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Towelhead and the Normalization of Sex with Children

Hollywood's latest effort to portray pedophiles sympathetically.

by
John Nolte

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September 27, 2008 - 12:00 am
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At the 1999 Academy Awards, Elia Kazan, the legendary director of On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, East Of Eden, and many other timeless classics, received an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar. As the ninety-year-old took the stage, one-third of liberal Hollywood refused to stand or even applaud, refused to forgive Kazan the four decades-old “sin” of naming names during the blacklist era.

However, just three years later, no such protest was mounted when the Oscar for best director was awarded to Roman Polanski, a man who in 1977 pled guilty to drugging and sodomizing a thirteen-year-old girl. Of course, Polanski wasn’t there to receive his Oscar. He’s still a fugitive from the law for that crime.

Is this just another example of liberal Hollywood values? Hypocrisy? Unfortunately, it goes much deeper than that. There’s a new civil rights push in Hollywood: the right to have sex with your children. And this Friday, with Towelhead, Hollywood releases their next theatrical volley to normalize the very worst kind of sexual deviancy.

During the Q&A, after a sneak preview of Towelhead, writer/director Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) said of child rape, “Society wants us to believe that’s a soul destroying event, I don’t believe that.” The context of such a statement is important and can be found in his film, the story of a thirteen-year-old Arab girl, Jasira (Summer Bishil), who‘s raped by her Army Reservist neighbor (Aaron Eckhart), molested by her mother‘s boyfriend, and sexually manipulated by Thomas (Eugene Bradley), a young classmate. When it’s all over, not only is Jasira’s soul not destroyed but she suffers no emotional or psychological damage whatsoever. In fact, to quote Ball again, the “experience makes her stronger.” The film ends on a triumphant note, with the thirteen-year-old sexually empowered by the abuse and ready to have a relationship with the aforementioned Thomas.

Towelhead is the latest in a years-long Hollywood crusade to make the child molester sympathetic and the act of molestation just another step in the evolution of normal, healthy, youthful sexuality. Which isn’t to say that say that child molesters should only ever be presented as one-dimensional, mustache-twisting deviants.

In both Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 version and Adrian Lyne’s equally fine 1997 remake, Lolita’s Humbert Humbert is a pederast consumed with desire for the fourteen-year-old daughter of his landlady, whom he later marries just to stay close to the young girl. After the wife dies, he embarks on a road trip and sexual affair with his new step daughter. Humbert is no one-dimensional monster. At times he’s even pitiable. But inexorably we watch the affair strip him of all dignity until it so destroys him emotionally he proves capable of murder. Young Lolita doesn’t fare much better. She marries the first guy who asks and winds up pregnant and broke on a dirt farm before her eighteenth birthday.

In 1998, Todd Solondz wrote and directed the indie film Happiness, an explicit but thoughtful look at the sexual dysfunction of an extended family. At the center is Dylan Baker’s memorable performance as Bill Maplewood, a suburban father, husband, and child rapist. Though desperate to stop himself, upon hearing from his son that a classmate has been left home alone a few days, Maplewood rapes the boy and is eventually exposed to both his family and community.

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