Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New York Times: Furor over 12-year-old actress’s rape scene

New York Times:
"LOS ANGELES, Jan. 19 — [D. F.] will turn 13 next month, and she has a short answer for anyone who questions her decision to play a 1950s girl who gyrates in her underwear, wakes up as her naked father climbs into her bed, demands that a prepubescent boy expose himself to her in exchange for a kiss and, finally, is raped by a teenager who lures her with tickets to an Elvis concert:

She’s growing up. Get used to it.

Ms. [F], best known for leading roles in children’s movies like “Dreamer” and “Charlotte’s Web,” thrillers like “Man on Fire” and “War of the Worlds,” and the horror film “Hide and Seek,” now is starring in “Hounddog,” an independent film that is to have its premiere on Monday at the Sundance Film Festival. It has already won attention far out of proportion to its budget of less than $4 million. ..."

This story was linked in PresbyWeb (subscription required, but a free trial period is offered) and it raises serious and disturbing issues.

This is not the first time that child actors have taken on roles that are questionable.

The young girl who played Regan in The Exorcist had a difficult time during her adolescent years involving living with her boyfriend at age 15 and serious drug charges in the late 1970's. Eventually she started making better choices, and while her film career was not anything like the heady days of The Exorcist, where she was in the running for an Oscar, she has done found fulfilment as an advocate for animal cruelty issues.

In the years following The Exorcist, Pretty Baby (1977) and The Blue Lagoon (1980 remake), both starring the same child actress/model, raised issues of propriety and child pornography. To be fair, this actress took four years off from her film and modeling career and earned a degree in French Literature at Princeton University and did not seem to have the issues with drugs as the girl who acted in The Exorcist.

Reading the New York Times article on the 12-year-old who acts in Hounddog, and the answers she gave to interviewers, I have to question whether any child of that age can give informed consent to play such roles. Who is making the decisions here?

Child actors have a hard time just being normal children without dealing with issues that they should not have to deal with at their age. I sincerely hope that the actress in Hounddog does not go the way of many of her predecessors.

Still, it is strangely comforting that people who have been treated to some pretty raw stuff on television and at the movies, are still capable of being offended.


Quotidian Grace said...

Preach it, Denis! I couldn't agree with you more. Where are this child's parents? As the mother of two daughters I can state with authority that it would have been a cold day you-know-where before I ever would have permitted either of them to act in such scenes. What happened to the custom of using adults who look very young to play such roles?

Denis Hancock said...

The funny thing is that when the movies of the 1970s came out, my attitude was "It's just a movie. Lighten up."

Seeing firsthand with my own child how popular culture worms its way into attitudes has been a real eye-opener.