The children’s movie Show Dogs, starring Will Arnett in human form and Ludacris as the voice of a dog, is being recut because of a subplot that’s thought to be detrimental to young viewers.
Deadline reports that after outcry from The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a conservative, anti-pornography organization, the distributors of Show Dogs have decided to recut the film to remove the offending scene, which involves a police dog named Max going undercover as a show dog to solve some sort of crime—a panda smuggling ring, according to Slate.
In the movie (SPOILER), Max has to pretend to be a show dog, so he is coached on how to blend in by an actual show dog as well as his human, Frank (Arnett). A papillon named Phillipe tells Max to “go to his happy place” when the judges are inspecting his genitals, and so Max endures the brief indignity of his undercarriage being assessed, goes to his “happy place” and comes out on the other side. My read of this scene is that it falls firmly between a fart joke and a dick joke, sandwiched into a PG-rated kids’ movie as a weird reward for the adult who brought their child to the theater. At Slate, Ruth Graham thought otherwise:
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. Sure, he’s a dog, but he’s an anthropomorphized dog; in fact, in an earlier scene, Frank rescues him from having to mate with a dog he’s not attracted to.
This is icky for its own reasons, but at least it establishes Max’s right to bodily autonomy in the Show Dogs universe. 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 check out 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.
I do not believe a child is misguided enough to interpret what is happening to a dog that talks as something that could possibly be happening to them. The NCSE is much stricter. In a statement, they wrote that the movie “grooms” children to respond to sexual abuse and explained their reasoning:
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.
On Tuesday, the film’s distributor Global Road, released a statement addressing the concerns: “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.” On Thursday, they pulled the film from theaters and will offer a recut version that omits the scene.