First of all, Hounddog is being trashed by early reviewers of the film. While most reviews that I've read have actually DEFENDED and MINIMIZED the rape scene as "done tastefully," they have torn to shreds the movie itself, on purely artistic and entertainment levels, criticizing the plot, the dialogue, the cliche characters, and the force-fed emotions.
This is extremely good news, and quite frankly, unexpected. You would naturally assume, when you realize that our battle is not against flesh and blood, that liberal critics, who even shun the seriousness of the rape scene (and ignore other parts in the movie), would celebrate this film. But, of what I've seen so far, that is not the case. I don't agree with everything they say, but they seem to be putting down the film--with no vendetta against the subject matter! (Click here for a review of the movie by Variety; Click here for a review on Fox News) God works in mysterious ways. Let's hope and pray this trend continues. Why? Three reasons:
1.) First of all, it looks like this film isn't going to collect very many Benjamins, Washingtons, or Lincolns (pennies), for that matter. I imagine that a relatively small amount of people were going to see this film anyway, and bad reviews are only going to shrink the population of Hounddog moviegoers. As Variety's review says:
Aside from Fanning and the controversy, the film has nothing going for it commercially; sales are likely due to the cast, but paying customers will be scarce.
The director of this film is trying to make herself out to be some type of hero, who's "giving a voice" to silent, suffering women, and "raising awareness" to this important issue. If this indeed were the case (which later I will point out it is not), then her next film would be about child rape, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next would ALL be about child rape. How likely do you think that is? Or, how likely do you think that is if this movie doesn't bring her any cash? Not likely at all.
2.) Secondly, I think you can cancel Dakota's mother's "Oscar party." Unless Hollywood decides to go totally against the grain, this movie isn't going to win anything. Obviously, this is NOT specifically because of the subject matter--Hollywood has shown us time and time again that you can't underestimate what they'll give an award to. However, compile that with bad reviews of the movie, and you should have a perfectly Oscar-less production. (Yay!)
3.) Thirdly, the movie has yet to be picked up for distribution, and it's looking less likely that it ever will be. That would be some kind of message sent from distribution companies. Fox News posted an article titled No Buyers for Dakota Fanning Rape Movie by Roger Friedman. Here's some snippets from the article:
Hounddog, the simply awful movie in which 12-year-old Dakota Fanning’s character is raped, has no buyers.
"No one wants it after the terrible reviews," one distributor told me...
Indeed, the people associated with The Weinstein Company, IFC Films and First Look were among those who instantly agreed that they had no interest in Hounddog.
At this rate, this exercise in bad taste may wind up being a DVD collector’s item.
With the above-mentioned distributors out, it’s unlikely now that any major buyer will take Hounddog. And that’s just as well, considering that its release is sure to spark more outrage, protests and calls for investigations.
An e-mail I received from Paul Petersen, former child actor, current child advocate, and creator of A Minor Consideration, a child advocacy organization, said this:
No Distributors, at least at Sundance, offered to put this film into general release.
This is great news. Note that it intertwines itself with point number one. Although it seems that some distributors are backing out simply because the movie is terrible--not because of the inappropriateness of the subject matter--one has to think that the righteous indignation towards this movie is playing a role in their business decisions. There just is not enough incentive for these distributors to put themselves on the line by picking up Hounddog. And, hey, maybe distributors have a sense of decency, too!
A small distributor might pick up this film eventually, but it should be noted that smaller distributors might not be able to afford the risk of going out on such a limb. (Paul Petersen and others are trying to "ensure that even a DVD release is liable to result in criminal prosecution.") And, of course, small distributors are better than big ones.
This is my official thank you to every and any distributor who rejects this film.
The second thing I have to tell you about is that, as if the rape scene was not enough, there is more stuff in this film to get your blood-boiling:
Opening interludes are drenched in swampy sweat and sex, as barely prepubescent kids Lewellen (Fanning) and Buddy (Cody Hanford) scamper through the woods to find a secluded place where Buddy can show Lewellen his privates in exchange for a kiss. Lewellen shortly explains that one day she's going to kill her daddy and cut off his privates in the bargain.
Lewellen continually bumps and grinds in Elvis fashion, to the distinct disapproval of Granny, and schemes with Buddy to get tickets to an upcoming local Elvis concert; the two kids play grown-up, dressing up and pretending to drink and smoke, with her kissing him a lot; a little rich girl nicknamed Grasshopper (Isabelle Fuhrman) arrives for the summer at the mansion nearby, giving Lewellen a rival for Buddy's attention...
...loads of vile behavior, beginning with the rape but scarcely confined to it, to scant point.
From Fox News:
...12-year-old Cody Hanford, who plays Fanning’s boyfriend in the provocative and poorly written outing, may actually become more of the focus than even the star.
In the film, his character lures Fanning’s into a barn and then watches as she’s raped. Hanford and Fanning also have numerous kissing scenes, some in which they’re half-dressed.
From the Orlando Sentinel's Kathleen Parker:
The same taboo-busting impulse drives Hounddog, wherein 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.
Also, there's reportedly a lot of "gyrating" and seductive dancing by Dakota, and more than one person has noted that there's a "lot of panties." And let's not forget about the mutual masturbation scene, that seems to have disappeared.
This movie just keeps getting better the more you know about it, doesn't it?
Also, don't allow the makers of this movie to trick you into thinking that it's "all about awareness" and a "message movie," or whatever. It's not. Roger Friedman, in his Fox News articles, said this:
Since I am one of the few who’ve actually seen it, let me explain something important. There is no point that I can find to the child’s rape.
Once it happens, it’s never discussed. The culprit is never accused or apprehended. The child never tells her story to anyone. There’s no great moment of revelation that could possibly help someone who’s watching the film. It’s simply there for shock value.
The fact that Kampmeier and the producers have somehow conned rape-assistance groups into using the movie as a public-service announcement is bizarre to me. But I guess it’s no more bizarre than using Dakota Fanning as the public defender of the indefensible.
That her moves are suggestive is another matter altogether. The director seems to be implying that Lewellen is almost asking for her rape by a 20-year-old boy who delivers the family’s milk.
It’s either that or Lewellen should be allowed to act seductively without fear of being attacked. Either way, the arguments do not stand up.
Todd McCarthy, who wrote the Variety article I mentioned, wrote this:
From here [after the rape scene] , one wants to stick close to Lewellen to study her reactions and decisions. Instead, the Strange Lady returns to distracting effect, Daddy starts running naked through town, Granny totes her shotgun around, and a plane's worth of snakes begins materializing everywhere, a matter tended to by a wise black man (Afemo Omilami), a horse trainer who endeavors to restore a measure of physical and psychic health to both Strange Lady and Lewellen.
...there is much sound and fury here signifying very little, and loads of vile behavior, beginning with the rape but scarcely confined to it, to scant point.
In summarization, then, one of the only arguments defenders of the film have been able to come up with falls flat on its face. Paul Petersen, in the e-mail I received, dismantles another of the few arguments for the film: that a couple actresses have played similar roles in the past and "turned out fine." Petersen says:
They would prefer that we not remember that Jodi Foster was stalked by no less than John Hinckley (he eventually shot President Reagan) thanks to “Taxi Driver’s” imagery. Also affected was the other young performer always cited, Brooke Shields, who had to endure a terrifying stalker for fifteen years named Mark Ronald Bailey who was finally jailed in 2000. “Pretty Baby” and “Taxi Driver” were mainstream, big studio films.
Thirdly, and finally, Dakota Fanning is "mad" and she's letting people know about it. In other words, the film's makers, and Dakota's parents, are putting her out there to defend the movie and the choice to let Dakota act in it, because they can't. Roger Friedman in one of the previously mentioned Fox News articles articulated this well:
Meanwhile, the producers of Hounddog trotted out Fanning yesterday to defend the film in places like USA Today and at another press conference.
It’s come to that, apparently. The people who should be answering questions, however, are Fanning’s parents, and the parents of the other children in the film.
Now, I will address individually some of the things Dakota said:
When it gets to the point of attacking my mother, my agent ... my teacher, who were all on the set that day, that started to make me mad...
I can let other things go, but when people start to talk about my mother, like, that's really bad in my opinion ... that's an attack, and that's not fair.
It's both cute and sad to see Dakota defending her mother. Cute, because all children should do, and should be expected to do, the same thing. Sad, because, well, honestly, how much does Dakota's mother deserve to be defended? It's sad, because Dakota can't see that many of these people criticizing her mom are being more responsible, with better priorities, and more protective than her mom is being.
Now, I do not condone any movements calling for her mother to be arrested. I think that is overreaching and counter-productive. Overreaching, because it won't happen, and counter-productive, because Dakota needs a godly mother, not no mother at all. But, the facts speak for themselves: Dakota's mother wants an Oscar and wants Dakota to "be challenged" and "grow up" as an actress; people like myself care for Dakota and other children. I'm not saying that Dakota's mother doesn't care, just that her priorities may be effecting her judgment.
Fanning also said she would recommend seeing Hounddog to her friends, with their parents' approval, because of the issues supposedly presented in this film that her friends might face, or might have already faced. As well, she said she would want to go see the film, even if she wasn't in it, and that her mother would take her.
First of all, about recommending it to her friends. The "with their parents" approval is a gigantic disclaimer, but look: Dakota would have wanted to see it, even if she wasn't in it; her mother would have let her; and Dakota would recommend it to her friends.
But what about your little sister, Dakota? No? Who gets to make that judgment call? You?
Secondly, it's again cute and sad. Because, rightfully so, Dakota is making her mom the moral authority. Unfortunately, is she trustworthy with that power?
You know, I'm an actress. 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.
Here's something Dakota doesn't understand. Your occupation doesn't give you license to do something wrong. That's like a military sharpshooter killing innocent civilians, saying, "I'm a sharpshooter. That's what I do." Also, your occupation doesn't insulate you from any negative emotional effect. Even Coast Guard rescue swimmers can have fearful flashbacks of missions gone awry. They are not insulated from the tragedy of occasional failure.
Fanning also said that she would want to see this movie, even if she wasn't it, because it's educational.
I'm going to be a freshman in high school in September, and I think it would be irresponsible of my parents not to let me know of things that happen and to try not to get yourself in uncomfortable situations. It's educational.
Wow! A freshman in high-school, Dakota? Slap a stamp on me and call me an envelope. Why didn't you say so? You're practically a member of AARP!
In all seriousness, though the director of the film called Dakota an "old soul" and someone else stated that she is "12 going on 45," she's twelve. Period. Secondly, since when do movies become our source for education? Kids shouldn't learn about the birds and the bees at the theater, and they shouldn't learn about the corruption of the "birds and the bees," either--as in, rape, child molestation, etc. It should be the parents doing the teaching on that topic, and maybe a little can be gotten from books.
Plus the fact, that again, this movie isn't that educational.
Phew...I know that was long. I hope you were able to read it all. I'm going to leave with you with another call to keep praying and keep spreading the word about this issue. In the words of Paul Petersen:
Now we have to worry about images of Dakota showing up on the Internet. We all need to pray for her safety.
Pray for her safety, and pray for all aspects of this situation. I encourage you to go to A Minor Consideration and thank Paul Petersen personally for the work he and his organization is doing. Also, this article aforementioned by Kathleen Parker is very good, and witty. I encourage you to read it in its entirety.