The movie “Show Dogs” was created for children, but human and animal rights organizations alike objected to the film’s content earlier this week when it was revealed that a scene in the movie would most likely be interpreted as a pedophilia grooming scene not meant for children.
The outcry spread on social media, and the film’s producers have since pulled the movie from theaters to be recut in the studio.
“Responding to concerns raised by moviegoers 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,” a statement from 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.”
The movie’s plot is innocent enough with “Max” (voice-over by Ludacris) a talking undercover police dog, being sent into an international dog show to help FBI Agent “Frank” (Will Arnett) recover a stolen panda. While a contestant in the show, Max is subjected to having his private parts fondled and groped by judges. That is where the grooming scene takes place and film critics noticed, most notable being Terina Maldonado, who wrote the following scathing critique:
What could have been solely a fun movie for kids that would get my highest recommendation is damaged by a dark and disturbing message hidden, not so subtly between the fluffy dogs and glamorous parties of the show dog lifestyle. As part of any dog show, contestants are judged on their abilities and physical attributes. One part, in particular, is the inspection of the dog’s private parts.
Labeling the film “dark and disturbing,” Maldonado continued with criticisms of the film’s most controversial scenes:
Since the inspection of the private parts will happen in the finals, Frank touches Max’s private parts to get him use to it. Of course, Max doesn’t like it and snaps at Frank for him to stop. Max is then told by the former champion, who has been through the process before, that he needs to go to his “zen place” while it happens so he can get through it. More attempts are made by Frank to touch Max’s private parts, but Max is still having trouble letting it happen and keeps snapping at him.
As children often identify with characters in a movie, it would be easy for children to see themselves as Max and picture themselves being felt up by an adult as something they "have to do” in order to win a prize.
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The film's criticisms caught on like wildfires with social media posts all over the Internet from parents urging others not to take their kids to see the movie over dangers of grooming desensitization.
Dawn Hawkins, director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, issued the following statement, which claims that the film 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.'" Such verbiage reportedly mimics what victims of child predators have been told by their perpetrators as a way to endure their abuse.
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.
In the wake of the recent #MeToo movement, many were outraged. Cineplex Australia jerked the movie from its lineup first, prompting others to react in a similar manner. In the wake of the scandal and before pulling the film, the film's producer, Global Road Entertainment, issued an apology. It reads:
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.
Later on, Global Entertainment said it will remove the controversial scenes and will re-release the film this weekend without the offensive material. According to the statement:
The company takes these matters very seriously and remains committed to providing quality entertainment for the intended audiences based on the film’s rating. We apologize to anybody who feels the original version of ‘Show Dogs’ sent an inappropriate message. The revised version of the film will be available for viewing nationwide starting this weekend.
While the film's original content has raised questions about how it made it to theaters in the first place, the change in the script was done so quickly that many are left scratching their heads in wonder if the scandal was not pre-planned. As films often have alternative endings, it is unclear if the controversy will help or hurt the film's overall earnings. At any rate, the controversy appears to be settled for now.