Sometimes it seems the whole world is watching when it is only your neighbors. Certainly the world isn’t watching me, what I say, when I talk about the movie Hound Dog staring the child actress Dakota Fanning. But judging from emails and posts on the internet you would think that the whole world is indeed watching.
Maybe it is but when I check the traffic on our website there is no huge spike in visitors. No more than any other month we have had controversial topics. 250,000 hits a month is about average, we had maybe a 15% jump in the number of hits. Nothing to brag about, nothing to be able to claim that talk of Dakota Fanning created any major stir.
Except that this did cause my email box to be stuffed with atta-boys as well as some vicious complaints.
For those of you new to this I will fill you in. A movie was just filmed in this area staring Dakota Fanning, a 12 year old actress who has been as busy as any actress in Hollywood . Hide and Seek, Man on Fire, I am Sam and War of the Worlds, just to name a few of her accomplishments. Anyway this 12 year-old star portrays a 9 year old girl who finds herself in various sexually explicit scenes, including a rape that was rumored to show her either nude or partially dressed.
We hit on this back in June when I received a copy of the script. Outraged? Yes! Completely. Shocked is more like it. Shocked that there are laws against such things and no one seems to give a damn.
Originally I was hearing all kind of stories from crew members about this and that. But I wasn’t hearing from the authorities.
In July we contacted authorities about what we believed to be a cut and dry case of the sexual exploitation of a minor. Why did we do that? Because it is a state law that mandates any person that has reason to believe a crime against a child has taken place, that person is required by law to report such beliefs. Initially we were told that authorities were investigating the accusations. We have not made any attempt to follow up because that is not our job. Our job as a citizen is to make the report. That is what is required of us by law.
As a father, a worker in the film industry, as a man, and as a loud mouth radio show producer, I, we, Marc and myself , spoke up, stood up. There are many reasons to do so. Some reasons are simple; what were the guardians of these children staring in this movie thinking when they read this script and allowed their child to play these roles?
But there are many more complex reasons to talk about this, to stand up, and those reasons are more difficult to communicate. We had child-star advocate Paul Petersen of A Minor Consideration on our show to help us understand this new “cult of personality” created by children playing roles more and more frequently cast in adult situations with sexual overtones. He addressed how Hollywood chews up children and spits them out and how North Carolina has suspended the Child Labor laws for the movie industry in order to allow children to work as adults. Hopefully he was able to clear up some issues surrounding this aspect.
Another complex issue this movie brings up is reform. Back in the heyday of Wilmington’s film making history a movie called the Crow was shot at what was then called Carolco Studios, it is now Screen Gems. The Crow had many safety issues the most famous issue was the accidental shooting death of the star Brandon Lee, famous Kung Fu master, Bruce Lee’s son. I met Brandon when he was here, he used to work out at a gym a friend of mine got me to go to once and a while. He was a nice guy, friendly and approachable. But corners were cut and care was not taken on set and Brandon died as a result. No one on the crew from North Carolina was at fault. The blame was at the feet of the producers of this film. Since then the local union, and a Carolco and later Screen Gems employee named Gerald Waller worked to make sure this area would be known for making safety on set a priority.
See even though we, the film makers of North Carolina were not to blame for Brandon Lee’s death, we stood up and rallied to educate a concerned film community. So just as then we need to look at child labor and the use of children in film. This is our opportunity to stand up, to speak up. Why should North Carolina be the place Lolita, Bastard out of Carolina and now Hound Dog come when searching for a location to shoot a movie with scenes of disturbing violence against children? It is a question worth discussing.
But our primary reason for jumping on this story with such passion is because we do a show that spends a lot of time talking about crime in order to bridge a gap between law enforcement and the public. Building trust. We don’t much care about who shot John when and where, we want to know why this crime took place and what is being done to stop it from happening again.
So where does the Blue Line Radio Show fit in regarding Hound Dog? Over the past few years it seems some of our constitutionally protected rights have been eroded away. A combination of controversial art and internet images of children engaged in actual act of sex with adults alarmed Congress to such an extent some laws were created that limit what you can and can not do with children. For instance the child pornography law says the child does not have to be nude, the child does not actually have to be committing a real sex act, the child can just be portrayed as just being involved in a sex act. In fact the exact definition explicit act of sex by the federal government is “actual or simulated” in depictions of the minor child being involved in act of intercourse, masturbation, etc. Actual or simulated.
A woman just pleaded guilty to the federal charges of child pornography because she owned a pay website featuring images of her 10 year old daughter dressed.. not nude but clothed. But because this website catered to a select group of individuals that most likely had issues with fantasy this woman was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Twelve years for non-nude images of a 10 year old girl.
Now the exact same law can be used against the makers of Hound Dog. Certainly if this woman can go prison for 12 years for recording her daughter on film in non-sexually explicit acts then what about a movie that portrays a 9 year old girl doing a strip show for tickets to see Elvis, what about a movie that shows this girl force 2 other children at gunpoint to strip naked and touch each other?
WHAT ABOUT PICTURES I TAKE OF MY SON IN THE BATH TUB? Or my daughter in her dance costume and post it on my myspace.com website?
If you convict one, the Law tells me you must convict all. If a segment of the population is targeted for selling crack on the street corners why not enforce the same laws in the law offices, real estate offices, swanky restaurants and bars at Wrightsville Beach?
You think we are getting heat from this Dakota thing, wait until we blow the lid off who is doing drugs in Wilmington and who is turning the other way. We will be dead before we get out of the parking lot. And why is that? All too often money and politics interfere with the administration of Justice handcuffing law enforcement .
The idea that the movie industry has special favors is troubling.
Since day one all we have asked for is an investigation. Go to our archives and review our shows, watch the news interviews on WECT and WWAY, we have said from the beginning that we want an investigation. That’s it.
Make a decision is it a crime or not? Be public about it because I sure don’t want to go to prison for something someone else skated past with community blessings.
I mean I’m not saying I will do a movie featuring similar scenes as described in the Hound Dog script but if I did, I bet I would be shipped to sing-sing faster than you could say, Kiddie Porn.
The sad thing is if I wasn’t sent to prison I would most likely become a very rich man. Sad indeed. But also true.
As a psychology major, and a child advocate, with a history of counseling children struggling to survive sexual abuse, I find the script to have absolutely no scholarly solutions, as it claims, to address such issues portrayed by this film’s director/writer in her script. Whether or not I find this movie artistic or even tolerable is based on opinion. My expert opinion is reserved for the film’s ability to follow thru with their claim of it being an oasis to those who have suffered childhood abuse. That part I can back up because this movie will fail to bring hope to the victims of child abuse.
The rest is really up to you. The laws governing obscenity gauge what is right or wrong based on community standards. A motion picture image of a 9 year-old child watching her father masturbate is something that you need to determine whether or not it is something you can live with and perhaps defend. Because once this image is signed off on, by this community and others, you can bet your last dollar that more will follow.
So what do you think? Does this film offer artistic merit? Is it educationally beneficial to survivors of childhood sexual abuse? Is it something that is just wrong and should not be allowed into your community because it is obscene? Let us know, let us all know would you.