Janet M. LaRue

"Amber Alert." Hear it and your heart sinks. You say a prayer because somebody’s child is at risk in a world with way too many bad guys.

Somebody said, "God created parents because He couldn’t be everywhere."

Silly sentiments sell greeting cards but it’s no basis for systematic theology or a guide to good parenting.

God created parents to be parents, not pals or push-overs. And He didn’t say it would be easy.

Parents can’t be everywhere, but it’s no excuse to be AWOL when the kids need a parent with a brain and a backbone.

It’s a tragic fact of life that good, attentive and careful parents lose their children to child predators. How can that escape anyone’s notice in a 24/7 news environment?

And that makes it harder to fathom why some parents seem willing to make it easier for the bad guys.

Dads, here’s a question for you. What would you say – or should I ask “do” – to an "artistic" type who wants to know if he can film a "rape scene" starring your 12-year-old daughter?

I know how my dad, my husband and my son would respond. "Dead Man Walking" comes to mind. I also know that as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I wouldn’t think of allowing a child to play the victim in a rape scene.

On the flip side of the coin are the parents of Dakota Fanning, who allowed their 12-year-old actress daughter to star in “Hound Dog,” a film featured at the recent Sundance Sleaze Festival in which Fanning is portrayed in a "rape" scene.

The Web site, "Support Hound Dog" admits:

There is no question that the rape scene, and a couple of others, particularly where Lewellen radiates a precocious (if unconscious) sexuality as she gyrates her hips and sings Elvis, make for uncomfortable viewing. When Kampmeier screened rough cuts for associates, she said, reaction was split along gender lines. Women saw the innocence and joy in Lewellen’s gestures; men thought she was provoking a sexual attack.

What is it with women who see joy and innocence where men see danger? Oh wait, I remember. The women are from blue states, and the men are from the red ones where the artistically anorexic reside.

The movie industry "artisans" count on their loopy allies in Sacramento, who play legislators in real life, to "appreciate" the difference between artistic expression and child exploitation.

Misty memories replay of dogged days in California’s capitol trying to get child pornography and obscenity laws strengthened. It was never easy, even with one or more experienced cops along side to help. Lobbyists for the Motion Picture Association of America were ever present and always fraught with First Amendment “concerns.”

One day, I was allowed a few minutes to testify before a legislative committee in support of a child pornography bill. I had to wait while the committee spent hours on a bill to increase protection for horses during movie production.

The horses won by several furlongs. The kids didn’t make it out of the gate.

While "Hound Dog" may not cross the legal line into child pornography, who but unprincipled profiteers thinks it’s healthy, ethical and moral to exploit a 12-year-old in a rape scene even if she and her parents are "willing"? Roger Friedman, film critic for Fox News, describes the rape scene in "Hound Dog":

Right away, I will tell you: 12-year-old Dakota Fanning plays a girl who endures a graphically suggested rape. If that’s not enough, she is also filmed sleeping dreamily while a half dozen real snakes slither all over her. The rape scene, no matter how it’s spun, is disturbing and unsettling in fictional terms. In real life, though, it’s creepier to think that Dakota’s parents considered this a scene that was appropriate for their daughter. … That her moves are suggestive is another matter altogether. The director seems to be implying that Lewellen is almost asking for her rape by a 20-year-old boy who delivers the family’s milk. … It’s either that or Lewellen should be allowed to act seductively without fear of being attacked. Either way, the arguments do not stand up. … And while Dakota can certainly carry a movie — that much is abundantly clear — why this material looked appealing to her parents is quite troubling.

"Disturbing," "unsettling," "creepier" and "troubling" aren’t synonymous with sensitivity and good taste.

Friedman didn’t seem to find anything redeeming about the rape scene. Since Dakota’s character “never tells anyone about it and the perpetrator isn’t punished,” he suspects that “a raft of experts may not do the trick.”

So the “Hound Dog” publicists need to explain again how this artsy exploitation is going to help anybody – much less a child – deal with child rape.

If you think only Hollywoodites chase kids into the fast lane, think again.

"Glamour Babes" is a feature story by Libby Copeland that ran in The Washington Post on January 29, 2007.

"Babes" is to be taken literally. It’s about "Club Libby Lu," a hot-spot boutique where, for about $500, girls ages four to eight and 24 of their little playmates can have a professional make-over. It’s purportedly booked up through June.

I guess "make-over" includes wiping the milk off a four-year-old’s upper lip before applying lip gloss. Add hair extensions, feather boas, low-slung pants, sequins, spandex and attitude.

"Where are the parents," you might ask? Adoring moms are at the end of the "catwalk" with cameras capturing the "babes" slinking their stuff.

"The mothers are ambivalent," Copeland observes. "Some say their daughters would be trying on makeup at home if they weren’t trying it on here."

Oh, now I get it. Might as well take them to a bar if they’ll be drinking at home.

Another "adult" female adds some motivation for the prancing princesses: "If you’re gonna dress like that, you gotta shake your booty."

All that’s missing is a stripper’s pole, a pedophile petting zoo and a discount coupon for anorexia counseling.

If an objective reading of Copeland’s article doesn’t help the double minded moms discern that turning their little girl into a sexy siren is setting them up for bad guys, this chilling fact should: "Sometimes people walking through the mall gather by the windows at Club Libby Lu to watch the spectacle of little girls: all that pink and glitter. All that flesh, too."

Some bad guy followed Jon Benet Ramsey home, most likely after watching one of her feathery, rhinestone-studded routines in a "beauty" pageant. There’s no reason to believe he’s not still out there. We forget about it until a John Mark Carr comes along or another "Amber Alert" flashes across our TV screen.

A final word to all the moms. You need to keep an eye on the window-watchers at Club Libby Lu. Make sure a bad guy doesn’t follow your little "Glamour Babe" all the way home.

For all the rest of us, say a prayer for the kids, especially those with AWOL parents with lots of ambition and money but short-changed on common sense.


Janet M. LaRue

Jan LaRue is Senior Legal Analyst with the American Civil Rights Union; former Chief Counsel at Concerned for Women; Legal Studies Director at Family Research Council; and Senior Counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families. Be the first to read Janet LaRue's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.