Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The 'Hounddog' experience
The film that's been on everyone's minds here at Sundance has made its debut and screened for the public.

"Hounddog" features 12-year-old Dakota Fanning in a brutal rape scene, which has some outraged, saying this movie has crossed the line of decency and is exploiting Fanning. (Watch some background -- and Fanning's response.)

I first want to say that I was completely dreading having to watch this film and this particular scene. It's not my cup of tea, but because of the nature of my job I don't always get to choose whom or what I cover.

(That dread was combined with utter frustration because when I arrived at the theater in my rental car, I was told I couldn't park in the lot (where there were plenty of spaces!), and that I needed to drive about a mile for "festival parking" and take the shuttle. Well, when I got to the appropriate lot, I realized I only had eight bucks -- and parking was $10. I searched for street parking, eventually found it, and then hopped on the shuttle, only to watch the driver hop off for a break. The minutes were ticking by.

(Once back at the theater, I was told I couldn't get in because they didn't have a list, I didn't have a ticket and the publicist who confirmed my attendance was nowhere to be found. I think they saw the rising panic in my eyes because they decided to let me in on good faith that I was indeed supposed to be there. All I could do was laugh. One would think it wouldn't be so difficult to see a film at a film festival! But I digress.)

I found the "Hounddog" rape scene very disturbing and unsettling. It's horrific, yes. It's violent, yes. But to my relief, it is very, very brief. The scene only lasts a few seconds and Dakota isn't exposed. Her face, her hand and arm are really the only body parts visible. The implication, of course, of what is happening is nightmarish.

In other suggestive scenes in the film, Dakota is shown wearing nothing but underwear and a thin, small tank top. Not a film that's easy to watch by any stretch of the imagination.

If the film is picked up by a distributor and hits the mainstream (which I expect it will), we will probably be talking about Dakota this time next year during awards season. Her performance is remarkable. The film overall, though, is not superb in my opinion. Sure, at times it was compelling and suspenseful, but there were more moments when it seemed disjointed, even tedious.

Surprisingly Dakota did press at last night's premiere (and yes, she spoke to us -- guess she changed her mind about not doing any interviews with CNN, though I still don't know why she wouldn't in the first place).

Dakota told us that she hopes people reserve judgment until they've seen the movie. She also said that ultimately it was her decision to accept this role since she is the one playing the character.

This isn't the first time a child actress has played a disturbing part, as many of you mentioned in your comments. You may also remember Brooke Shields was 12 years old when she played a prostitute in "Pretty Baby" in 1978, and a young Jodie Foster got an Oscar nomination for playing a child prostitute in the 1976 classic "Taxi Driver."

Is it ever OK for a young child to play a role of this nature? Do you think Dakota is being exploited? Keep sending in your thoughts.
Of course she is being exploited. She's 12 years old and SHE is deciding herself whether to take a part that involves simulating a violent rape scene? Please. My 6 and 8-year old nieces don't even decide what to eat for breakfast. They eat what their mother cooks because if they were allowed to decide, it would be candy and cookies all day. That's what good parents do -- guide their young children (yes, 12 is still very young) and make decisions to protect them from what seems like a great idea or great fun, but really could be harmful in the long run. It looks like Dakota Fanning's parents aren't doing their job. I feel sad for her that she doesn't have stronger role models in her life that will help guide her through the awkward teen years to come. I really hope she doesn't end up like so many other child actors and actresses.
The subject matter of a child being molested (raped) is unfortunately a reality in our society today and films reflect society. With all that we're exposed to nowadays how does anyone claim such innocent sensibilities anymore??? Afterall, it is only a movie and you can choose NOT to see it.
I don't believe Dakota Fanning is being exploited at all. She is an actress and must say a very very good one. Wouldn't miss any movie she is in. Looking forward to seeing this one. If her parents are aware of all that is going on in the making of the movie and it is explained to her I don't see a problem with this at all. You have to remember children of 12 should be aware or made aware of what rape is. Who knows a movie like this could bring the topic up in some families and help some other child.
Of course it's appalling to people. It's one of the worst examples of what people are willing to do in the name of art. It can't be justified.
Hollywood has deterimed that in order to get people in the sets they need to shock us. The scene you discuss is just that - shocking. It says more about our society and the way we define entertainment, then the producers and directors. Let's face it - they are giving us what we want. How disgusting are we?
i find it amazing that people want to keep what is actually a reality in our counrty and the world behind closed doors... at times i feel like the mass majority of the population thinks that if you do not see it then it cannot be happening... thus boycott the movie so it is not happening, right?... dakota is an actress and she has the right to decide what she will and will not play... i give her great credit for what she has done in the industry already and what i am sure she will do in the future... cheers sweetheart...
If this rape scene is stirring up such controversy, and it is making people upset...then they need to focus on who is really losing out here: the young girls this is happeneing to. Dakota chose this movie role, and played a part, and also got a paycheck. She is not being exploited, that is just ridiculous! People need to take the feelings they feel when they see that scene and turn them into energy to fight against rapists and to try to help children in need.
Why the big contoversy?

It was entirely Ms. Fanning's decision to play this role. Surely her parents also agreed that she could play this role.

It strikes me as hypocritical that many people would find this rape scene disturbing. Why is this rape so different than anything we see on the nightly news detailing murder, rape, and such things?

I don't get it. And yes, I am a father of a 10 year old daughter for those of you wondering.
Sounds to me like the rape scene isn't too exploitive as it doesn't show her face and only lasts a few seconds. A little free publicity and controversy never hurt ticket sales either.
What no twelve-year-old girl can even grasp is that putting the rape of a child on the big screen is not compelling, entertaining or in the least amount provoking. It is sheer manipulation on the part of the producers and, yes, her parents to generate buzz about a mediocre movie that otherwise would be swept under the rug. In addition, it gives some sick sort of affirmation to all of those who fantasize about doing this because it is not being spoken of as taboo or shameful. You call it "horrific" but Simon Cowell uses that word for people who assault our ears. To assault a child is beyond horrific and should not be construed as art. It should be construed as what it is...the end of the beautiful protective bubble children used to live in called innocence.
Doesn't anyone recall Angelica Houston's movie "Bastard out of Carolina"? I don't know the actresses name, but at the time, I believe she was only 9 or 12 and the scene was, at least, disturbing and too real for anyone that has ever actually endured a similar experience. And you saw much more than her hands and legs. You saw her tiny, cherub face crying and fighting.
Why does everyone want to make such a flap about Dakota Fanning, but "Bastard" made it in and out without so much fuss. I was in knots for days after the scene in "Bastard". I wanted to vomit. It was violent, angry, and as you say, nightmarish.
If you are going to speak of other works in contrast to Dakota's movie, please, let us not forget "Bastard"...years ahead and far more disturbing, I think. I thought it looked eerily real. People didn't jump out of their seats to complain about the little actress doing such an adult themed scene in "Bastard". Is that kid OK now? Dakota Fanning seems, at 12, to be more level headed than most adults I know. I am certain the scene was discussed with her (and her parents) before she agreed to do it.
I think it is sad that America as a country chooses to entertain itself with images such as a child being raped. Film is entertainment and people choose what they support and pay money to see. I personally will not support this exploitation by seeing the film. There would be no market for children to accept roles like these if there were no people willing to see them.
I do find the subject matter of the new Dakota Fanning movie disturbing, however, I haven't seen the movie and will reserve judgement. That being said, this is an issue that is all too common in everyday life. People should get down off their moral high horse and stop turning everything into a crusade. These same people don't stop television from putting half naked people on in primetime. Or call in the mouth police from all the cursing done in the same time slots.
Dakota is an artist who is performing a role.
Does anyone stop to think about all the actual and potential child rapists who see movies like this to feed their sick perversions? Do Dakota Fanning's parents realize that she is a turn on for those kind of people? Child sexual abuse is certainly a topic that needs to see the light of day, but not one that needs to be depicted in any way on the screen. We reduce ourselves as a society by tolerating such depictions as art.
Unfortunately when filmakers exploit the obvious talent of Dakota Fannig for profit, they fail to see the ramifications of pedophiles all over this country and beyond watching this fim. Very sad
Rome was a so-called enlighted age and "invincible" for thousands of years until it died, not from external force, but from its own "self-inflicted, cancerous, descent into a moral-less, anything goes, society".

History ALWAYS repeats itself and we get to watch and record our own moral trainwreck on the Intenet!
I have not seen the movie yet, but my main hope is that it deals with children speaking up and getting help if they are raped.
If it helps in any way, it will be well worth it. Especially if it shows signs to look for, and how to help a child work through it.
Perhaps this is what Dakota was after, too!
Rape may seem like an "adult" topic but the horrible and sad truth is that Dakota Fanning is portraying a real-life situation for far too many children. I applaud Miss Fanning and her parents for having the courage and wisdom to bring the issue forward in a society where it's easier to cover up than to expose.
She can do what she and her parents want. Its a free country, she's getting a big paycheck and a lot of publicity.
I am all for freedom of speech/expression. I have no problem with that. However, when does what someone considers entertainment cross the line into art? This movie will never be released mainstream, as that is truly the point of Sundance - independent cinema. I just can't see why one would want to tackle a subject like this. It's bad enough that the information fed to us and called "news" often focuses on atrocities and savage/inhuman acts. Now, we have to immortalize it on film, because we just don't get enough of it elsewhere.

The premise of this content, meager as it may be at a few seconds long, in the movie disgusts me. This is truly a reflection of the freedom we truly have. I simply ask future directors and producers to exercise a little more dignity next time they consider creating a movie. What would you think if Shirley Temple had been cast in the role of "Lewellen"?
To answer the question, yes, it's ok for a child to play such roles as long as it's tastefully done. And speaking of such, there seems to be much surprise that the scene only shows Fanning's face, neck and arm. Did anyone really think they would show more? The girl is 12! I knew this would be no big deal and that the reaction was premature.
It is ashamed that any Catholic in the world would have any thing to say about a child rape. This is just a movie it is not real. When Catholic's rape it is for real. They need to learn when to keep mouth shut for good.
We will not be seeing this movie and I think Dakota's parents should NOT have let her accept this part. I have heard that Dakota is very sexual in it and that is just not a fit topic for any movie to glorify a supposed 12 yr old acting sexy and then being raped. Some parents wil do anything to make a buck.
My daughter was molested when she was 7 yrs old by my best friends (at the time) husband. She did tell me what happened and we went to the police and he is serving 15 years in prison.
From what I have read about this movie, the rape incident is never reported or dealt with. Not all people will understand this like I do, as it happened to me and my child, but this is not a subject to be taken lightly and could deeply affect some individuals.
In the 1996 movie, A Time to Kill, there was also a very disturbing rape scene involving a child. Rae'ven Kelly could not have been more than 10 at the filming. Was there this much hype then? I doubt it.
Does anyone remember the book and movie "A Time to Kill" by John Grisham? The whole movie centered around the rape of a young African-American girl in Mississippi. So, it's ok for the African-American actress to play that part, but everybody is going to get up in arms over a white girl in a rape scene?

Stop all the fuss....it's a free country. You don't have to see the movie.
People need to wake up and realize what is really going on in this country. Not just twelve year olds but babies are being molested. We just want to pretend it's not happening. I hope this movie will be picked up by a distributor and wathced by many people. And I do hope it will make people put some pressure on their local political leaders to pass tougher laws to punish child molesters.
Kari from Houston- no offense to your nieces, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Miss Fanning is probably light-years more mature than they are. (At 4 and 6 years their senior, we should surely hope so).

Admittedly the only time I typically see Dakota is on Jay Leno, but even so she holds herself quite well IMHO, and is in fact a credit to her parents. I only wish women like Lindsey Lohan had her upbringing. We probably wouldn't be watching her enter rehab.

If Dakota is being exploited, why no uproar when the Olsen twins were working on Full House? They weren't even potty-trained when they started acting, yet they were making a mint for their parents. How's that for exploitation?
If a child of 12 can't consent to sexual activity, why can she consent to simulating sexual activity for a film to be released to the puiblic. There is no reason to place a 12 year old girl, regardless of how mature she is for her age, into a role that a lot of grown-up actresses would have a hard time coping with. If a 29-year-old man can sneak into a middle school as a 12-year-old boy, why do we need to employ a 12-year-old girl to play a roll that should be handled by a fully mature woman. I believe this is exploitation and a contribution to the sexualization of our children propagated by commercial media.
I think that the decision to play a role that involves such mature content made good business sense for Ms. Fanning. Other than that, I don't think that she is being exploited. Her parents apparently have educated her - rape is a commonplace occurrence in our world today. Furthermore, if the role was too "over the top" and being that she is only 12, her parents had the final authority to say no.
With all if the violent movies portraying children being murdered, it is surprising to me so much controversy is being raised about this film. These folks would certainly be better off expending their energy fighting against the real crimes being committed against children in the world and not just a movie. No, Dakota is not being exploited - she is making a choice with her parents support. I am sure not everyone would agree with my parentling style but how I raise my child is MY job.
I think they should have used an older actress for this role. When they were shooting this film there were articles about how her mother and agent thought this role would earn her an Oscar. Yes, Dakota may be mature beyond her years but deep down what is it doing to her. What sort of impact will this have on her? In the future will she say she was robbed of her childhood? Yes, she was exploited by the people she trusted most.
when the dixie chicks song "earl" came out a lot of country stations banned it. i guess it was too hard for men that were beating their wives to hear a truthful song about domestic abuse. and then they kill him! oh no! not revenge for the abused!

a movie about a little girl being raped is the reality of millions of young girls all over the world. rape is always brutal and appaling and perhaps it makes people uncomfortable because it hits too close to home.

maybe if we could get men to stop raping girls, women and young boys...movies like this wouldn't need to be made.
Are proceeds from this film going to any of the outreach agencies who support rape and abuse victims?

Is it right for a 12-year old to make a decision to "go through" a simulated rape?

I'm sure the director, producer, and others invested in this film are excited by all the press it's getting. This movie would not have been a blip on the map without this scene and a big-name child star.
Both Clayton in Vicksburg, MS and Ann in Atlanta, GA are absolutely right. This is most certainly not the first time a child has acted in a scene that depicts sexual violence towards a child. Both the media and the public are quite arbitrary as to what offends them. As for the Catholic League asking for a federal probe--where were they when real rapes were actually occurring within their church? I guess child pronography is much more offensive than actual child rape and molestation. As a Catholic, I find this absolutely pathetic.
It would be amazing if the same people that are horrified by this film could direct their energy towards efforts to protect this type of thing from happening to children.
To your question: Do you think Dakota is being exploited? Does anyone out there think she isn't?
Every child is different. What may cause severe trauma in one child's life (i.e. acting in a rape scene) my not cause any harm to a child professional such as Dakota. We've all seen her work in past years, well before her pre-teen years, and are well aware of her talent. Perhaps along with her acting that surpasses her years there is an ability to discern between acting as a character and reality. She said she chose the role, and we have to have faith that she knows what she is capable of handling.
Not what a child actor should be asked to do, not a part she should have to play. Life is hard enough, being a child should be something precious not exploited. Very disappointed. Entertainment should be just that, it should lift you up from reality, not shove reality down your throat. If I want to see or hear about rape, I would just turn on the news.
Two things:

First, her initial refusal to speak wih cnn probably has to do with an urban legend that circulated last year on the internet that CNN reported her mysterious death...google this and see the "web screenshot" of the faux story. The face that Dakota might have placed some belief in cnn's complicity on this only goes to show how young she is...

Second, child rape may be a reality, but it is one that is well-documented to be done by pedophiles who engage in their despicable behavior after becoming aroused during so-called normal interactions with children. I second the person who stated that by doing an on-screen rape scene, Dakota Fanning and her parents (who can veto her choices anytime, she is only twelve) are in fact feeding the repulsive desires of countless pedophiles and providing them with a legal conduit for their desires...why do an on-scene rape? Countless movies have dealt with molestation without actually showing it, including Bastard Out of Carolina, which was a far cry from showing an on-screen rape, although it was definitely suggested. Dakota Fanning may be too young to take the blame, MAYBE, but her parents should spend a day with Shasta Groene from Idaho, or Danielle Van Dam's parents, so they can see what comes from on-screen portrayals of child rape and what impact it really has...its not just a movie for them.
Not all movies are supposed to be heart-warming or family-oriented pieces. Some incite political change, some uncover atrocities that have fallen by the wayside. I feel that this film is likely one of the latter - a film that tries to make the viewer understand the depths of human emotion, in such atrocious positions as a victim of rape. While this is not a movie I intend to watch, I can understand the intent of the movie, and I'm glad that we have the freedom to say "Thanks, but no thanks."
Instead of making such a fuss over how the MOVIE is controversial - why don't you spend your energy thinking about the actual problem of child rape we have in our country! You should be THANKING Dakota for bringing this problem to light. I can only hope that this movie is picked up - then maybe the country's children won't have to go through those horrifying experiences.
It is never okay to sexualize a child. It doesn't matter what Dakota Fanning thinks (she's a child, for pete's sake), and it doesn't matter what her parents think. IT IS NEVER OKAY TO SEXUALIZE A CHILD. Period.
She seems like an intelligent young woman. I read a quote from her somewhere that the real sadness is that this is happening to real children every minute, not just movie characters.
Child rape and sexual abuse is awful but is so emotionally charged that we lose all perspective. Far worse things happen every day, and far worse atrocities are portrayed in acclaimed movies (Schindler's List, for one) with far less public outcry.
First and foremost, I would like to say that I am amazed with Dakota Fanning as an actress. I don't think that she is being exploited. If the only parts being exposed are her arms and such, how can you say that she is being exploited. As a parent myself, I am constantly worried about my childs safety, and I belive issues like rape need to be addressed, as I have been through that scenario in my life...Dakota Fanning is 12 years old and old enough to make decisions. I am sure her parents had a long talk with her about the pros and cons about taking on a role such as the one we are talking about. I must also say that I believe Dakota Fanning to be more capable of making decisions about her career than most adults that I know. She is a very smart and brillant young girl. Dakota, if you by chance do read this comment, I would like to tell you to keep up the good work and do what your heart tells you to do!
As an actress, this is a non-issue to me. Dakota Fanning is an actress. Whatever age she may be, this is what she does; she plays characters in films. Hopefully this characterization was well-explained to her prior to deciding to accept this role, but in the big scheme of things, this is a performance. It's not pornography, not exploitation of Dakota Fanning, it's an actress playing a character. End of story.
I think the world has to wake up! Real 12 year olds are being raped in schools everyday by teenage boys. Dakota is a very smart young lady, along with very smart parents. If it was going to hurt her in any metal way they would not have had her do this movie. She has played in a movie where her father killed people, where people where being kidnapped and killed. This is just one more movie in her credit of emotional rolls.
Art should not always be sunny and pretty. Art should also be ugly and disgusting at times. Fanning isn't being exploited - no one put a gun to her head and forced her to act out this role. I'm sure her parents, agent, and herself were very cautious about deciding whether or not this was appropriate. Fanning seems to have a good head on her shoulders, and unlike some of you commenters realizes that this is a FILM, and not reality. If you have objections (and want to bury your heads in the sand and pretend rape never happens) you have the option of not seeing it. But those of us that are intelligent enough to separate fiction from reality would like the option of seeing it if we choose to do so.
I'd like to add to the comment about "Bastard Out Of Carolina." I'm suprised that film hasn't been mentioned in the "official" news reports of this film. Jena Malone portrayed the young rape victim, and was approximately the same age as Dakota was at time of filming, and I couldn't believe my eyes. I knew the subject matter, but for whatever reason word of the actual content was not very highly publicized. Actual thrusting was shown, as well as a very forceful, long kiss, in full view, that the perpretrator forced on her. I read a long article about filming, and the thing to remember is, as the director of "Hounddog" said as well as Angelica Houston (the director of "Bastard"), you'd be suprised how detached they make sure the actress actually is from the simulated physical images. The scenes are so cut and paste, and so much distance is placed between the actress and the perpretrator, that the actresses almost don't even realize how the scene is being put together. For example, in "Bastard" during the thrusting, huge pillows and padding were between their bodies plus they were fully dressed. So essentially, a fully dressed Jena was being pushed around by pillows. She also emerged from the film just fine, and it really makes me think that despite the final cut, they producers and directors really DO know what they are doing. Don't forget, they work extremely closely with the parents, managers, and child psychologists when crafting these scenes.
I have to agree with Kari. Dakota may seem older and more mature than other girls her age because she has had to adapt to always being around other adults. She may also be an actress, and a good one at that. However, simulating a rape and being in such a dark movie can have a deep effect on the mind. She may not see or feel it now, but it has to have had some type of effect. A good parent (or good parents) is supposed to protect his/her children from emotional and physical harm. If Dakota was my child, then I would be careful not to let "art" hurt her. Sure, rape is a reality. It is a very serious offense, which is why I wouldn't want my daughter to even simulate it.
I was pleased to finally see comments from someone who actually saw the movie. Up until now all the outrage has been from groups that haven't. I agree with Dakota when she asked people to reserve judgement until they've seen it. The interviews with the director seem to demonstrate Dakota's well being was considered throughout. I seem to remember similar controversy over the 1997 remake of "Lolita" with Jeremy Irons. Everyone was concerned about whether he and 14 year old Dominique Swain actually had physical contact. That seemed to wane shortly after the movie was released. This is just the issue du jour.

I do not, however, agree that "ultimately" it's her decision to accept the role. I don't think it should only be up to her. As a minor, she has guardians and they should have an active role in helping helping her make decisions, and sometimes overrriding decisions they don't think are in her best interests.
I would never want anyone to watch something like that. I had that happen to my daughter and that was many years ago and I still get sick over child abuse regardless of what anyone else may call it. NO I will not see this movie.
Child rape happens every day, in every country in the world, often times to children much younger than 12. Maybe instead of making such a fuss about one short scene in a movie, people should take their passion and put it to good use - stopping the real child rapes that occur. Young women are forced into prostitution by traffickers who promise them a better life. Young women are raped by relatives. Young women are raped. Like it or not, that's reality.
Interestingly, the actor who played the rape victim in "Bastard Out of Carolina", Jena Malone, was emancipated from her mother in 2000. Her mother was mismanaging her finances. Indeed, Jena continues to take 'edgey' roles, avoiding the low-risk parts. I'd suggest that it's likely related to the family structure but wouldn't bet on it.

To the point of Dakota Fanning's situation, she appears to have a strong family structure, is learning her craft with strong oversight from her parents and educators, and is very involved in the community. I have less concern about Dakota's taking part in this film, than I would have about Jena Malone in her film (which, btw, did appear to be MUCH more violent in concept and execution).
As a victim of childhood sexual abuse myself, I am thrilled that this terrible topic is being brought up in a film. Yes- it's awful, disturbing, horrifying, but it's a truth that actual children experience in the world. To claim that the film is exploiting Dakota is doing a great injustice to all the victims in the world who are truly the ones being exploited. I hope that this film brings attention to the realities of sexual abuse in our world.
This is the problem with youth today, parents are letting them run the house and make all their own decisions. Well of course any child will choose what an adult would do, they want to be grown up. It's sad what television and movies has done to our youth. I know I don't have to watch this movie and I won't. I think anyone who wants to re-create anything so vile is a pervert. Don't tell me it art, it's nothing but evil filth that should never be reproduced for anyone to see, especially our young children. It's bad enough that this happens in real life.
Sundance and Houndog are soaked in controversy for a calculated reason- it's attention, publicity, it sells tickets. American public loves this kind of trash, sensationalism, psuedo-voyeurism. For these reasons, it will be served up in steaming, heaping helpings, as long as someone can make big bucks off of it or until we all eat to much and get sick (of it).
Ann and Patty make excellent points. Why was there no outrage over the rape scene in a "A Time to Kill"? THAT speaks volumes about our society.
This movie is the best of example of pandering as I have ever heard of! The best place for this story is in a book. Of course the subject matter is sadly not uncommon, but why risk hurting a child( and I stress child)?
This whole situation is rediculous. This is not an event where child molesters will get crazy ideas from Hollywood. Child molesters are crazy in themselves. This movie is meant, obviously, to tell a story that is meaningful and powerful. Sometimes, the truth is brutal. If right wingers want to keep restricting the realities of life, no matter how gruesome, then eventually we will all be living in a world of useless naivety. Child pornography? Hardly. Harsh reality that these kinds of things DO happen in our society? Yes. Donahue needs to step off his high horse and stop this rediculous publicity stunt. As he said himself on a radio show this morning, all he really wants to do is start a national discussion about this issue. Well done, mission accomplished. Now stop.
This film isn't going to prompt wackos to run out and rape young children....in fact if it is so hard to watch and it makes the critics squirm in their seats, then maybe that's a good thing and it might bring a much needed focus on global child exploitation and abuse
Not for a minute do I believe that the child actress is being exploited. That girl is light years more mature than the middle schooled aged children with which I work with on a daily basis. You can be rest assured that there was much discussion placed on whether or not Dakota portrayed this part or not.

Unfortuately, there are thousands of 12-year olds that are sexually active. I am sure there are hundreds that are victims of rape. This is a reality of our society that we should address.

If her portrayal of this character is able to shed light on this horrific crime and is able to help eradicate it, then, kudos to Dakota and the others who helped make the film! A 12-year old playing a 12-year old is much more realistic than a 21-year old playing a 12-year old!

And, by the way, I am an educator and the mother of two daughters, not much older than Dakota.
I haven't seen the movie. From what I read, Ms. Fanning is not in any nude scenes. Only her face, hand and a foot can be seen. Child rape is not something this film introduces to the society. It's there. Think about all the (thousands of) children who has been raped. People who are complaining about exploitation of Ms. Fanning, are you doing anything to stop real rapists? Do you complain about toy guns? Video games which has insane killings? Children in bikinis? These seem normal to you?

Ms. Fanning is 12 years old. Her parents supported this decision. From the flim clips I have seen, she acted well. What's your problem!
Let's just home Miss Fanning got paid well for selling her soul.
Not all movies are made for lighthearted entertainment. I expect that this movie was meant to make people uncomfortable with the subject matter.

I've hears several movies mentioned that have been about child rape, but the one thing I don't remember seeing mentioned is Dakota Fanning's CSI role where she played the victim of incestual rape at the age of (I'm guessing) 5. That was a disturbing and powerful episode.
I agree on what has been said concerning the fact that, unfortunately, child rape is a real ocurrance in this country. Seeing, hearing, and speaking no evil does not mean that the evil does not exist, as we are all very aware. Imagine what would (or really, wouldn't) have happened if Martin Luther King, Jr. hadn't made people uncomfortable forty years ago in this country. While I'm not relating one movie to the entire movement that this great man generated, uncomfortable and disgusting realities have to be faced in order to combat them.

Dakota Fanning and her parents made a decision to be part of this movie, and that was their choice alone to make. As she said, it was a role in a movie. On set, these scenes are incredibly different than what we see on screen. I'm sure it wasn't an easy scene to perform, but it's no one else's choice to determine what this girl--who obviously is incredibly mature for her age--chooses to do.
I think this controversy is overblown. Dakota Fanning is an actress. It's not real life. To think she will somehow be traumatized by acting out this scene is a bit naive.

In "Man on Fire" Dakota's character was kidnapped, held hostage, and watched someone shot to death in front of her. Is she traumatized by these violent scenes?

I think not. By her own statement she understands it is simply acting. It's amazing to me how many folks out there think children are stupid and need protecting from anything that might shatter the illusion we live in a perfect world.
People, IT'S A MOVIE! It's acting. She's not being raped. My goodness, can't people tell the difference between reality and movies?

If you're not comfortable with what's being shown, fine. Don't go to the movie.

Do not be so presumptuous as to think you have the right to impose your morals and beliefs on the whole of a nation.

How ignorant to think you're that superior.
As a sexual assault nurse examiner and a professional advocate for women and children, I am truly torn on the statement this movie will portray to the public. Child sexual abuse and other forms of sexual exploitation is an all-to familiar crime against humanity at global porportions. When movies depict the harsh realities of our times, hopefully, the motive is to raise awareness, educate and cause an uneasiness that will force people to get involved and become advocates themselves. My concern is not about this one disturbing scene but how this issue is handled throughout the movie. Is there a realistic resolution? Does it show the health/legal interventions , the long term therapy that is needed to repair such a victim of violence, the reality that there are not enough resources in this world to adequately take care of these victims, etc.

I just hope this child rape scene is not for shock value, we get enough of that in our daily news, but one that stimulates thought-provoking concern and action among its viewers.

As for the concern that this will cause or influence others to commit such crimes is unlikely. Pedophiles, Rapists, and other perpetrators of violent crimes have long histories of dysfunctional roots and these tendencies are already well ingrained.
( a beer commercial does not make one an alcoholic)

On behalf of all the victims and survivors of these horrific crimes, I just pray that this "issue" is depicted in a responsible way.
I think that most people here are overlooking the fact that in the U.S. every year over 5,000 rape cases are reported by children under the age of 16. Those are just the ones that are reported people! I know it doesn't seem like a lot when you look at the population of America, but if your child were part of that 5,000, would you think any differently? I think that Dakota Fanning is a great actress and by doing this part she's showing us all something that a lot of people need to see. It's not some quiet thing that happens in the dark of the night we should all just ignore. In order to stop things, we need to bring them to light. Sometimes it takes something horrific to show everyone, "HEY!, this happens." I don't think for one second that Dakota made this choice on her own. I realize she's a 12 year old little girl, and she has parents. I'm sure no parent would let their child make this decision without informing them of the consequences. She's a very intelligent young lady, and I know she did this for a reason some of you can't understand, but in the end, she's doing more good than bad. Next time we all start to criticize someone for making a decision like this, think about your child, or your niece, or sister. What would you want?
Dakota has also played a child watching her world fall to aliens and a child who has been forcibly kidnapped and see people shot and killed.

And at a far younger age.

She's apparently a fantastic actor who has had the good fortune to get seriously meaty roles. And somehow remain a child.

Good for her.
First off, if it wasn't Dakota Fanning, it would have been another young actress who did this movie. So how would this have played out? Some obscure actress playing the part, one that we didn't hear about before? Would we even be talking about it so much then?

As to whether or not she's being exploited, I don't think she is. But whether or not she is, I think as an experienced actress (and she is) and being an experienced theatre actor myself, she knew the risks going in. She's got a lot of credits going in, and this is just another to tack on. People think she's a regular 12 year old, and while I don't personally know the girl, I would think that being in the limelight so much would change her.

Finally, it is a film that, I think, is at least meaningful. It has some texture to it, some connection to the everyday world, so why not? However violent and horrific it is, it is truthful because this happens everyday, and is probably happening now.

I'd also like to say to Kari to not judge her parents and say they aren't doing their job: her daughter has done close to ten, fifteen movies now? She's obviously been guided well.
My daughter was raped while a student at the University of Virginia. Her experience was devastating. The controversy over this movie seems to be about the age of the actress rather than the way we perceive this crime. If she was 20 would it be ok?
As a playwright living in New York, I have to work with actors quite often. A good actor always has to internalize the role she plays, as well as the action of the scenes. I think it's not appropriate for a twelve year old girl to enact a rape scene, with her hands, shoulders, or any other part of her body. I wouldn't cast a 12 year old for this role. There are plenty of older actors who look like children, but who are better prepared for this kind of subject matter. It is Dakota's remarkable talent that is clearly being exploited. Even though she sounds like a mature adult, she is just a child. The adults entrusted with her care should only permit her to act in roles appropriate for her age.
I am sure the majority of readers out there haven't seen the recently revised, "The Hills have Eyes" In it a girl of similar age is raped, and i can assure you that it is much more graphic than what has been explained above. It was by far the most horrific scene i have ever watched in a movie. As a veteran of 3 wars, this is the nightmare that wakes me up screaming at night. That said, I feel that this is America, we can CHOOSE to film something that DOES happen in our reality. If we chose to sit back and ignore it, it will only continue to happen more often to more people. We can also CHOOSE to act in a role, and most of all we can CHOOSE NOT TO WATCH.
My husband and I both found the idea of Fanning doing a scene like this at her age beyond disturbing.

I'll tell you one thing, I have a daughter who is just her age and there is no way I would let her act in such a scene.

I hate to think of all the sickos who are going to get thrills out of this movie. Underwear and a thin tank top? Don't young actresses have enough trouble with stalkers without adding this fuel to the fire?

Child rape might be reality, yes. But this is not a documentary, and in my opinion, it is not entertainment, either. It won't get a penny of my money.
This debate was covered with Ingmar Bergmann's 1959 film "Virgin Spring." The media has a short memory, and so do current culture critics. I suggest they go rent "Virgin Spring," digest it, and compare the scenes. If I could see a film like this nearly 50 years ago, what is the big stink about in 2007? Get a grip!
At the age of 12, I was raped by my sister's 30 year old fiance.

That, my freinds, is child exploitation.

Ms Fanning seems to be an intellegent, articulate child. I for one am extremely thankful to her for being courageous enough to spotlight this issue.

She speaks for all 12 year old girls. She had the choice to do this MOVIE. We victims didn't have the choice while we were raped.
It would be interesting to see what would happen if these organizations who are against the scene in question put their resources towards stopping the real rapes that happen every day. This is acting.
if it will bother you, do not go and see it.
Acting is different and from my experience,(I started acting at 8), it was always left up to me whether I felt comfortable with a role. There is nothing I regret about those decisions. At 12, Fanning knows what she can handle as far as roles she accepts. It sound like the director has been supportive of her decisions as well by continuously communicating with her. Acting is Dakota Fanning's art. I am sure she is not hurting for roles. It is apparent she chose to do this role because she was ready for the challenge as an actress and she really wanted to tell this story.
I agree with Tina.

As a survivor of both sexual abuse as a child and rape, I applaud young Ms. Fanning and the director of this film for bringing these issues to the forefront of American pop culture.

Everyone wants to sweep this issue under the carpet - as they always have. No one wants to believe a child when s/he tries to tell a grownup, no one wants to hear his/her story even when s/he is an adult. Well, I for one am glad that films and books like this exist to slap people into reality. Some people didn't grow up in a little nicey-nice world like you, sweepers, and it's time you pay attention! The only way to get work done about cultural problems is by awareness and education. Come on, dont try to deny it: yes child abuse is a cultural problem just as the pervasive violence against women and indeed the pervasive violence in general in our American culture is.

Dakota Fanning was not abused. If you want a horror story, I can give you one. Dakota Fanning was in a controlled atmosphere, with loving and supportive adults around her, and was never harmed during the filming; and at the age of 12 - just ask any psychologist - a normal child, not to mention an exceptionally bright child like Ms. Fanning - knows the difference between reality and fantasy. Movies aren't real, you nicey-nice people.

If you're mad about this film, I suggest you channel that energy in a healthy way and volunteer at a local women's shelter or at a rape crisis center. "If you wanna change the world, just shut your mouth and start this minute. (Cracker song)

Blessed Be!
It would be interesting to hear Brooke Shields' and Jodie Foster's retrospective thoughts on having played exploited children when they were young, as they are mothers now. Would they make the same choice for their own children now? And if not, why not.
I am just in awe of some of these comments. Talking about how this is going to make people start running out and raping children, etc. One woman even wrote "child rape might be a reality", MIGHT BE, are you kidding me? Child rape happens EVERY day. If this movie brings attention to the cause then praise God! Someone needs to bring attention on this matter to the surface. Someone also wrote "we see enough of this on the news". I bet they turn the channel or don't even pay attention to that news story either. People don't want to hear about a 12 year old getting raped, or about a 6 year old that was sold in to sex slavery in Cambodia, or even about the 20 year old getting raped in college. Why don't people want to talk about it? This is a seriously, devastating issue that needs to be addressed. Just because you don't want to talk about it doesn't mean it isn't happening. You can't turn your head because it isn't happening to your child. Some of you people need to get a grip and stop blaming a 12 year old actress for this whole story. If this story, whether you see the film or not, causes parents to talk to their children about the dangers of the world and keeps one child from being exploited and harmed then I think the whole conversation is worth it.
Having read each and every post that CNN has put on this blog it seems to me that certain post ooze judgement on the parents, her agent, Dakota herself, the director, the postman who delievered the mail, the candlestick maker and just about anyone else involved. Having viewed a clip of the movie it seems that the scene was handled delicately. Two post mentioned this but I recall there was not this much uproar when " A Time to Kill" was made and that was much more graphic. To the people judging her parents at this day in age 12 isn't what it used to be. There are 12 year olds out here having babies. I don't hear/see groups protesting, or having a problem with that. I believe her parents are doing a very good job raising her, I don't believe that her parents allowed her to make this decision without there input. At 12 years of age children need to learn how weigh the pros and cons of life decisions. 12 isn't that far from 18.
I didn't see anybody putting a gun to her head and forcing her to play this role. She's not being exploited
Child abuse is real & people need to work to stop it.
Dakota has done some "dark" roles but seems more level & grounded than Lindsay Lohan who has done mostly light & fluffy stuff- Parent Trap remake & Herbie movie. I have faith in Dakota coming thru her teens & 20s sober & smart since she knows more about the dark side of life and the world already.

It would be good to get the "been there, done that" perspective from Jody Foster & Brooke Sheilds.
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