In what can only be described as a grassroots victory for parents everywhere, the children's film "Show Dogs" has been pulled from theaters and will be re-edited following an intense public outcry over what many parents saw as covert pedophile messaging.
It began with a trickle and turned into a storm when mommy blogger Terina Maldonado of Macaroni Kid sounded the alarm over one of the film's wildly inappropriate plot points that sent a dangerously creepy message to children.
"Show Dog" stars Will Arnett as an FBI agent named Frank who is forced into partnering with a talking dog named Max (voiced by Ludacris) to infiltrate a prestigious dog show in the hopes of rescuing a kidnapped panda. One of the film's plot points involved the character Max learning to cope with the idea of having a judge examine his genitals while competing in the dog show.
Considering that "Show Dogs" is a movie for children and Max was an anthropomorphized character, Maldonado and many parents interpreted the scene as "pedophile grooming," sending the message for children to be comfortable with a stranger touching their private parts:
The day of the finals come and if Max doesn’t let his private parts be touched, he may lose the competition and any hope of finding the kidnapped panda. It all rests on his ability to let someone touch his private parts. The judge’s hands slowly reach behind Max and he goes to his 'zen place.' He’s flying through the sky, dancing with his partner, there are fireworks and flowers-everything is great-all while someone is touching his private parts.
The backlash against "Show Dogs" has come swift and fierce, including from left-wing outlets like Slate, which also castigated the film for having a whole plotline dedicated to unwanted genitals fondling in a children's movie. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) said the film pushes a "troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse." The group's executive director, Karen Hawkins, noted that this comfortable "zen place" the character Max ascends to during the unwanted touching is a tactic used by child molesters.
"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," she said. "Children’s movies must be held to a higher standard, and must teach children bodily autonomy, the ability to say ‘no’ and safety, not confusing messages endorsing unwanted genital touching."
Now, less than a week after its debut, which pulled in an abysmal $6 million on its opening weekend and a "rotten" score of 23% on the Tomatometer, the film's producers have released a statement apologizing to the offended parents while promising to make amends.
"Responding to concerns raised by moviegovers and some specific organizations, Global Road Entertainment has decided to remove two scenes from the film Show Dogs that some have deemed not appropriate for children," the studio said. "The company takes these matters very seriously and remains committed to providing quality entertainment for the intended audiences based on the film’s rating."
So who's to blame for the "Show Dogs" fiasco? As of now, it remains a mystery, because according to the film's writer, Max Botkin, he had no hand in the final draft, which was delivered by 12 different writers before the first day of shooting, he told CNN. In a statement, he also distanced himself from the final product.
"I absolutely condemn any suggestion or act of non-consensual touching in any form, as well as disassociation as a coping mechanism for abuse of any kind," Botkin said in a statement. "I understand and empathize with the parents’ and groups’ concerns regarding the message the movie may impart."
The question still remains and truly speaks volumes as to the dunces that run Hollywood: How come not a single producer, actor, or executive ever raised a red flag regarding the film's subject matter prior to production?
Did Will Arnett or Ludacris or Natasha Lyonne not see anything remotely troubling in having a plot point focused on unwanted genital touching in a movie intended for little kids? If not for the whole pedophile grooming thing, then what about good old-fashioned age-appropriateness? The sexism inherent here must also be acknowledged. Imagine if the character Max were a female dog named Maxine. Would the makers of "Show Dogs" have been so ambivalent about the genital touching?