In response to the global outcry over the children’s film Show Dogs, the Australian Classifications Board issued a media release. This was after the production company had promised to withdraw the film and re-cut it to remove the offending scenes, however, only minimal content was removed, with scenes featuring the dog Max having his genitals touched against his will remaining in the movie. Classifications Board referred to the scenes in question, involving the dog Max having his private parts touched against his will, as scenes that ‘may cause offence to some viewers’:
The Board is aware of social media commentary over the past couple of days that a scene or two in Show Dogs, may cause offence to some viewers, who are of the opinion that the touching of a dog character’s genitals, and the accompanying dialogue, may promote acceptance of grooming of children for sexual exploitation.
Reducing the issue to mere ‘offence’ is problematic. The concerns from parents, survivors, child advocates and organisations dedicated to fighting against child sexual abuse are not that individuals will be ‘offended’. They are about the disturbing and dangerous messages to children about sexual touching when the main character, Max, must put aside his discomfort and endure having his private parts touched, after which he is rewarded.
The Classifications Board assert that context is crucial, and on this basis suggest that scenes of the dog having his private parts touched against his will were assessed as thematic content. They went on, saying, “There is no suggestion in the film that the dog is a metaphor for a child.”
Long-time activist and Collective Shout supporter Melinda Liszewski addressed these sentiments below:
“The concern about the movie reflects a community putting thought into the media created and designed to be consumed by our children.
“This practice of inspecting genitals is common in dog shows, but there are a lot of other things about dog shows that I’m sure aren’t in the movie. The writer made deliberate choices about what to include and what to leave out. The scenes in question were included to get a cheap laugh, but this is where lack of consideration for their target audience comes in. Consulting with anyone specialising in child development, child psychologists would go a long way. They can spot issues others wouldn’t immediately recognise. Really important issues.
“So we can't say this is a realistic true to life depiction of dog shows, or dogs. They're anthropomorphised dogs. We have assigned human personalities, reactions, feelings, goals and fears. These are talking dogs. These are characters that exist for the children to identify with, to go on a journey with, to overcome obstacles with through this story.
“These dogs are not reacting how a dog would react, they are reacting how a human would react in the same circumstance. This is portrayed for an audience of young children. The statistics say one in five children will be sexually abused in their life so we know that in the audience of children viewing that film, some of those children are abused children. The idea of 'going to a happy place' while enduring unwanted touching is called dissociation. We are not doing children any favours by normalising the idea that people - again, the dogs are humanised - enduring unwanted touching is normal.
“My conclusion is this – it’s not a good thing if some children don't give this a second thought. This shouldn't be normalised and used to get a cheap laugh.”
Response from cinemas
We are pleased to report that several Australian cinemas have responded to community concern over the messages in this film. The film is not being promoted by Cineplex, Village Cinemas, Grand Cinemas, Dendy Cinemas or ACE Cinemas. Majestic Cinemas have confirmed they will not be screening the film, and Deny have told us that at this stage they have no plans to release the film.
The following cinemas have failed to respond to community concerns over the movie, still promoting the film despite being informed as to the issues: Hoyts, Event Cinemas, Palace Cinemas and Wallis Cinemas.
Both Wallis Cinemas and Hoyts have referenced the re-cut, yet neither of them will clarify whether the film is to be re-cut for a second time to remove all scenes where the dog submits to unwanted genital touching, or if they are referring to the initial and unsatisfactory cuts which still included scenes of unwanted genital touching.
Contact your local cinema here, and let us know how you go!
Collective Shout has called on Australian cinemas not to screen the children’s movie Show Dogs over concerns the film grooms children for sexual abuse.
In response to the global outcry from parents and child advocates, the production company withdrew the film, promising to re-cut it to remove the offending scenes. However, the film has been re-released with only a minor portion of the troubling scenes removed. This is not good enough, so now we’re calling on Australian cinemas to take a stand against child sexual abuse and refuse to screen the film.
At this stage, the film is being promoted by Hoyts, Event Cinemas, Palace Cinemas and Wallis Cinemas. The film is currently not listed on Cineplex, Village Cinemas, Dendy Cinemas, Grand Cinemas and ACE Cinemas websites.
So far, we’ve had responses from several cinemas.
Hoyts has claimed the film “has not confirmed its release date for Australia” and that they do not have any information about the film being shown on their screens yet- however, the film is currently being advertised on the ‘Coming Soon’ section of Hoyts’ website with a release date of 5thJuly.
Dendy responded as follows:
Show Dogs has not been confirmed for any of the Dendy Cinemas sites. We are not planning on showing the film at this stage.
We need your help.
Help us keep the pressure on, and let these cinemas know you don’t want them to screen Show Dogs.
Contact your local cinema here, and let us know if they respond.
*UPDATE: CNN has reported the film will undergo edits to remove the objectionable content!*
Child advocates have accused new kids film Show Dogs of sending “a troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse”. The film was released in the US last week, and is not scheduled to be released in Australia until July.
The film follows the story of a police dog going undercover at a dog show. There are reportedly several scenes in which the dog, Max, has to have his genitals inspected. When he is uncomfortable and wants to stop he is told to go to a ‘zen place’. When he does this, he can advance to the final round of the dog show.
National Center on Sexual Exploitation has called on distribution company Global Road Entertainment to halt the distribution of Show Dogs in movie theaters and recut the movie:
“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.”
Reviewers, too, have expressed their discomfort over the scenes in question.
Slate writer Ruth Graham called it “unsettling on several levels”.
“First, this is a children’s movie in which the protagonist’s success depends on withstanding a stranger touching his genitals even though it makes him uncomfortable,” she wrote.
“The movie’s solution to Max’s discomfort with the inspection is not to empower him to escape it somehow; it’s to have him learn to checkout mentally while he endures it, and to make no outward sign of his humiliation. It is not paranoid to say that this is a bad message for kids.”
Writer Jenny Rapson echoed those sentiments in a blog post on For Every Mom: “Max’s success is riding on whether or not he lets both his partner (for practice) and a stranger (the competition judge) touch his private parts. IN A KIDS MOVIE. WHAT??? Newsflash, folks: THIS IS CALLED GROOMING and it’s what sexual predators do to kids!”
Writer Terina Maldonado wrote on family film blog Macaroni Kid that “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.”
In response to the outcry, Global Road Entertainment, co-producers of the film released a statement to CNN:
“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,” the statement said in part. “Global Road Entertainment and the filmmakers are saddened and apologise 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.”
One of the writers of the film has spoken out against the scenes in question, claiming that they were written into the script by of the “13 other writers” who worked on the movie.
“[I] didn’t get to see the film until it was in its final stage of completion, and had zero say in creative choices the second I signed away the rights to my work.”
“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. I understand and empathise with the parents’ and groups’ concerns regarding the message the movie may impart,” he said.
Children’s charity Bravehearts is also calling for a ban on the Australian Classification Board to ban the film:
Bravehearts is responding to reports this children’s film contains multiple scenes where a dog character must have its private parts inspected and manhandled. When the dog feels uncomfortable and wants it to stop is then told to just go to a ‘zen place’ and is later rewarded for his consent by being advanced to the final round of the dog show. This message is not only wrong, but it promotes acceptance of grooming and goes against the very basic principles of child protection.
Cineplex Theatres have already pulled the film:
Be sure to follow our Facebook page for further updates.