Adam Sandler’s new movie opened this weekend to terrible reviews and the worst came not from critics, but from a group of child advocates. They are so infuriated by the comic’s attempt at humor that they’ve created a protest petition that’s drawn thousands of signatures.
The objections center on the premise of “That’s My Boy”: The story line follows the relationship between the main character (played by Sandler) and a son that he had with his teacher when he was 13 years old.
The movie (which I haven’t
lost two hours of my life to seen) apparently treats this episode as a big joke, as if the main character was a young stud.
“To suggest in advertisements that Donny’s relationship with his teacher makes him a ‘legend’ is reprehensible and irresponsible. It perpetuates our reluctance as a society to engage in a healthy dialogue about the realities of child sexual abuse,” reads the petition created by the childhood sexual abuse prevention group Darkness to Light.
Sandler fans (assuming the breed exists) may dismiss the petition as coming from overly zealous folks who can’t take a joke.
There are a few problems with that argument.
First, it opened just as media attention to child sex abuse is at a height with the trial of Jerry Sandusky, accused of abusing several young men during his time as a coach and mentor. With the victims’ public testimony, we have been reminded just how deeply unfunny the subject is.
Second, the movie is marketed and clearly made for young men. This is exactly the demographic that needs to better understand that power dynamics of a sexual relationship between teens and mentors can leave lasting damage.
They need to know to speak up and out against sexual manipulation. They need to know if they are victimized, they will be supported, not ridiculed. They need to know that if one of their peers is trapped in this kind of situation, the kid needs help.
It’s a problem that’s more pervasive than we may realize.
While the Sandusky trial is getting national headlines, just on Sunday, the Post’s local section had a story about two alleged Maryland teacher-student sexual relationships and another about a Virginia swim coach’s alleged sexual contact with a minor.
Darkness to Light’s petition asks that producers, “publicly [acknowledge] that the movie features a relationship amounting to statutory rape; [add] a disclaimer along the same lines to the movie’s opening credits; and [create and promote] public service announcements that educate adults about child sexual abuse and empower them to protect the children in their lives.”
As of this morning, the petition had drawn more than 5,000 signatures.
What do you think? Is it best that an offensive, forgettable, comic vehicle be ignored? Or should it be publicly protested?