WWW- [World Net Daily]- MovieGuide founder Ted Baehr and Judicial Watch creator Larry Klayman have asked U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to prosecute the makers of the movie “Hounddog” under the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988, the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 and the PROTECT Act of 2003.
“The law is very clear,” Baehr told WND. “This one is pushing the envelope in the wrong direction.”
The movie, which debuted to a decidedly unimpressed audience at the recent Sundance Film Festival, features child actress Dakota Fanning in a strip scene and a rape scene, as well as a series of other sexually provocative situations.
“Filmmakers need to get the message that this society will not tolerate visual depictions of any kind that depict a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct,” said Baehr.
WND broke the story several months ago during production in North Carolina about the scene, and during the festival reported that reviewers considered the 12-year-old “seductive.”
Then after the festival, Rex Gore, the district attorney in Bolivia, N.C., near where much of the movie was filmed, issued a statement to WND that he found “no violation” of the state’s obscenity or sexual exploitation laws.
He said the movie was saved by its “artistic value.”
“I am aware that there is an outcry from some who find the content of the film disturbing and distasteful. However, public opinion is not the test we must apply as prosecutors; we must apply the law. North Carolina’s child exploitation statutes do not apply because none of the acts depicted in the film meet the legal definition of ‘sexual activity’ under our current law,” Gore said.
He outlined state law that defined sexual activity, but said the scenes at issue “do not involve ‘touching’ any of those proscribed body parts as required under the statute.”
Gore confirmed the state also can use “‘simulated’ sexual activity as a basis for prosecution” under the state’s obscenity laws, but that is not enough – alone – for a case.
“We must show all of several other elements to establish a violation of state law. Among those are: (1) taken as a whole it must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value, (2) taken as a whole it appeals to the prurient interest of sex, and (3) it is not protected or privileged under the Constitution,” he said.
“‘Hounddog’ addresses the important issue of child sexual abuse and its effects. Despite the fact that the film uses a 12-year-old girl to portray a rape, we cannot conclude – as the law requires before prosecution – that an average person applying contemporary community standards would assign no artistic value to the film or find that the material appeals to the prurient interest in sex,” he said.
The letter to Gonzales, however, notes that “prosecutors in North Carolina have declined to investigate the matter to determine whether in fact the Movie or the film industry in this regard violated laws regulating child pornography. This decision was in all likelihood motivated by a desire of the State of North Carolina to lure the film industry to the state and promote and enhance the economy.
“The U.S. Department of Justice therefore is the only hope for responsible legal action,” it said, reminding Washington of the Bush administration’s expressed desire to enforce child pornography laws.
“We now call upon you to make good on your pledge to the American public,” the letter said.
All the way back in 1982, the letter said, the U.S. Supreme Court said child pornography was not protected by the First Amendment because of the “intrinsic harm” done to children in its production. The court found that child pornography not only documents an underlying act of abuse – the sexual abuse of a child – but the recording of the act and subsequent circulation of the images perpetuates the injury.
Later Congress addressed the problem of computer-generated images of child pornography with the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, which later was modified with the PROTECT legislation.
The letter includes sections of the movie’s script outlining the rape scene, several scenes involving nudity and other questionable situations. A script about which WND reported earlier graphically describes Fanning’s clothes dropping to the floor, and an assailant unzipping his jeans.
Another excerpt, included in the letter, has Fanning’s character, 9-year-old Lewellen, and another character, Buddy, giggling “as they take off their wet swimsuits and hang them on a ladder to dry. … they begin touching each others bodies … then gently kiss …”
The PROTECT law, says the letter, prohibits the “obscene visual depictions of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or … a visual depiction of an actual minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”
It also prohibits “any visual depiction that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in certain enumerated ‘hard core’ acts and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value,” the letter said.
In the movie in question, “the explicit nature of the rape scene … squarely falls under the prohibition that a person who ’employs, uses, persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any minor to engage in … any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct, shall be punished…'”
Also, the scene violates a prohibition on “any material or purported material … that reflects the belief, or that is intended to cause another to believe, that the material or purported material is, or contains … an obscene visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct … or a visual depiction of an actual minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”
“It is imperative that the producers and collaborators to the movie be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The American public deserves no less, particularly since your administration was elected with the promise to enforce child decency and anti-pornography laws,” the letter said.
The story is about Fanning’s character growing up in the 1960s South with little supervision from an abusive father and alcoholic grandmother. But she loves the music of Elvis Presley and performs for anyone who asks. It is in the context of performing for a 20-year-old character that she is raped.
Fanning’s behavior has been described as more explicit than what was required of Jodie Foster, who as a 12-year-old played a prostitute in “Taxi Driver,” a 1976 Martin Scorsese production, or Brooke Shields, who was a New Orleans brothel worker in the “Pretty Baby” movie from 1978.
Fanning has described the film as acting, but her fans were disturbed by the rape scene.
On a website for her followers, one wrote that “even if all the nudity and the child sex were edited out, that would still not ‘edit’ the fact that it was done in the first place. A child was filmed, live on set, naked and in the process of a sexual assault. THIS IS THE ISSUE.”
“This is just so wrong…,” another wrote.