January 24, 2007

"To quote the titular song, 'You said you was high class/Well, that was just a lie.'"

The movie "Hounddog" -- about which such a stir was kicked up -- is a dog:
"Hounddog" is from the overheated and overacted school of Southern drama, filled with stereotypical characters, pseudo-poetic dialogue, and heavy symbolism ("Hounddog"'s biggest deviation from formula is that it features a killer R&B band that plays into the dead of night, presumably on call should 12-year-old girls need help with their personal problems). Fanning stars as Lewellen, a girl obsessed with Elvis who lives with her no-good father (David Morse) and her strict grandmother (Piper Laurie).
Piper Laurie! I'd be waiting for li'l Dakota to start making all the kitchen knives fly through the air!



Oh, sorry, I got distracted thinking about a time when movies were such great fun. And deep too!



Say it!!!

Back to "Hounddog," with its hangdog earnestness (and 12-year-old actress in a simulated rape scene):
Fanning plays the character as a cross between an innocent child and a wise strumpet; as a whole, "Hounddog" seems conceived simply to give her a role to flex her pre-teen acting chops.

The film has generated its share of controversy due to a scene in which Fanning's character is raped (it's handled without exploitation). Kiddie porn it isn't. Unfortunately, "Hounddog" isn't much of anything. It doesn't really resonate as a coming-of-age story, a family drama, or an exploration of the 1950s Southern experience, leaving precious little left but the controversy.

Ultimately, "Hounddog" is pretty mangy.
Well, I guess I'm glad the movie's bad and hope it goes nowhere. I would hate to see it get traction out of getting a rise out of social conservatives with something that good feminists should/used to care about. But the issue is still not dead. The fact that the movie isn't "kiddie porn" or that the scene as edited into the movie is "handled without exploitation" is no answer to the problem discussed at length in this post and its many comments. The problem was the use of the child actor to film the scene. The final cut of the scene and how it looks to movie viewers is a separate matter from how the child was treated on those days when she was filming the movie. This is a matter covered by statutory law and by moral principle, and there's no special exception for high-class films or overheated and overacted Southern dramas posing as high class.

MORE: Here's Orlando Sentinel critic Kathleen Parker:
[In Hounddog,] we witness a real 12-year-old portray a girl waking up as her naked father climbs into bed with her; "dancing" in her underwear while lying in bed; and getting raped by a teenage boy.

We are, in other words, voyeurs to a young girl acting out a sexual predator's fantasies. If we have a problem with that, we're told these are real issues that beg honest exploration. No, amend that. We're lectured -- by a 12-year-old, who, we're reminded, is a sophisticated actress.

"You know, I'm an actress," Fanning patiently explained to The New York Times. "It's what I want to do, it's what I've been so lucky to have done for almost seven years now. And I am getting older."

Does anything quite equal the ennui born of being scolded by a too-precious child?

Far be it for anyone to suggest that adults know more about such things than children. At least some of them do. Fanning's parents support their daughter's decision to play the rape scene, noting that this could cinch an Oscar for the child star.

Even Marc Klaas -- the ubiquitous been-there father of his murdered daughter Polly -- has given his nod to the film, vouching for its sensitive, supportive treatment of Fanning.

Only the actress' face is shown during the rape scene, which reportedly has been tastefully executed.

It's hard to get enough of tasteful rapes, I admit. Unless you're a real child rapist, the bunch of whom doubtless will be sufficiently stimulated by Fanning's rape-face, as well as her panty-dance and her little visit from bad Daddy.

But it's Art, so relaaaaax. And it's real, so get with it.

22 comments:

Bissage said...

Ann Althouse said: “The problem was the use of the child actor to film the scene.

This is a statement with which every sensible person must agree. This is why it is just a matter of time before the ending credits of certain movies include something like this: “No Children Were Sexually Exploited”®

R2K said...

So violent.

Paco Wové said...

What's the likelihood that: (1) the filming process was handled carefully to remain within the bounds of the law, and (2) the filmmakers deliberately fomented (or did not quash) rumors about the filming, knowing in advance that the only chance they had for getting sales was by generating as much controversy as possible before people realized what a .... dog the movie is?

Tim Sisk said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bearbee said...

Hounddog
A great chatting to wonderful actors and then sitting through what may well be the worst Sundance film in my recollection: Hounddog. In fact, in the dozen or so years that I’ve been covering this festival, I have never known the press to hiss at a film’s conclusion.


I am fond of that folksy but slightly overused expression 'this dog ain't gonna hunt'

Pissed Off Hillbilly said...

Did you ever notice that David Morse resembles Bill Clinton?

Just saying.

Elizabeth said...

"overheated and overacted"...yep, that describes most of how Hollywood does the South. And I can just imagine the dialects. When I see Southerners depicted patronizingly on-screen, it's hard for me to credit the filmmakers with any other level of achievement, of getting things right. Maybe I'm wrong to expect bad Gothic acting from this, but the reviews thus far indicate the kind of movie that makes my skin crawl.

Good Southern Gothic? To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm always so grateful when I notice that a performer playing a Southerner has some roots in the South. Reese Witherspoon didn't turn June Carter Cash into a blithering verbal stereotype, for instance.

I'm not going to see this film. I think there's room for graphically encountering violence, including rape, on screen. I also think powerful emotions and aftermaths of violence can be depicted through more indirect means, and that with a film centering on a child, that's the direction to take. The more I read about the storyline of this movie, the less reason I can see to take the explicit route.

Leland said...

The latest from "I was not harmed" Fanning, "who is not being exploited":


"It's not a rape movie," Fanning said Tuesday. "That's not even the point of the film."

But from
Time:
"The controversy comes from a societal terror that we have," Hounddog's writer-director Deborah Kampmeier said after the premiere. "A lot of people think we're gonna die if we tell this secret." The secret to which Kampmeier refers is that of sexual abuse of children. At the screening, representatives of the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) took the stage and delivered the statistic that in the time it took the audience to watch the film, eight children under 12 age were sexually assaulted.

Maybe she misread the script?

Revenant said...

The fact that the movie isn't "kiddie porn" or that the scene as edited into the movie is "handled without exploitation" is no answer to the problem discussed at length in this post and its many comments.

Because, apparently, no amount of people explaining that the scene caused no harm to Fanning is going to reason you out of a position you didn't reason yourself into.

Fanning says it was ok? Doesn't matter.

Her parents say it was ok? Doesn't matter.

Director says it was ok? Doesn't matter.

DA says it was ok? Doesn't matter.

Critics say it was ok? Doesn't matter.

The only people you appear interested in listening to on this subject are the ones telling you what you want to hear.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rev, we still disagree on this point. Now I do not know if she was damaged by the film. I was not there. Because of my background, I am quite worried that it may have harmed her. But to respond to your post, let me edit yours a bit if I may.

Fanning says it was ok? Doesn't matter. Right, cause she is a child and developmentally unqualified!

Her parents say it was ok? Doesn't matter. Right, the daughter is their paycheck! Could they be credible, sure. Is their status as parents alone enough for me to accept their statement? Not by a long shot! I have worked with too many abuse and exploitive parents.

Director says it was ok? Doesn't matter. Right, the girl is his paycheck.

DA says it was ok? Doesn't matter. My guess is that the DA said that no laws were broken. That is different.

Critics say it was ok? Doesn't matter. Why would an art critic have anything to say about child exploitation? Well, why would I listen to an art critic?

My point is just that acting out a rape or sexual exploitation scene is potentially, perhaps likely damaging. I pray that this child will be just fine! But none of the people you listed, aside from perhaps the DA, are either informed enough or impartial enough for me to accept them as credible without knowing MUCH more about them as people.

Now, I bet that they have to have a social worker or someone else trained to recognize child abuse and exploitation on the set when they use minors in a film. I would consider that person qualified and potentially unbiased.

"The only people you appear interested in listening to on this subject are the ones telling you what you want to hear."

I don't know about ALthouse, but for me, the only people I am interested in listening to on this are educated about the issue and have no conflict of interest in her work.


Trey

Pogo said...

Re: "The only people you appear interested in listening to..."

3 of the 5 who found it OK committed the offense and have a monetary interest, so no, their opinion is of little value. One of them is too young to 'consent' or even be aware of the long term issues here.

The DA is answering a very narrow question only.

The critics? What use is there in relying on modern art critics for behavioral standards?

And I sincerely doubt you would have agreed this was obsence/illegal/ethically wrong if any of those folks had in fact thought so, as you cannot seem to abide by the idea of moral standards, which arise from ...shudder... tradition.

Revenant said...

Even Marc Klaas -- the ubiquitous been-there father of his murdered daughter Polly -- has given his nod to the film, vouching for its sensitive, supportive treatment of Fanning

So now we can add "actual parents of child rape victims" to the list of people whose opinions about the rape scene just don't matter at all to its detractors.

How fascinating that hostility to this movie is directly correlated with complete ignorance.

tmink,

But to respond to your post, let me edit yours a bit if I may.

So far as I can tell, your point is you are better qualified to decide what's best for Fanning than her, her family, her associates, and the authorities, because in your imagination they all have conflicts of interests, whereas people like you, Ann, and Pogo ARE qualified to judge what's best for Fanning, despite never having met her and not knowing the details of what she had to do in the movie.

Heh! Funny.

I don't know about Althouse, but for me, the only people I am interested in listening to on this are educated about the issue and have no conflict of interest in her work.

Anyone who draws a paycheck from identifying and treating child abuse or works as an advocate for child abuse has a conflict of interest, as it is in their professional interest to identify as much child abuse as possible. That's why, for example, the McMartin preschool debacle happened -- because the "educated professionals" had plenty to gain from identifying abuse and nothing to gain from identifying the truth. That's why it isn't enough to say "oh, some 'expert' says she suffered even though there isn't the slightest actual evidence of it".

Next, Pogo:

And I sincerely doubt you would have agreed this was obsence/illegal/ethically wrong...

As you admit to not applying reason to matters of emotion, Pogo, your opinions on this and all other emotional matters are obviously worthless.

as you cannot seem to abide by the idea of moral standards, which arise from ...shudder... tradition.

Just to clarify for those in the audience who aren't quite as painfully stupid as Pogo -- I think the idea that "tradition says it is immoral" equates to "it is immoral" is ridiculous. Pogo's equating that with my being anti-morality, since the idea of actually *thinking* about what's moral and what is not is, as we've seen, well beyond his mental capabilities.

Pogo said...

Re: "As you admit to not applying reason to matters of emotion..."

Um, not quite. But if that makes you want to do the superior dance, well, have at it. But, just so I'm clear, do all your arguments devolve to "you're just a poopyhead"?

Seems like it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rev, thanks for taking the time to discuss my post. I appreciate it!

Yes, I am qualified to judge and comment upon practices and if they are harmful to children. It is my job, and I am well trained for it.

While I do not necessarily distrust the actor's mom, I do not necessarily trust them either. It is an occupational hazard for me. You are correct in stating that I do not trust the producer and director. I worked a bit in the film industry, I have met producers and directors! But more importantly, it is their financial investment in the picture being shown and being successful that makes me suspicious. I do not see why this is lost on you.

And it is an interesting point about my having conflicted interests. I practice in Tennessee (far away from this child and thus have no financial interest in her situation) and have a waiting list, so I am not trying to drum up business because I do not need to. Sadly.

The McMartin case is another interesting point. I believe (someone may want to fact check me on this) that case was one of several false reports made by the same untreated sexual abuse survivor. The reports were taken at face value with no fact checking by the media and some professional rescuers pretending to be mental health workers. And it was a mess!

The mess occured because of a big problem that you correctly identified. People rushed to judgment and did NOTHING to investigate the claims. They just accepted the claims, and people's lives were ruined. That is not psychology or social work, it is a travesty of professionalism and is happens WAY to often in my field.

Please note that I never said that Dakota was abused or harmed, because I do not know if she was. But I do have the training, experience, and honesty to state that she might have been harmed (people are harmed by less, especially sensitive people) and I do not necessarily trust the report of her parents and place NO faith whatsoever in the statements of her director and producer.

I would not take the word of a pimp about how well one of his girls was doing either. The comparison is exaggerated, I just do not know how much.

To finish, I am NOT hostile toward the movie (which I have not and will not see) I am concerned about the child. Is that a problem?

Trey

Leland said...

Of all the people that Revenaut mentions, only the DA has authority that matters. In that respect, this is what the DA said:

As many of you are aware, last week members of my office viewed an uncut version of the movie HoundDog, starring Dakota Fanning. We were asked to review the film to see that it complies with North Carolina law since the movie depicts a brutal rape scene involving a minor child. After carefully investigating this matter, including reviewing applicable Constitutional provisions and state statutes, as well as interviewing various members of the production team, I have determined that no crime has been committed within the Fifth Judicial District. My office will not prosecute anyone associated with the production or distribution of this movie.

That's a very narrow interpretation. What we know is that the uncut film does not violate North Carolina law, and therefore no one will be prosecuted there. The DA leaves open that a crime may have been committed elsewhere (as in on a set outside of North Carolina) and laws in other jurisdictions including Federal jurisdictions may still apply. The cut film could even violate laws in other states were it might be distributed.

I think TMink makes many other valid points refutting the other entities that Revenaut think are more authoritative than anyone else. However, lets play Revenaut's game his way:
The director/writer freely admits that it took 4 years to find investors willing to finanically back the film precisely because of concern over the scene in question. Apparently, all of the concerns voiced by various investors were intentionally ignored by the writer/director, the performers, and the parents over a course of 4 years, but that didn't matter.

Revenant said...

The McMartin case is another interesting point. I believe (someone may want to fact check me on this) that case was one of several false reports made by the same untreated sexual abuse survivor.

That is completely incorrect. Details here.

The initial allegations were, in fact, made by one of the mothers (who may have been a sexual abuse survivor, although I've never seen that demonstrated). But the accusations that that led to the trial and media frenzy were made by the children, after "trained experts" in recognizing and treating child abuse induced false memories in them. To this day many of those children retain "memories" of horrible sexual abuse -- all thanks to the "experts".

Nor is the McMartin case the only time, or even the hundredth time, that "experts" have thrown innocent people to the wolves and ruined the lives of the children they claimed to be protecting.

The reports were taken at face value with no fact checking by the media and some professional rescuers pretending to be mental health workers.

The children were examined by a licensed therapist and a medical doctor from the Children's Institute International, both members of professional organizations dealing with child abuse, both of whom found evidence that hundreds of McMartin children were abused. The children were handed over to other mental health professionals for further "therapy" that further solidified their belief that they had been abused.

The only mental health professionals involved in the trial that did NOT find abuse were the ones testifying for the defense -- who were not professional child abuse hucksters.

And it was a mess!

Yes, it was a mess. And people like you, Pogo, and Ann are the ones who made it a mess, and ruined the lives of seven adults and the childhoods of hundreds of innocent children.

Pogo said...

Re: "people like you, Pogo, and Ann are the ones who made it a mess, and ruined the lives of seven adults and the childhoods of hundreds of innocent children."

Good heavens, Revenant, but you are barmy. You're blaming me for the McMartins, even tangentially? If it weren't such an obvious flailing and desperate swipe, I might even be offended. But jesus christ on roller skates, man, how mountainously stupid.

Revenant said...

Of all the people that Revenaut mentions, only the DA has authority that matters

Fortunately, your belief that neither children nor their parents have any authority over the well-being of children is shared by few Americans. As a nation, we do not want our children raised by the State.

The Exalted said...

ann --

i'd think you'd admit that your own proprieties being infringed upon shouldn't matter, right?

so, please provide a description of the harm that you believe has occurred to the only possible victim, dakota fanning.

if you cannot do this, then maybe you should rethink your position.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Ms. Johnson was the untreated survivor.

Trey

Anonymous said...

Rev wrote: "Fortunately, your belief that neither children nor their parents have any authority over the well-being of children is shared by few Americans. As a nation, we do not want our children raised by the State."

Rev, nobody is saying this. I am a conservative. I do not trust the state to pick up my garbage much less get near my child. Or your children either. You took that path of fantasy government intervention by yourself a few posts ago. You were alone. That is your fear, not our point or beliefs. I posted that once already.

The parents have ALL the authority, and this is proper in most cases. But I am not a perfect parent, I make mistakes daily. Why would Dakota's parent(s) be infallible?

And Rev, they may be right. I am just CONCERNED. Concern does not equal "take away the kid." You can read the posts to verify that. Concern is not even a criticism of her parents. Concern is a feeling.

Typing this it reads like a lecture, and I regret that. But I read and enjoy your posts and this topic is not bringing out your A game.

For the record, I was an English major at UNC in 1983. Chapel Hill is a long way away from Cali. And by the time I got into grad school, the McMartin case was being used to educate us about false memory syndrome and abuse hysteria.

I have testified in 2 court cases for terminating parental rights in 16 years as a professional. In one case the child was chained, beaten on the feet, and starved to the point of looking like they were in Dacchau. The detectives took pictures. This was not a case of hysteria.

In the other case a stepfather sliced open a child's hand with a weed eater, as a form of discipline mind you, and the mother sewed the child's hand herself (without anesthesia) in order to avoid an emergency room trip. She was afraid that the boy would squeal and she would lose her man. That case was reported when the boy was found removing the "stitches" at school. The mom confessed. And refused treatment.

No witch hunt. I would be offended by your accusation if this were not so obviously an interesting issue for you.

The points of our disagreement are real, but they are only extreme in your reading of them.

Trey

Leland said...

Fortunately, your belief that neither children nor their parents have any authority over the well-being of children is shared by few Americans. As a nation, we do not want our children raised by the State.

Remember this Revenant, you're the one claiming that at the very least, we should all accept the DA's opinion. For all your accusations of blames for the McMartin case, you are missing the part that another DA prosecuted the McMartin case. It's ironic that as you note that I (and others) dismiss the DA's comments, that I can also read about Nifong, who is the DA in Durham, NC and was born in Wilmington. Do you, Revenaut, believe Nifong that a stripper was raped by some Duke students?

I question the statements of the child/parents and the writer/director because they conflict. Again, I point to my earlier posts where the child claims the movie isn't about rape while the creator of the movie say it is about child sexaul assault. They use different words (rape and sexual assault), but I think the definition is the same. Someone is either very confused or lying. If someone is lying to the Press, then they may have committed perjury during the DA's investigation.

Finally, please note that the whole plot of the movie is that a child is sexaully assaulted under the watchful and uncaring eyes of a father and grandmother. I guess you are the appropriate audience for the movie and thus need to be told life's various unfortunate secrets through film.