AceShowbiz - "Show Dogs" is supposed to be a PG-rated movie about a police dog named Max (voiced by Ludacris) and his human partner, Frank (played by Will Arnett), who team up to save a stolen panda. But parents have been disturbed by certain scenes in the film which, as Dawn Hawkins says, "sends a troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse."
In a statement published on Tuesday, May 22, Hawkins, the executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (previously known as Morality in Media), takes issue with "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.' " In the said scene, Max has to let this happen to win the competition and, thus, he's able to find the missing panda.
Hawkins adds, "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. 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."
Terina Maldonado, a mother, says she watched the movie with her husband and three kids ages 8, 5 and 2. In her post for the family film blog Macaroni Kid, she says the movie was "great" until near the end. "If it has just been a casual part of the movie, it wouldn't have been inappropriate," Maldonado comments on the touching scene. "But it turned into this pivotal moment and it was teaching him to disassociate from himself while they were touching his private parts."
A survivor of child abuse herself, Maldonado argues, "People may say it's just talking dogs. But children don't always discern that."
Other parents have expressed similar concerns about the movie's message. "I'm sure many people will feel that #parents are being too over-the-top about skipping #ShowDogs, but kids soak in what they see. When I preach that their body is theirs alone, why would I sit & laugh at a movie implying it's OK/funny to 'grin and bare' inappropriate touching?" one writes on Twitter.
Another adds, "Please do not take your children to see #showdogs movie. It teaches children that touching of privates is okay and to go to a 'zen place' when it happens. Child sex abuse is real. This is not okay."
Following the criticism, Global Road Entertainment and the filmmakers issue a statement to apologize to parents for its perceived message. "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," reads the statement.
They continue addressing the controversy, "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."
"Show Dogs" has been in theaters since May 18 and collected $6.5 million in its opening weekend. The movie may suffer a decline in its earning due to the criticisms.