Dakota Fanning, and the limits of art?

fanning

 There was a post over at the main blog about a controversial scene in the upcoming movie Hounddog, starring Dakota Fanning.  Fanning is thirteen years old, and in the movie, plays a twelve-year-old Elvis fan in the 1950’s Deep South who does a seductive dance to get tickets to an Elvis concert, but is raped by the boy providing the tickets as her friend Buddy watches.  The director is adamant that no nudity or violence is shown, only implied.  The question is, does that make it okay then?

I think this is a difficult issue, and one that I can’t stand firmly on either side of.  On one hand, I would rather not censor people’s art (of which filmmaking is one kind).  And the scene doesn’t seem to be hurting anybody–Fanning’s body isn’t being exploited, and Fanning herself, known for her maturity, seems to have dealt with the filming very well herself, essentially saying that ‘business is business’ and that she’s ‘over it.’  On the other hand, she’s still a minor, not to mention, still a tween–does she really have the authority to make this decision for herself?  Was she pressured into it by her parents and her ‘people’/was it just part of the life they had planned out for her?  A lot of sources speculate that this scene is part of Fanning’s entourage’s scheme to snag her on Oscar.  If that’s true, it would seem very cheap and exploitative.

This whole debate, about whether Fanning really has the authority to make her own decisions, reminds me of one of the central arguments within feminism–do women make the choices they make because that’s what they really want, or do they make those choices because they’ve essentially been trained to do so (some would say brainwashed) by the culture they grew up in and society at large?  It’s a difficult question without a clear-cut answer, I think.  The implications of this debate are also related to the field of cultural studies–how much can people actually choose something for themselves?  It’s complicated by the fact that Fanning is so young, as are the tweens that consumerist marketing targets so fervently; their rationality can also be brought into question.

Something else the debate this controversial scene brings to mind is the question of irony.  While the director is adamant that she’s not being exploitative because no nudity or violence is shown, another question has to be asked: Does that really make a difference?  Does the simple act of representing an act, no matter how explicit is it, exploit it or titillate the audience somehow?  Isn’t that why we go to the movies, after all?  But this scene in particular is so much more disturbing–I have to wonder if anyone in the audience will actually be getting pleasure out of the scene.  True, it doesn’t show nudity or violence, but it wouldn’t be a good work of art if it didn’t get a certain emotion across, in this case that being the terror of a young girl.  And you don’t need to show anything explicitly for people to feed off of fear.

33 responses to “Dakota Fanning, and the limits of art?

  1. I am also feeling divided on this issue as you seem to be. Do you think actually seeing the scene (by itself and in the context of the film) will help decide this issue for us? Or do you think it will just make things more complicated by introducing elements we may have overlooked? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

  2. “do women make the choices they make because that’s what they really want, or do they make those choices because they’ve essentially been trained to do so (some would say brainwashed) by the culture they grew up in and society at large? ”

    If I substituted the words “young men” for women, what would the reaction be? Nobody speaks up about young men who are “brainwashed” by society to join the Marines and die in Iraq.

    The simple truth is that we are all “trained” by the culture we grew up in and society at large; those who do not assimilate are considered sociopaths and outcasts. The definition of society is a group of people who live together *and* share a common basis of understanding. EVERY DAY, people are forced to do something other than what they “really want”, and that’s a GOOD THING, because otherwise we would live in CHAOS.

  3. Actually, people (including me) do wonder about the young men who join the military, and if they could really ‘choose’ it when their choices in life were probably limited (the military recruits heavily in low-income areas).

    This blog is a look at how tweens are represented and shaped by popular culture through the field of cultural studies. So of course I agree with you that we’re all ‘trained’ by the culture we grew up in. But what I’m looking at specifically is how much ‘choice’ people of different ages and from different backgrounds really have within society then, and if that choice or non-choice is therefore empowering or exploitative.

    And I’m not sure it’s a good thing if people are forced to do things they don’t want to do, because I don’t agree that not doing so would lead to chaos. I mean, of course it’s good that people don’t go around on killing and robbery sprees, but when it comes to things like the possibility of women being forced to shave their legs in the U.S., well, I’m glad it’s not forced because I don’t think that women not shaving their legs means the downfall of society. This blog looks at society through cultural means like that.

  4. dakota you ar so pretty
    you ar the best gril i ever sol in my life plis add me dis is myspace pinkki_bam_sp@hotmail.com pliss you ar the best

  5. I think there is enought sex in movies as it is. She is only 13 years old. Why expose her to this garbage at a youny age.

  6. BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL

  7. i luv u baby i wish i could adopt u

  8. hey .. i’m lucie .. and i have 14 years old .. and just wanna say something about dakota ..
    she’s really an amazing girl .. yesterday i saw the dreamer .. it was amazing .. really and i like horses a lot so .. i dont know what should i say about the film .. but i know that dakota is a wonderful girl ..
    and i’m so proud of u dakota .. hope u will be in the future a wonderful women and actress ..
    love ya !!

  9. Hi,Dakota! You are very good acting and very pretty! Everyone at school says i look like you!

  10. Hey I have the same name as Dakota Fanning and i am 6 years old. I look identical to dakota fanning because i have the same smile and facial looks.I love her acting she is the best actress i have ever seen, and i would also like to say i enjoy watching Elle Fanning too. My mom Loved the fanning girls some much she named her 2 kids Elle and Dakota. My sister Elle is 3 and she enjoys watching the fanning girls too. I LOVE YOU DAKOTA AND ELLE! Love Dakota Smith

  11. xdvdsfvd fdgsd
    fdsaiuwa dfgdsgfs

  12. i love you dakota!!
    you are great!!
    my mail is: jimenamanattini@hotmail.com
    plis agregame!!! i love you!!!

  13. Samuel Carpio

    I think Dakota is wonderful girl at all . a actress very professional.
    so
    bye
    take care

  14. Feminism liberated women only from their wombs by turning their bodies into objects to be exploited by men. After decades of feminist conditioning women have become more like chattel. Abortion provides sex without financial consequences, “free love” offers sexual gratification without the bond of matrimony, pornography demonstrates that women are still controlled by the most base aspects of their bodies. So what’s all the fuss about a thirteen year old being raped on-screen? Many thirteen year old girls today aren’t virgins, and have probably even been molested or had abortions. It requires a complete suspension of disbelief to hear the very people who support feminist propaganda suggest that Ms. Fanning isn’t “old enough” to make the decision to be in such a film that masquerades as “art”. Technology notwithstanding, we live in the most barbaric age in history. The barbarians have simply traded in their loincloths and clubs for business suits and briefcases.

  15. Hannah, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Sarah!

  16. Could we have some Primordial Peace here! This is her life.❤

  17. you are soooo pretty i love you alote you are my favoriy actor

  18. jajjaa te la vii ..
    te la vii xDDDDDDD!! oiie oie :O!
    te la vi xDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! mnm

    ñakañakjañakañ ^(wuajajaja wuajajaja) risa malevola (6) :Z!!!!! peroo oiie po

    T

    E

    L
    A

    V

    I

    XDDDDDDDD! LA CSM!” LA CSM !!!

  19. jessica fanning

    dakota, im from the future and your my mom. i need to see you

  20. hi! im from the philippines
    i really love you
    specially when you are acting
    dakota if i can see you in person i will really hug you. Because of your acting carrisme i really idolize you
    and for me the best movie you aver made is MAN ON FIRE and PUSH. I also love mr. creasy bear!!!!!!!!!!!
    luv ya
    if you have a friendster please add me here is my add: lyka_silver@yahoo.com. ok buh-bye luv u alwayz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. hallow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Please visit the country were i live

    because we filipinos welcome all of the people coming from other places

    especially you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    i love you!!!!!!!!!!1

    youre my IDOL

  22. hello. again. dakota. how. are. you.now.

    can. you.be. my.new.fan.galore?

  23. She’s old enough to decide what kind of roll to play in a movie. According to most feminists, she’s old enough to have an abortion w/out parental consent which is much more damaging than a movie roll.

  24. a tipa esta e unha poooorka kos dentes tortos porka marxate po teu pais!!

  25. Terence-

    That’s not true at all…not every person in the world is brainwashed by our society. Everyone is free to make their own choices, and if, by choice, they conform to the life “accepted” in the world, then so be it.

    And call me “sociopath” or “outcast” if you so think believe is correct, but I do not limit myself to the expectations of the social norm. I walk to my own beat, do what I want to do, and my life isn’t chaos. It’s relaxing and if more people lived like I do, I think we’d all be a little less high strung.

  26. Oh and please! People act like Fanning is the first little girl to be involved in a rape scene, girls younger than Fanning have truly been raped! To answer your question: It shouldn’t matter, things happen in the real world, no one is truly protected from the reality of life! If Fanning does the job, it doesn’t matter, it’s done an over with. Also, Fanning should be allowed to make her career decisions without people saying she’s too young or her people make her do it! she’s 13, i’m 14 (i swear on my soul) we have minds of our own! All in all if some sick pervert gets off should we ban news stations from reporting rape? no. The movie is the very same, it shows the world for what it’s worth

  27. One thing is for sure, she’s getting an adult education on life at a very young age. Whether that is good or bad for her remains to be seen.

  28. hello,
    I thank you for wearing Recycle ,Reuse, Reduce..shirt..
    may you have more great moment in wearing
    the model idea..
    i like it we should leave it ..
    thank you..
    Peter Dan

  29. Dakota, you look so adorable in this picture.

  30. It would have been great if it wasn’t a rape but consensual sex scene. The thought of a sexy 12yo girl especially Dakota Fanning dancing naked or sucking dick to hounddog for Elvis tickets is so hot. They need to come out with some positive child adult sex themed movies instead of only portraying evil & destructive story’s.

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