Dakota Fanning in the controversial “Hounddog” film that features a child-rape scene
The Dakota Fanning movie “Hounddog,” opposed by family organizations for its depiction of a rape of the 12-year-old actress, earned a stunningly low $12,500 for its opening weekend, according to one film ratings website.
The Numbers website noted it played in 11 theaters across Canada and the U.S. with an average gate of only about $1,100 for each theater.
The movie has been the subject of several investigation requests and was targeted just a week ago in a boycott launched by noted movie critic Ted Baehr of Movieguide and the Christian Film & Television Commission.
“These despicable movies promote pedophilia, whether intentionally or unintentionally,” said Baehr. “There should be a massive public outcry against them. The inclusion of children in sexually explicit films is inappropriate. There also is no excuse for the authorities to allow such material to be shown publicly.”
“As an adult whose job should be protecting children, we have to realize there are those who are willing to accept the blurring of lines between adults and children in sexual acts,” said Donna Miller, chief of the No More Child Porn campaign, which joined with Baehr. “Even experts such as the American Psychological Association promoted the blurring of those lines when they published in their journal the Rind Study that stated that sex between men and nine-year-old boys was not always harmful.
“I believe [director] Deborah Kampmeier also blurred those lines when she made Dakota Fanning’s character a sexually aggressive little girl at the age of nine,” Miller said.
“Much has been made about the rape scene regarding lighting – indicating that it was done in taste, etc. But there is no doubt that Fanning’s character asked a boy to expose himself, that she would give him a kiss for doing so, and had done so with other boys. What does this tell other little girls,” Miller continued.
“I’m happy that lack of ticket sales seem to indicate that America is not ready to pass this benchmark of sexualization of children yet,” she said.
A listing of the weekend’s top 40 movies put “Lakeview Terrace” in the No. 1 spot with a weekend gross of $15.6 million. But it didn’t list “Hounddog.” The service gave the movie a “B-” as a grading from 14 respondents.
Among the comments from various reviewers:
- “Kampmeier … has crafted a howler of a bad script, shows little affinity for working with actors and displays no visual sense behind the camera.”
- “Rarely has there been a movie as misguided as Hounddog, which self-righteously indulges in exploitation while loudly decrying it.”
- “Take away the ‘hound’ part of the title and you have an appropriate descriptor of this production.”
Alex Jackson at FilmFreakCentral wrote earlier: “The film is offensive in precisely the way you think it’s going to be but surprised you by becoming offensive on a whole new level. Everything in the film revolves around a scene where Dakota Fanning is raped … Before The Rape, ‘Hounddog’ plays like one big striptease leading up to it: in the very first scene, Fanning promises her playmate a kiss if he shows her his penis, and throughout the picture, Kampmeier has her prancing around in her panties, gyrating in her rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘Hounddog,’ and going swimming in an undershirt.”
The director, Jackson wrote, “dramatizes that age-old justification for sexual aggression: the b**** was asking for it. The b**** in this case, of course, being a 12-year-old girl.”
Vic Holtreman at ScreenRant wrote of Fanning’s dancing: “Seeing an undeveloped 12 year old moving like that is just plain creepy.”
“I ‘ve never seen a 12 year old wearing just underwear in a movie in so many scenes. There were also instances of her lifting her dress to carry fruit or to pull something she’d been carrying out of her underwear,” Holtreman wrote.
“Those creepy guys who ogle kids underwear ads in the JC Penny (sic) catalog will no doubt enjoy this film, everyone else… not so much,” he said.
Roger Ebert called it “grotesque and lurid” and said the movie was “assembled from the debris of countless worn-out images of the Deep South.”
The film debuted at the 2007 Sundance festival, but the graphic sex scared away the money needed for distribution until Empire Film Group jumped into the project. Spokesman Dean Hamilton-Bornstein called it a “coming-of-age drama that deals with serious issues that should resonate with audiences.”
“We request that the Department of Justice investigate those responsible for producing, distributing and making available the movie ‘Hounddog.'” the letter from Miller to Mukasey said.
According to a parent-managed website, there are a number of objectionable scenes involving sex and nudity, including:
- Lewellen (Dakota Fanning) tries to talk a 10-year-old boy into showing her his penis by promising him a kiss if he does so.
- Lewellen (Dakota Fanning) sits in a tree nude talking to an adult male.
- Daddy (David Morse) sneaks into Lewellen’s (Dakota Fanning) bedroom as Lewellen lays in bed in her underpants. Later, he climbs in her bed nude.
- A 12-year-old girl watches her father undress.
- Daddy (David Morse) pleasures himself as his daughter (Dakota Fanning) watches until he completes the act.
- There are upshots of little girls’ underwear, aged 8 and 12.
- A 12-year-old girl is raped by a young man in the darkness. Screams and a few images are shown.
- A 10-year-old boy watches a young milkman rape a 12-year-old friend.
- A 12-year-old girl is told to remove her clothes by a young man (Christoph Sanders), and she then proceeds to do a seductive Elvis dance for him.
- A 12-year-old ties two nearly nude children together with snakes and forces them to touch one another at gunpoint.
- Lewellen (Dakota Fanning) stands in front of the full length mirror, takes her clothes off and looks at herself in the mirror.
- Lewellen (Dakota Fanning) and Buddy (Cody Hanford) have just finished swimming in the creek when they run to a shed and strip naked. They begin kissing and fondling each other.
The letter warned the Department of Justice efforts to crack down on child predators and child sexual exploitation would be “handcuffed” if the sexual exploitation of a child is filmed, shown in movie theaters, given tax breaks and excused as “artistic.”
Miller previously raised concerns after the taxpayers in North Carolina contributed $387,000 to the production costs of the film.
“Hounddog” director Deborah Kampmeier explained in the film’s press kit about Fanning, “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.”
Said Miller: “This movie is about a 9-year-old girl, not an adult woman. She should be outside skipping rope or riding her bike, not ‘celebrating the power and creative force of her sexuality.'”
Baehr was more direct.
“For this gruesome director who has wallowed in perversion to say this is the child exploring her sexuality is insane. It’s worse than insane. A child of that age doesn’t understand the consequences,” he said.
After its Sundance screening, Rex Gore, the district attorney in Bolivia, N.C., near where much of the movie was filmed, issued a statement to WND that
he found “no violation” of the state’s obscenity or sexual exploitation laws.
He said the movie was saved by its “artistic value.”
Blogger Steve Pill said it appears the public already had made its statement.
“I received a somewhat rueful message of congratulations from Eric Parkinson, the CEO of distribution for Empire Film Group,” he wrote. “According to him, more than 200 theaters across the country had cancelled their scheduled screenings of the motion picture ‘Hounddog,’ citing pressure from ‘vocal groups.'”
Fanning’s behavior has been described as more explicit than what was required of Jodie Foster, who as a 12-year-old played a prostitute in “Taxi
Driver,” a 1976 Martin Scorsese production, or Brooke Shields, who was a New Orleans brothel worker in the “Pretty Baby” movie from 1978.