Parenting

“Child Grooming” or “Silly & Fun”: Disturbing Opposing Reviews on ‘Show Dogs’ Hidden Message

As a 30-year-old going on 13, I’m quite the animated movie buff. But admittedly I have not had the movie Show Dogs on my radar until recently — as in today, recently.

But when I saw the strikingly opposing reviews surface on the film in terms of kid-friendly content, I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the contrast.

On one end of the spectrum, it’s described as a breeding platform for child grooming and on another a 4-star family-friendly movie.

According to Macaroni Kid blogger Terina Maldonado (who took her kids to see the film), the movie is “meant to groom children to be open to having people touch their privates.”

Popular Christian movie review site, PluggedIn, however, says Show Dogs “feels like a talking-dog version of Miss Congeniality: a canine caper the youngsters will giggle at”…with less “doggy doo-doo humor than expected.”

Well, I couldn’t IMAGINE what could be more doggy-doo-doo-like humor than exposing children to grooming through the unsuspecting lens of an animated movie. But with that being said, as someone who hasn’t observed the movie myself, I’d like to offer a comparison of how both sites evaluated the film so you may come to your own conclusion in regard to Show Dog‘s safety for your child’s eyes.

Plugged In, a site whose mission is to ‘go deeper, diving into specific content and the meaning behind it,’ elaborates on the positive, negative, spiritual, and sexual elements as follows.

POSITIVE ELEMENTS

Though they are initially at odds, Max and Frank eventually come to respect and support each other. In fact, that get-along-with-others-philosophy is a central theme here. One of the show dogs even spells it out clearly, saying, “Everything works out a whole lot better when we trust others and show them respect.”

Along with that lesson, Max and Frank also make a number of self-sacrificial choices in the course of solving their case.

SPIRITUAL CONTENT

A seasoned show dog named Philippe agrees to help Max prepare for the dog show. And at one point he prays, “Dear Lord, please forgive my student’s ignorance.”

Another dog named Karma repeatedly voices spiritual-sounding statements. Among them, he uses the Hindu greeting “Namaste,” and he encourages others to meditate on their situations.

SEXUAL CONTENT

Some of the female dog handlers wear formfitting, low-cut outfits. A male handler ushers in his dog while shirtless.

A trainer offers to let Max breed with his dog. Frank repeatedly cups Max’s nether regions (off-camera) to prepare him for the judge’s on-stage inspection of him. Max and another female show dog share a “kiss,” à la that iconic canine canoodle in Lady and the Tramp.

OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS

The film includes some predictable toilet humor—though perhaps not quite as much as I’d anticipated. During a grooming session, Max passes gas in a tub where he’s being scrubbed. He purposely distracts some humans by dragging his backside around on a carpeted floor. And a group of deputized pigeons wonder if someday their feathery descendants will “poop on statues of us.”

But what’s most surprising, is that after scrutinizing each of their key categories, the reviewers reached the following conclusion:

“Show Dogs is a kids’ movie through and through. If you consider its story and presentation on a graduated scale—say, one that ranges from whine and scratch on the low end all the way up to a family pleasing tail-wag peak—this pic probably qualifies as a Saturday-matinee chew toy that lands on the less-enthusiastic, flea-bitten side of the scale. It feels like a talking-dog version of Miss Congeniality: a canine caper the youngsters will giggle at even as parents roll their eyes wearily. “On the plus side, it actually has plenty of action and less doggy doo-doo humor than I expected. And in the negative column, there are some extended dog-private-parts-inspection moments and a couple uses of the word “d–n” that really should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Your kids will likely think it’s silly and fun.

Plugged In says their ratings are “based on a movie’s content elements and worldview, not necessarily its artistic qualities. The more family-friendly a film is the higher the rating.”

This movie was rated a 4 out of 5. YES, 4. 

It seems as though what Terina defines as a “disturbing hidden message” is glossed over as a minor negative element by Plugged In as a ‘dog-private-parts-inspection,’ that still warrants an overall very positive rating.

Now, let’s take a quick visit to Terina’s review that shed quite the opposite perspective on Show Dogs.

During the movie, I kept thinking, “This is wrong, it doesn’t need to be in a kids movie,” she shared. “Everything else in the movie is good fun except for this.”

The mommy blogger asserts that what could have been a fun movie for children was tainted by a dark message unfit for the big screen:

“What could have been solely a fun movie for kids that would get my highest recommendation is damaged by a dark and disturbing message hidden, not so subtly between the fluffy dogs and glamorous parties of the show dog lifestyle.  As part of any dog show, contestants are judged on their abilities and physical attributes. One part, in particular, is the inspection of the dog’s private parts. Being that Max is new to competing, he needs to learn the process so his partner, Frank, along with a former show champion work to get him ready for the final round of the competition. Since the inspection of the private parts will happen in the finals, Frank touches Max’s private parts to get him use to it. Of course, Max doesn’t like it and snaps at Frank for him to stop. Max is then told by the former champion, who has been through the process before, that he needs to go to his ‘zen place’ while it happens so he can get through it. More attempts are made by Frank to touch Max’s private parts, but Max is still having trouble letting it happen and keeps snapping at him.

The day of the finals come and if Max doesn’t let his private parts be touched, he may lose the competition and any hope of finding the kidnapped panda. It all rests on his ability to let someone touch his private parts. The judge’s hands slowly reach behind Max and he goes to his ‘zen place.’ He’s flying through the sky, dancing with his partner, there are fireworks and flowers-everything is great-all while someone is touching his private parts.”

And the scarier part?

While Terina, her husband AND her mother picked up on the concerning message, her daughter found it to be the most entertaining part:

“My husband mentioned that he picked up on this message too, as did my mother who saw the movie with us.  My daughter, on the other hand, said her favorite part of the movie was when Max got his privates touched and the funny reaction he had.

The extremely bothered mother decided to use the opportunity as a teaching moment to reinforce that “private parts are just that, private“:

“We talked about how I didn’t feel that part needed to be in the movie. We talked about how we never let anyone touch our private parts, what they should do if anyone tries. We reinforced that if anyone tries to touch their private parts or asks them to touch their private parts they should talk to us about that. We talked about different ways children can feel pressured to participate in those types of behaviors. A child predator is usually known to the child, rarely are they a stranger. We talked about bribes or threats, we discussed the fact that that type of behavior is not a game, we reminded them the same rules apply to kids as well as adults.”

As a survivor of sexual abuse herself, Terina is quite passionate about doing everything she can to equip her children to protect themselves from the sly tricks of predators.

“Children are our greatest resource, if they have already been a victim of abuse this movie has the potential to be very triggering for them,” she shared.

“With the #MeToo movement and all the talk of sexual predators in Hollywood,” added Terina, “I couldn’t help but think this message, that is blatantly in the open for adults to see, but over a child’s understanding, is meant to groom children to be open to having people touch their privates, even though they don’t want it.”

“The message here is WAY beyond inappropriate — it’s downright DANGEROUS for our kids!” said Jenny Rapson of ForEveryMom.com, piggy-backing off of Terina’s cautionary message.

“I’m a make lemonade out of lemons type of girl, so let’s take this movie and use it as a great teaching tool,” continued Terina, who says she will neither encourage nor discourage people from seeing the movie–but WILL highly caution.

As I’ve not seen the movie myself, I feel I’m in no position to advise one way or the other, but I would 100 percent encourage you to screen the movie ahead of time before deciding if it’s a fit for your children’s eyes as a teaching lesson, ESPECIALLY if they have ever been victims of sexual abuse.

In the words of Terina, “Although you cannot prepare a child for every situation the more knowledge you give them the stronger their defenses are!”

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Kelsey Straeter
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Kelsey is an editor at Outreach. She’s passionate about fear fighting, freedom writing, and the pursuit of excellence in the name of crucifying perfectionism. Glitter is her favorite color, 2nd only to pink, and 3rd only to pink glitter.

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