Social media has been blowing up with reviews of “Show Dogs” — for a disturbing reason.
Reviewers are voicing concerns about whether the new PG-rated kids’ film “Show Dogs” is subtly conditioning kids to be groomed for sexual molestation. Yes, really.
In the film, an anthropomorphized police dog named Max (played by Ludacris) goes undercover at a dog show to gather intelligence on a crime. As part of the operation, he has to prepare to compete in a dog show.
One of the requirements of the show is an “inspection” of a dog’s “private parts” by the judges. While rehearsing for this part of the show, Max is uncomfortable and says so. His trainers coach him on how to go to a “happy/zen” place while it’s happening so that he can get through it. He resists at first, but by the time the show comes around — with everything riding on his ability to get through the inspection — he successfully disassociates from the fondling as viewers get a look at his happy place.
Um, yeah. That’s problematic.
Parents and child advocacy groups alike have voiced their concerns over the scenes.
Terina Maldonado at Macaroni Kid wrote, “During the movie, I kept thinking, ‘This is wrong, it doesn’t need to be in a kids movie. Everything else in the movie is good fun except for this.’ Afterward, my husband mentioned that he picked up on this message too, as did my mother who saw the movie with us. My daughter, on the other hand, said her favorite part of the movie was when Max got his privates touched and the funny reaction he had.”
And therein lies the problem. It’s not that kids will recognize that there’s a problem with the scenes — it’s that they won’t. They’ll giggle about how it’s uncomfortable to have your privates touched, and then get the message that “going to happy place” is a good way to deal with that discomfort.
A new movie aimed at kids has parents talking, but not in a good way. Today’s Parenting Tip is about Show Dogs, child sexual abuse, and the important conversations that parents need to have to help prevent it from happening. – https://t.co/8mG6Dr5WS5 pic.twitter.com/nANsQKINFK
— Prevent Child Abuse (@PCAAmerica) May 23, 2018
Dawn Hawkins, executive director for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation has spoken up about the film. “The movie ‘Show Dogs’ sends a troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse,” she said in a statement. “It contains multiple scenes where a dog character must have its private parts inspected, in the course of which the dog is uncomfortable and wants to stop but is told to go to a ‘zen place.’ The dog is rewarded with advancing to the final round of the dog show after passing this barrier. Disturbingly, these are similar tactics child abusers use when grooming children — telling them to pretend they are somewhere else, and that they will get a reward for withstanding their discomfort.”
The movie makers have released a lukewarm apology statement that highlights the problem: They don’t see the problem.
The statement released by the filmmakers says, “It has come to our attention that there have been online discussion and concern about a particular scene in Show Dogs, a family comedy that is rated PG. The dog show judging in this film is depicted completely accurately as done at shows around the world and was performed by professional and highly respected dog show judges. Global Road Entertainment and the filmmakers are saddened and apologize to any parent who feels the scene sends a message other than a comedic moment in the film, with no hidden or ulterior meaning, but respect their right to react to any piece of content.”
Sounds an awful lot like “Sorry you’re offended.” That’s not an apology nor is it taking accountability. Intentional or not, there’s a problematic message here. And especially in the age of #MeToo, where sexual assault has been a hot topic of conversation and education, it’s unfathomable that no one in the final production of this film would have recognized the issue or pointed it out.
Bottom line for parents: If you choose to see this film, please use these scenes as a conversation starter about grooming and consent.
Bottom line for filmmakers: Do better.