Ms. (misspelled, again) is designed to distract from the fact that Miss Fanning is but a child, not an adult, or anywhere close to being an adult.

Anonymous said...

"those of us who do not want to see a 12-year-old girl ... writhing on a bed and... awkwardly grinding in a hootchy-kootchy pantomime are not repressed and conflicted and hyperprotective."

That reminds me of this.

""enticing legs, arms wrapped around waists, lips pressed to lips, and chests pressed to chests. The atmosphere was full of desire..."

Sorry, I just can't let that go. Of course I agree with you on this issue but I can't see the bright dividing line that you do. Once you reach a point where you embrace the sexualization of young girls as fine and healthy then what does it matter who her partner is? Not that you have made a statement "embracing" it but your attitude seems to jibe with those who say its just kids doing what kids do and you can't stop it so just give them a condom and quit being a prude.

Isn't the morally important act the sex itself? And once you say that is just fine then I just don't understand why if he or she wants to consent to sex with an adult rather than 17 year old that the morality equation is changed one whit.

And this of course is just the argument for girls. Every boy I knew would rather have had sex with fully developed and experienced adult woman rather than a female peer (not that most boys would turn down a female peer either.) Literature is replete with male authors sharing their youthful fantasies of the older sexual teacher who initiates the boy into manhood or some such descriptive drivel.

Take the 19 year old cover guy of "Tiger Beat" and not an authority figure like a parent or teacher. If the 13 year old girl consented, hell leapt with joy, at getting to have sex with him that is more damaging than sex with the neighbor kid? If not then what is the source of the moral imperative forbidding it? Frankly, once the taboo of unmarried sex is destroyed I don't see how you maintain most other taboos either.

Joe Baby said...

Take a film that could give people the creeps, throw in a precocious child star who is starting to come across like a pimp's tout, add the stereotypical Hollywood mom and art house director...

Then pose for this spooky pic.

Hey said...

Now, now. Who are we to question the elite artistes? We are but mere squares, the bourgeiosie that mus be shocked and epater. Meghan is a true member of the artistic vanguard and we must respect her.

I'm so vulgar as to appreciate representational art and to disdain most modern and performance art. I obviously have no right to make moral judgements, since all I see is the cruel manipulation and exploitation of a vulnerable young girl so as to depict child rape. Calling it dastardly, debased, and totally lacking in moral sense shows my inability to comprehend real art. Demanding that she be taken away from her parents and provided with some real guardians is but more evidence of this.

PatCA said...

"We" are not conflicted about adolescent sexuality; rather, the entertainment industry is conflicted. The arts now eschew traditional narratives based on moral notions, happiness to those who honor morality and punishment for violators, so what's left but exploitation? They present movies like this as cautionary tales but hope to rake in the dough from moviegoers who might buy a ticket precisely to see Dakota dressed in a "wet T-shirt and panties... writhing on a bed and... awkwardly grinding in a hootchy-kootchy pantomime."

Anonymous said...

I do wonder how some people treat grown men in the military as if they were children (i.e. when Michael Moore asks politicians to sign their kids up for military service or try googling "send our children to war"), and yet treat the expressions of sexuality of a 12 year old girl as if they were personal decisions completely divorced from the influence of authoritative (and, might I add, exploitative) adults such as the screenwriter and the director.

Anonymous said...

The flipside of "the magic negro" is "the earnest white teacher" as seen in all of those patronising liberal-white-teacher-inspires-inner-city-youth movies. White man's burden and all that.

This movie sounds like it wants to be an arthouse update of Baby Doll, only without all the Tennessee Williams fun.

Zeb Quinn said...

I've about given up on persuading anyone about this one because everyone that I have discussed it with who defends it gets it all bollixed up with Dakota's personal freedoms and the freedom of expression, etc, etc. While I fully appreciate that side of it, and have given it due consideration, I don't believe they see nor understand the other side, the fact that it is just flatly inappropriate for a 12 year old girl to be involved in this movie this way. It's like they have a blind spot. And the more you try to convince them the more they resist it.

I have two daughters and a granddaughter I'm helping to raise, and I wouldn't allow or have allowed any of them to do this, under any circumstances, and it's appalling that anyone would. I try to imagine what might cause a parent to do it, and it all comes back to the money. The Fannings sold their daughter and her childhood away for the lucre.

Anonymous said...

Color me a prude. Part of it is my spirituality, part of it is that I have seen so many children who have been sexually exploited and victimized. But the more I hear of the movie, the more inappropriate it sounds.

I am against grown women dancing in wet tshirts. Well, at least in public for strangers. So I admit that I am way out of step with our culture that accepts sexuality as a public performance rather than a wonderful, private act.

But I do know how perps work, and the movie will be a big hit with them. I am not at all uncomfortable with 12 year olds' having sexual feelings. That is cool. I am offended by having 12 year olds dancing in wet t shirts. That is exploitive and reminds me of pimping.

And I am clueless as to why anyone would be offended by my reaction. Maybe someone can explain that to me. Why are you bent out of shape that some of us find this degrading, potentially dangerous, likely harmful, and wrong?

Trey

Bruce Hayden said...

The problem for an American audience weaned on this waif, and chock-a-block with repressed feelings about adolescent sexuality itself, is that Dakota Fanning the actress (if not the character she plays) has chosen to take on this graphic a role. She has opened Pandora's box. Once she has become part of the sexual economy of adolescence—about which Americans are so clearly conflicted, living as we do in a hypersexualized era that is also peculiarly hyperprotective of children—she can't go back.

This is repetative, but Dakota is still a kid, and is legally incabable of making that sort of decision. Ditto from a moral point of view.

So, not only is she probably going to be screwed up in her head about sex, but she is also going to go through live with this reputation. This is most likely going to be the role that sterotypes her henceforth with the public.

As Zeb said, all for the filthy lucre.

Elizabeth said...

Well, this was inevitable:

http://tinyurl.com/25sqd6

Some politician (GOP, whooda thunkit?) now wants the gummint to approve scripts before they're shot.

vbspurs said...

(Oh, so it's also another one of those movies about how white people learn the meaning of life from idealized black people? Can't we retire that cliché?)

Yeah, but I read similar things about the movies "Freedom Writers" (white teacher saves black and Hispanic remedial students from life of flipping burgers) and "The Painted Veil" (white couple saves Chinese people who drink from the same damn polluted well):

That why are white people are always pictured saving 'minorities'?

In Hollywood, they say that there are only 14 original scripts.

Houndog doesn't seem to be the 15th. Not with Pretty Baby around.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

Some politician (GOP, whooda thunkit?) now wants the gummint to approve scripts before they're shot.

Well, Elizabeth, that would horn in on Mrs. Tipper Gore's V-chip idea, so as they say down South, I'm agin' it.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

BTW, Joe baby, pimp's tout -- love it!

Gerry said...

"Sorry, Meghan, those of us who do not want to see a 12-year-old girl dressed in a wet T-shirt and panties... writhing on a bed and... awkwardly grinding in a hootchy-kootchy pantomime"

Ann, is the issue really with not wanting to see this? If so, the answer is to simply not go to the movie.

My issue is that I do not want a 12-year-old girl dressed in a wet T-shirt and panties... writhing on a bed and... awkwardly grinding in a hootchy-kootchy pantomime.

Thorley Winston said...

That why are white people are always pictured saving 'minorities'?

Because that’s how many white people who work in Hollywood see themselves? See Clooney, George.

Elizabeth said...

Victoria, agreed. There's a nexus where forces on the right and left cluster, and it's almost always going to involve government oversight of morality, and by god, we have to save the children. I do like the idea of just putting the V-chip in kids' heads, ala Cartman. Get right to the source of the problem!

Joe said...

I don't want to see Dakota Fanning in anything. However, I am continually mystified by the notion that sexuality is not part of the life of an adolescent. I am not talking here about rape or molestation, but the normal process of sexual maturation. Granted, kids in general may be exposed to more graphic imagery easier today, but it is very naive to believe pre-eighteen, or even sixteen, year-old teens have always been ignorant of sexuality.

I do think one of the big problems, typified by the description of the Fanning movie and by Jon Benet Ramsey, is when children display, and act out, on their sexuality as though they were adults.

(On a philosophical point; while it's bad to completely repress the sexual nature of children [i.e. make them feel guilty for even having certain thoughts], it's arguably just as, if not more, destructive to suggest there are no limits at all. To be more blunt, while there is nothing wrong with a twelve-year-old masturbating, it is terribly wrong for them to do it in front of other people.)

Cedarford said...

Another chapter of the Artiste` elite haveing to explain to the Great Unwashed why they just simply don't understand their tax dollars going to homosexual art with bullwhips up rectums. Why "Piss Christ" is all about freedom. Why a 12 year old girl salacious and raped with the inevitable Magic Negro plot device is not offensive crap, but artistic evolution that enlightens the Unwashed.

*Sigh*
Another "Mapplethorpe Moment" is upon us.

And the idiots are stuck with another movie bomb because "the people" are just too stupid to "get it".

As for Dakota Fanning, she is a tremendously gifted young actress who will go on to a superb career, I hope. I hope in later years she and her handlers can understand this was a stupid, stupid idea.

David said...

Innocence needs to be protected. Ms. Fanning, at her vulnerable age, may dream of any number of things she would like to do. It doesn't follow that she will be allowed to act on those dreams until she reaches the age of consent and reason. Until then someone needs to remind her that certain things are private and need to be confined to her room behind closed doors.

The first time I went to Universal Studios I was struck by the smallness of the production process; the parting of the Ten Commandments' Red Sea in particular. The 'applause' signs, strategically placed in various locations above the audience, flashed at moments we assumed we were too stupid to understand as meaningful.

Hollywood is a land of dreams occasionally intruded upon by reality. Welcome to the world of adolescence.

Are their any grownups left in Hollywood? Are their any parents who know how to say NO to their children?

Leland said...

So far, this is what I have learned:

As long as the mother agrees and the child is for it; it apparently is acceptable for an adult male to rub and grind himself on a 12 yr old girl, particularly is she is wearing a body suit to protect from penetration. If you have concerns, film the whole encounter and call it art.

Anonymous said...

Joe wrote: "To be more blunt, while there is nothing wrong with a twelve-year-old masturbating, it is terribly wrong for them to do it in front of other people."

That is the point entirely. I missed the posts where people were upset by adolescent sexuality. I am upset that some pervs put it on the screen and tried to justify it as something other than purient.

Trey

Parker said...

Are there any movies that have BOTH an 'earnest white teacher' AND a 'magical negro'?

THAT'S a buddy movie just waiting to be written, if not. For extra wacky fun, reverse the racial roles! Hilarity certain to ensue.