Evangelical ethicist Russell D. Moore has joined other parents online expressing their "horror" at an interpretation of the children's movie "Show Dogs," released last week, which some say could be used to promote child grooming and sexual abuse.
Terina Maldonado, who writes for the Macaroni Kid blog that reviews content aimed at families, wrote on Sunday that she, her husband, her mother, and their young daughter attended an advanced screening of the film last week.
While the movie, which is about police dogs and their human partners uncovering crime, is meant to be a comedy, the review focused on one disturbing aspect of the plot where the main canine character, Max, needs to have his private parts inspected as part of a competition for show dogs.
"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," Maldonado describes the plot.
"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."
The mother notes in her review that during the movie, she kept thinking, "This is wrong, it doesn't need to be in a kids movie. Everything else in the movie is good fun except for this."
"Afterward, 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," she continued.
"I decided to use that moment to help reinforce what we have taught our children since they were little: private parts are just that, private. We talked about how I didn't feel that part needed to be in the movie," Maldonado wrote.
"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."
Maldonado said that she feels very strongly about such material, since she is a survivor of child abuse. She accused the movie of promoting a very dark message and of looking "to groom children to be open to having people touch their privates, even though they don't want it."
"It gives them the idea of a 'Zen place' to go to mentally when they are touched," she warned.
Moore, who is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote in a Tweet on Monday while linking to the Macaroni Kid review: "I had to read this twice to make sure I was reading it correctly. Horrifying."
"Sexual predation is not entertaining. What are you thinking @ShowDogsMov?" he asked.
Matt Chandler, lead pastor of teaching at the Village Church in Highland Village, Texas, also tweeted in response to the review: "This is vile and disturbing ... How's this possible?"
Family movie review website Common Sense Media separately gave "Show Dogs" a two out of five star rating, and also made note of the controversial plot.
"One plot point centers on Max's physical exam by a dog show judge where the animal seems to feel violated and is coached on how to get through it, which could strike some viewers as too close to the experience of sexual abuse," Common Sense Media warned.