Filmmaker Global Road Entertainment has failed – big time – to fulfill its promise to clean up scenes in a children’s movie in which a talking police dog is required to let his genitals be fondled.
Hit by a flood of negative publicity and criticism after its first release, Global Road promised to “recut” the scenes in “Show Dogs,” which critics charged would “groom children to be open to having people touch their privates.”
On Wednesday, however, Dawn Hawkins, executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, or NCOSE, pointed out the controversial scenes remain in the second release.
The dog detective, Max, goes undercover at a dog show to rescue a kidnapped baby panda. Max is forced to endure a genital examination, which is required for contestants. The dog is clearly uncomfortable with the requirement but is advised to just endure it and go to a “Zen place.” Later, it turns out the unwanted touching pays off as he advances to the final round.
Hawkins said Global Road Entertainment “has betrayed parents and endangered children by its failure to cut scenes normalizing genital touching from its children’s movie.”
“By sending the message to children that allowing genital touching by adults is rewarding and sexy, ‘Show Dogs’ paves the way for child abusers,” she said.
The movie, said Hawkins, has a “significant story arc normalizing genital touching to child audiences.”
She explained the company, following a “firestorm of criticism” about the scenes, had promised to “recut” and re-release the movie.
NCOSE screened it immediately on its second release.
“We strongly advise the parents and caregivers to not take children to this film,” Hawkins said.
She said the public took in good faith Global Road Entertainment’s move to recut “Show Dogs” to make it appropriate for children.
“However genital touching of the lead dog character remains a pivotal aspect of the film’s narrative. Apparently, having the film back in theaters in time for the Memorial Day holiday box office was more important than protecting children,” she said.
“Even after undergoing a so-called recut, scenes in which a dog must have his private parts touched remain. In the course of the genital touching, the dog is uncomfortable and wants it to stop but is told to go to a ‘happy place’ because submitting to genital touching is an essential element of winning the dog show,” Hawkins continued. “Later, in a climactic moment at the dog show, the dog submits to genital touching and is rewarded with advancing to the final round of the competition. This achievement is celebrated to the tune of ‘Sexy and I Know It.’
Hawkins said children’s movies “must be held to a higher standard, and must teach children bodily autonomy, the ability to say ‘no’ and safety, not confusing messages endorsing genital touching.”
She pointed out that the rate of sexual abuse among U.S. children is already estimated to be 20 percent for girls and 8 percent for boys.
“‘Show Dogs’ has thrown another log on that fire,” she said. “In an industry riddled with sexual harassment and abuse scandals perpetrated against both children and adults, ‘Show Dogs’ is prime evidence of how Hollywood fosters #KidsToo.”
Columnist Elissa Strauss, writing at CNN.com, said: “Should this [scenario] have come out before #MeToo turned our communal attention to the ubiquity of sexual abuse and harassment, the inclusion of this plot line would have been regrettable. The fact that it happened afterward is mind-boggling.”
She said such an “oversight shows that, despite all the waking up we’ve done in the past year, there’s still a lot more to do.”
“This is particularly the case when it comes to addressing sexual abuse of children, who’ve largely been shielded from the recent headlines by parents who aren’t ready to expose them to the worst of humankind,” wrote Strauss.
“But the fact that sexual abuse was ever-so-casually played for laughs in a new children’s movie is evidence that this is something we need to directly address with our children – now.”
Strauss wrote: “As pointed out by Terina Maldonado – publisher of East Mesa Macaroni Kid, a site about the Arizona town outside Phoenix, and author of a post on the film that first drew attention to the issue – these scenes give children the idea that it’s OK for strangers to touch their genitals. And what if they don’t like it? No problem, just think of something nice and calm. It’s a message that will ‘groom children to be open to having people touch their privates, even though they don’t want it,’ she wrote.”