The "Rape" of Dakota Fanning
Part One of a Multi-Part Series
by Paul Petersen
President & Founder, AMC
Children come to grief when Hollywood ignores the few remaining responsible voices that speak for professional children, advocates with a sense of Right and Wrong who play The Game from the Inside, marginalized though they are.
An insidious evil is spreading throughout Hollywood, the town that raised and trained me as a boy for a career that would not exist for me as a man. The exploitation of children, which Hollywood both employs and to which they market, has sunk to another mindless low point with the announcement that 12 year-old Dakota Fanning will portray a pre-adolescent rape victim in the movie, "Hound Dog," an independent film alleged to feature Dakota, not yet in her teens, totally naked and actually assaulted on film in a realistic portrait of the rape that spins her into a fantasy world centered on Elvis Presley.
What culture can survive such an assault on what it means to be a child? By what tortured reasoning…even with Academy Award attention dangled as a lure…can a mother, an agent, an Industry and The State permit the capture on film of an underage actress simulating a violent sexual assault with commercial intent?
Is it Art? Can a child be utilized in this fashion under the protections of our First Amendment? Does Freedom of Expression extend to writers and directors and producers who work in a collaborative medium? As an author of sixteen books who vigorously defends First Amendment issues, I require no lectures on the importance of an individual with an unpopular point of view being protected in the right to speak freely or put words to paper that may make some people squirm, or create hand-crafted images depicting even the most vile and hateful of images.
But can you employ a Minor to act out your creative fantasies? Does paying a child make rape okay? Isn't there a difference between Nobokov's novel, "Lolita," which stands alone as the artist's expression, and graphically putting those images on film with the aid of paid professionals using a Minor who is paid for her performance?
You bet there is a difference. The unadulterated fact is that a child cannot be used in this fashion, even simulating a sexual act, let alone doing so for commercial purposes. In California the Criminal Codes expressly state (CC: 311.4 if you need convincing) that a person or persons who engage in this behavior have indulged in an illegal act. Federal Codes are also explicit:
Title 18 of the United States Code governs child pornography. See Chapter 110, Sexual Exploitation and Other Abuse of Children. 18 U.S.C. § 2256 defines "Child pornography" as:
"any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where -
- (A) the production of such visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;
- (B) such visual depiction is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;
- (C) such visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
- (D) such visual depiction is advertised, promoted, presented, described, or distributed in such a manner that conveys the impression that the material is or contains a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct . . ."
Next we will demonstrate why Hollywood Dollars cater to the hormonally driven appetites of adolescent boys, and why the decision-makers trundle off to states like North Carolina, a Right To Work (for less) State that actually brags about its absence of child labor laws. There is a reason films like "Bastard out of Carolina," (starring Jena Malone) "Firestarter" (starring nine year-old Drew Barrymore), and now "Hound Dog" (starring Dakota Fanning) choose Wilmington, NC as a production base.
What message was the non-union crew sending when it walked off the set during Dakota's rape scene?
Hollywood…indeed the whole of the entertainment business…would like you to believe that they operate outside the boundaries of the Laws written for mere mortals. The evermore degrading images and content of entertainment "product" our culture, particularly our children, are subjected to is the proof of Hollywood's moral decline.
And now they're doing it to children…literally paying off naïve and inexperienced parents to accept the questionable employment of their children in projects that for the rest of us would result in criminal prosecution.
Dakota Fanning is the latest young actress asked to portray the victim of a sexual assault, but this time around, the rape is filmed graphically and features the fully naked 12 year-old being attacked.
There is no authority on earth, nor any relationship nor connection short of slavery, that permits an adult to offer up their child for such purposes. There is no intrinsic artistic "right" that allows an adult to employ a minor-aged child in the depiction of a sexual act, let alone a violent and depraved sexual act. "Informed Consent" does not extend to a Minor who cannot enter into contracts, cannot purchase property, cannot authorize medical treatment, and cannot even drive to participate in such a commercial enterprise featuring nudity and simulated sexual activity.
Where has this generation of filmmakers come from that thinks it's perfectly legitimate to pursue projects that require the employment of children to act out their questionable artistic pretensions?
Does the name Leni Riefenstahl ring a bell? If you don't know the name of Hitler's propagandist, let's try Frank Capra in his use of the same movie-making tools in his "Why We Fight" series assembled on behalf of the United States government during World War II. What do these two master propagandists have in common?
Both used the overt manipulation of the powerful tools of film making in the service of an agenda.
There was a time, and not so long ago, when a Stanley Kubric could film "Lolita" (1962), and through the use of subtle implication and orchestrated imagery tell even a controversial story of manifest pedophilia penned by Vladimir Nobokov (whose novel was literally banned from sale in America) and employ an actress under the age of consent (Sue Lyon) without asking her to take her clothes off or be seen "doing the deed" with a man in his 50's. Even so, the America of the early 1960's was scandalized by this movie…and the instant notoriety visited on the living, breathing 15 year-old girl-child named Sue Lyon was anything but positive.
The 1997 version of "Lolita" featuring Dominique Swain in the title role as filmed by Adrian Lyne, was shamelessly devoid of such subtlety and bluntly showed then sixteen year-old Dominique between the sheets with Jeremy Irons…a criminal act even if the sex was simulated…but not in Europe and North Carolina where this "Lolita" was filmed.
5,000 actresses younger than the age of consent auditioned for the '97 adaptation of "Lolita," driven to the sacrificial alter of Fame at any Cost by their parents who, like rabbits on a nighttime highway, were blinded by the bright lights of Hollywood.
When you hire a child to act out your sexual fantasy, even if the sex is merely simulated, you are committing a criminal act. So, why is it different if you hire a 12 year-old actress, fully nude, to actively participate in a rape scene? That's the situation in the movie entitled "Hound Dog" filming out of North Carolina. Reports tell us that the hardened film crew walked off the set when the rape scene was being filmed. If only they had been the crew on "Twilight Zone," the movie that saw the beheading of Vic Morrow and two Vietnamese children filming amidst explosives at Three in the morning when the helicopter crashed and its rotors tore through the necks of the performers. Who is going to speak for children sold into work that is by definition, illegal?
I maintain that criminal conduct involving a child cannot be excused by the dollar-driven professionals of the Entertainment Industry who, on the one hand, earn billions of dollars creating highly manipulative images for the Advertising Industry employing actors whose incomes are significantly dependent on work in commercials, and on the other hand squeal like piglets when people of conscience catch them at their propaganda masquerading as "art," aggressively defending themselves with the pat phrases of "censorship," and disingenuous cries of "it's only a movie" as if intentionally devised images have no impact at all.
Did the creator of this movie "Hound Dog" deliberately mis-lead Dakota Fanning's mother into thinking "Hound Dog" would be filmed with subtlety and cinematic implication. These are the Director's words taken directly from the script:
(DIRECTOR'S WORDS: Dear reader - please note - there is no nudity or explicit violence in this scene. All nudity and violence is implied. Occasional flashes of lightening illuminate the scene but most of this scene is in darkness and therefore the information is heard rather than seen.)
What actually happened on the set, where it counts, is very much different. Here is the "Blueline" report:
"SOURCES, ON SET AT THE TIME, TELL THE BLUE LINE THAT CREW WALKED OFF THE SET BECAUSE IT WAS SO GRAPHIC AND WAS FAR FROM BEING BACKLIT AS DESCRIBED. THE SCENE WAS FULLY LIT AND IT WAS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC. SOURCES TELL US THAT THE VIDEO ASSIST RECORDED EVERYTHING SHOT ON CAMERA. WE WERE ALSO TOLD THAT MISS FANNING'S MOTHER SAT IN FRONT OF A MONITOR WATCHING HER DAUGHTER PRETEND TO BE RAPED."
I ask you, "Could YOU suspend your disbelief watching your 12 year-old daughter simulate a viscous rape for any amount of money?
As I come to the end of Part Three of what will be a continuing series of personal essays on the permissible activities and role of children working in the performing arts and the distressing History of this work, I have to ask a question:
Does anyone care?
"What is the impact on the real-life child submerged beneath these commercial images?" Do you think that twenty years from now the images already captured on film of Dakota's rape scene will go away? What will Dakota Fanning think of that image in 2026, and what will she think of the adults, including her mother, who will NOT be the ones recognized in the super market or find their names in Trivial Pursuit?