Young actress’ rape scene stirs up controversy

By Monica Burke
February 8, 2007


One of America’s youngest sweethearts has been caught up in the critical storm of Hollywood’s scrutiny. The film “Hounddog,” which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, has critics both shocked and outraged.

Fanning, who is known for roles in movies such as “Uptown Girls,” “War of the Worlds,” and “Charlotte’s Web,” stars in the movie “Hounddog.” The film, which is set in 1960’s south, features a very grown up scene. Too grown up for the 12-year old actress some feel.

Fanning plays a child who idolizes Elvis Presley, while also dealing with her grandmother’s alcoholism and neglect from her father. What is causing the controversy? A five minute long rape scene featuring an underage child, which some critics consider child abuse.

The director of the film, Deborah Kampmeier, worked diligently to get the film into production for ten years. She encountered opposition because of the rape scene. Unwilling to compromise, she finally managed to complete her project.

Bill Donohue, a leader in the ultra-conservative Catholic League, is one of the main voices opposing the movie. He has called for a boycott, citing the scene as child abuse.

Fanning however has defended the film saying, “It’s not a rape movie. That’s not even the point of the film.”

Another critic, Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television commission, claims that the rape scene breaks child pornography laws. He claims that Fanning was exploited in the movie, largely in part because of her age.

He said, “Children at 12 do not have the ability to make the types of decisions that we’re talking about here. If we’re offended by some comedian’s racial slur, why aren’t we offended by someone taking advantage of a 12-year old child?”

The director insisted that the issue had been discussed with all of the children and their parents before the scene took place. Fanning said, “It’s not really happening, it’s a movie and it’s called acting. I’m not really going through it. And for me when it is done, it’s done. I don’t even think about it anymore.”

Freshman business major Erin Rafferty said, “I think that at 12-years old, Dakota doesn’t fully understand the gravity of a scene like this. When she grows up, maybe she will see how much of an impact rape has on a society.”

Tara Evison, a sophomore psychology major, said “When I was 12-years- old, I didn’t really even know the extent of what rape was. I don’t think this little girl does either. She’s just going along with what people want her to say.”

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Monica Burke

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