Tuesday, 30 March 2010

When "fudge" is just enough

Here's an interesting moral conundrum - is it appropriate for children to appear in a movie meant for adults only? As long as there have been films with adult themes, there have been key roles portrayed by young actors not old enough to see the finished product in a cinema.

From Jodie Foster as a 12-year old hooker in Taxi Driver and Linda Blair as the demon-hosting schoolgirl in The Exorcist, right up to Natalie Portman as a pint-sized assassin in Léon and Isabelle Fuhrman as a murderous Orphan - Hollywood has never shied away from depicting kids in child-unfriendly scenarios.

The latest tabloid-troubling teen is Chloe Moretz, who plays the 11-year-old Hit Girl in Matthew Vaughn's graphic novel adaptation Kick Ass. Decked out in a skin-tight costume and a fetching purple wig, the young actress is portrayed shooting people in the head and using the C-word.

Outraged moral guardians have been predictably quick to condemn what they've decided (without seeing it, of course) is an "offensive and inappropriate" film.

As for Chloe herself, she seems pretty well-adjusted about the whole thing, telling The Sun: "Obviously a little girl can't beat up and kill huge, heavy men. It is a controversial role, but it was a role I wanted to do. If I said a sixteenth of the words I say in that movie at home, I would be grounded for the rest of my life for sure." That's because Chloe, like Jodie, Natalie and Linda before her, has parents who make sure she understands the difference between what she's portraying on film, and what's acceptable in real life.

With that in mind, it's interesting that another 'innapropriate roles for kids' controversy has erupted in the last couple of days over a viral film that's currently doing the rounds.

Posted by a woman called cindymomof6, the youtube clip is of Cindy's son Jaydon's performance in a surprising school play. Rather than a traditional nativity with tea-towels and Tiny Tears, Jaydon's school apparently decided to re-enact Brian DePalma's classic drugs 'n' guns epic Scarface.

Some might say that it's a little strange that they picked a modern-day gangster classic, especially one with 226 uses of the f-word. In fact, Scarface's famously foul mouth isnpired a series of Swear-A-Long screenings - like Sing-Along-A-Sound of Music, if Julie Andrews called each of the Von Trapp kids a motherfucker.

Don't worry, the kids' version has been carefully rewritten to replace every f-bomb with the word 'fudge'. The bowl of cocaine is a dish of popcorn, and none of the guns fire live ammo.

Nonetheless, people are still up in arms about the school's choice of performance material, with comments posted along the lines of "Jaydon's school and teacher should be sued. This is just toooo wrong. What have we become. Shamefull" and "Its just wrong,the school needs help and so do the American people,to teach this at any age,no wonder they shoot each other in the street."

What's most worrying about this whole debacle is that fact that anyone thinks for a second that this video is the real thing. Everything, from the careful crafting of the script to the surprisingly adept camerawork, suggests that this is a joke. That and the fact that it's clearly supposed to be funny. Anyone who's ever sat through, or appeared in, a school play knows they're about as entertaining as an omnibus edition of Cash In The Attic.

It doesn't take a genius to discover the story on TMZ confirming that it's the work of an LA-based production company that's made videos for Lady Gaga, Bowling For Soup and Adam Lambert. What's not yet known is the purpose of the film itself, other than to give the easily disgusted a bit of a work-out.

And that's the problem - when exactly did we become so hungry for outrage that any sense of credulity went out the window? Does our sense of moral indignation mean more to us than any semblance of curiosity or rational thought?

Oh, and one more thing. For all of the outrage over kids re-enacting mobster movies and shooting each other with toy guns, it's worth remembering that Alan Parker did this 34 years ago in Bugsy Malone. And the only troubling thing to emerge from that was the career of Scott Baio.

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