PRESS RELEASE BY CAUSE FOR JUSTICE: 19 JUNE 2018
* FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE *
SUBJECT: “SHOW DOGS” FAMILY FILM COMMUNICATES HARMFUL MESSAGES TO CHILDREN AS YOUNG AS 10
The film, “Show Dogs”, is scheduled to be released by Nu Metro and Ster-Kinekor on 6 July 2018. At first glance the film – described as a fun adventure comedy – looks like a great school holiday choice that the whole family can enjoy. However, a significant international outcry by both parents and experts against the film warns parents against scenes that send a disturbing message that grooms children for sexual abuse. Cause for Justice (CFJ) is deeply concerned that the current age restriction of 7-9 PG LV is far too low.
The main character, an undercover police dog, competes in a dog show to rescue a kidnapped baby panda. To qualify for the final round, he is required to have his private parts inspected. Although he is very uncomfortable with the unwanted intimate touching and wants it to stop, he is told to endure the discomfort by going to ‘zen place’ for the sake of receiving the reward of qualifying for the final round and rescuing the baby panda.
These scenes are disturbing because child abusers use these tactics when grooming children for sexual abuse. Abusers tell children to pretend they are somewhere else (like going to a ‘zen place’) and promise children rewards (similar to qualifying for the final round and rescuing the baby panda) for enduring the discomfort of the sexual abuse.
CFJ is in full agreement with international interest groups and experts that children’s films should not send dangerous and confusing messages that endorse unwanted genital and other intimate touching. Children need to know that they have bodily autonomy and the ability to say ‘no’. The possibility that children, not realising what they are doing, may play-act the inappropriate scenes with house pets and/or other children, is equally concerning.
In response to the initial international public outcry, the producers of Show Dogs undertook to cut the inappropriate scenes from the film. However, this seems to have been a mere publicity stunt, as the disturbing/inappropriate scenes have not been removed.
On 12 June, CFJ wrote urgent letters to the Minister of Communications, Nu Metro and Ster-Kinekor to appeal the current 7-9 PG classification of Show Dogs and to request the Appeal Tribunal in terms of the Films and Publications Act, 1996 to re-classify the film with a higher and more appropriate age restriction.
In addition, CFJ has requested Nu Metro and Ster-Kinekor to refrain from releasing the film until the inappropriate scenes have been cut or the age restriction raised appropriately.
At the current age restriction, impressionable children as young as 9 or 10 can go see the movie without a parent/guardian being present and providing the necessary guidance. Since there is no classification category of 13 to 15 PG, the only remaining appropriate classification is a “16” age restriction.
Despite follow-up correspondence with the Minister, Ster-Kinekor and Nu Metro on 19 June 2018, these parties have provided no response as to whether they will act in the best interest of child audiences.
Said CFJ Executive Director and Legal Counsel, Ryan Smit:
“This film arrives on South African shores at a time when child sexual abuse is a major problem in our society and equally worrying, child-on-child sexual abuse is on the rise.”
“South Africa faces alarmingly high levels of violence against children, including sexual violence. Sexual violence against children is not only perpetrated by adults against children, but also by children on other children. The current age restriction of 7-9 PG LV given by the FPB is dangerously inappropriate and socially irresponsible.”
CFJ encourages parents to protect younger children by refraining from watching Show Dogs until it has been confirmed that the inappropriate scenes have been cut.
For further queries, contact CFJ at:
Tel: 083 235 1511