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Dakota Fanning’s Controversial Scene April 24, 2007

Posted by rachaelg in child abuse, Dakota Fanning, rape.

At 12 years old, Dakota Fanning is already a seasoned actress.  Recently, she has generated a lot of talk concerning her rape scene in the film Hounddog (The Smoking Gun has posted the written scene).  Director/screenwriter Deborah Kampmeier is quick to point out that “there is no nudity or explicit violence in this scene. All nudity and violence is implied.”  Do not continue reading if this subject matter makes you uncomfortable.

The film takes place in the Deep South in the 1950s, and features a young Elvis fan, Lewellen (played by Fanning).  In the controversial scene, Lewellen is taken to a shed by her friend Buddy and performs a seductive dance in the nude for another boy in the hopes of acquiring Elvis concert tickets.  It is then that the rape occurs. 

The issues raised by the scene are about rights on both sides.  On one hand, there is concern for Fanning; even adult actresses have expressed the emotional pain, difficulty, and trauma of having to do a rape scene.  Fanning is undoubtedly a mature 12 year-old, but should she have been allowed to take on this project?  Rumor has it that her “people” (her mother, agent, etc.) thought this would be a good film to get her on the “Oscar track.”  Does asking a twelve-year old to simulate being raped constitute child abuse? 

On the other hand, Fanning read the script, signed the contract, and agreed to play the part with full knowledge of what that agreement entailed.  (The other side would argue that a child should not be allowed to make that decision, but should be protected from it.)  Fanning herself responded: “It’s not really happening,” she said of the controversial scene. “It’s a movie, and it’s called acting. I’m not going through anything. And for me, when it’s done it’s done. I don’t even think about it any more.”

And what about Kampmeier’s right to make her film?  People offended or uncomfortable with the material do not have to go see it (if it is ever allowed to be shown in the U.S.).  I don’t think she should be censored because of disturbing material, but then how can she fulfill her vision and also protect the rights of children? 

I have yet to sort out my feelings on this matter, so I’m bringing it to you.  As awful as it is, children have been victims of rape, but does that give filmmakers the right to portray it onscreen with child actresses?

Despite the lack of nudity and the sensitivity with which the scene was filmed (nothing explicit, lightning flashes reveal close-ups of Fanning’s pained face or hand), several aspects of the written scene disturbed me.  You may say, “that’s the point,” but, “Lewellen moves back fast trippin over an old two by four with rusted nails provocatively exposed” and “We see Lewellen’s clothes hit the floor. Lewellen’s underwear hits the floor hard, with defiance” seem odd stage directions.



1. Dakota Fanning, and the limits of art? « The Tween Scene - April 29, 2007

[…] 29th, 2007 · No Comments There was a post over at the main blog about a controversial scene in the upcoming movie Hounddog, starring Dakota […]

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