The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing.

~~~ Albert Einstein

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Birthright, and a girls coming of age

I have shocking news for some film directors and the companies that pander to their no holds bar desire to make movies that are more likely to grab headlines because of their content, instead of their quality.

I've talked before about the movie Hounddog, where a young (12 year old) Dakoda Fanning plays the role of a underprivileged girl who is raped by a fellow lead character in the movie.

When Hounddog first came along, a good deal of it's defenders attempted to rationalize the acceptance of the sexual abuse portrayed in the film by making a comparison of it to the 1996 film Bastard out of Carolina. (See previous post) "Bastard out of Carolina" evolves around the life of a young girl whose family is completely in disarray. After the loss of a caring stepfather, the girl is forced to deal with the marriage of her mother to a man who later physically and sexually abuses her. The story, as told in the film is less about her abuse- few images of it are seen and instead the sexual abuse is suggested more than witnessed- and more about her fight for survival in a world that seems ready to collapse on her.

Having seen Bastard out of Caroline (likely more times than anyone should readily admit) and having read in depth about Hounddog without having seen it- I will leave the comparisons of the idea of what the intent of both films might actually be portraying to someone else.

Yet, I would take offense with the notion that I should also leave the judging of those involved with the development of Hounddog to someone else- because it isn't the film I currently take issue with, as it is the careless attempts to dismiss any questioning of the content. As mentioned, some people attempted to defend the film, while others put it on the same level as child porn. (Having read quite a bit about it, I myself would be tempted to shove it closer to an endorsement of child sexual abuse than a Bastard out of Carolina type film- but I'll leave that for another time)

Recently, a film critic has joined in the masses that are protesting both Hounddog, and another movie "Towelhead". Towelhead described as "Hilarious" on the WB website, focuses on a young foreign girl cast into living with her father in an American neighborhood while dealing with the confusion of the changes her body is going through. At at least one point in the movie, she is violently raped by the father of the young boy she babysits. Of course, this being Hollywood- at the time of the rape, the girl apparently is oblivious to the fact that she's being raped, and instead is in awe of the attention she's receiving from the older man. (previous post on topic)

The lead characters in both movies- both young girls- have been brilliantly described by their Hollywood defenders in a manner which leads me to question just what their standards are, and how willing they are to accept sexual abuse as an acceptable, almost required norm for young girls in society today.

In the film's press kit, Hounddog's writer and director Deborah Kampmeier said of Fanning's character, "She is simply and innocently experiencing and relishing the aliveness of her being, the life force pulsing through her body, celebrating the power and creative force of her sexuality that is her birthright."

A spokesman for Warner Independent Pictures, which released "Towelhead," said, "Our film deals with a girl's coming of age." He said that the art-house production is rated R, and will be released Friday in select cities across the country.

Hounddog, a movie based on the blatantly violent rape of a young girl- described as experiencing and relishing the aliveness of her being... the sexuality that is her birthright? And Towelhead, raped played down to being nothing more than the usual coming of age for a adolescent girl.

Guess what?
Rape is not a 'birthright', nor is it a magical moment of 'coming of age' for a young girl. And describing it as such does nothing more than promote the idea that the sexual degradation and abuse of children is acceptable, and even expected. I'm pretty sure that a quick poll of survivors of childhood sexual abuse will reveal that NONE, not even one ever 'relished' the moment that they were forcibly raped, robbed of their dignity, of their self esteem, of their ability to have control over their own body and what is done to it. I can guarantee that not one will consider their experience a 'birthright', something to which they would want to seen passed on to their daughters, and to their daughter's daughters.

Hollywood, the directors, and the deep pocketed movie companies which continue to pander this filth may be allowing the possibility of financial gain from these sexually repulsive films to leave them with rose colored glasses on when attempting ot justify the ruthless way they go about propogating the idea that children are sexual tools to be used by adults as they see fit- but I can promise that no survivor of sexual abuse is going to be okay with the mainstream Hollywood bigwigs tossing the idea of child rape around as if it should be the norm. And hopefully, no one else will be okay with it either.

"This is abhorrent and abusive," said Movieguide founder Ted Baehr, who is also the chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission. "We are calling on people to avoid these movies, to tell other people not to see it."

Baehr said the movies are damaging to the child actresses filming the explicit scenes, as well as the public at large.

"There are two sides of it. The side of actual abuse to the actress and promoting or condoning these activities," he said.

A national campaign against two two movies is growing in strength. Family and women's groups have been especially active in North Carolina, where the controversial child-rape scene in "Hounddog" was filmed. Baehr said "Hounddog" received nearly $400,000 in tax credits funded by state citizens.