Global Road Entertainment
May 22, 2018 at 04:54 PM EDT

The new film Show Dogs — which stars Ludacris as the voice of a talking police dog named Max who has to infiltrate a prestigious dog show — is causing concern among parents for a subplot which involves Max becoming comfortable with strangers touching his genitals.

In the PG-rated film, Max must learn how to perform well as a show dog, which includes behaving during the “inspection” of his genitals by the show judges — a plot line that critics have likened to sexual predators “grooming” children to become comfortable with inappropriate touching.

The filmmakers responded to the concerns with a statement: “It has come to our attention that there have been online discussion and concern about a particular scene in Show Dogs, a family comedy that is rated PG. The dog show judging in this film is depicted completely accurately as done at shows around the world; and was performed by professional and highly respected dog show judges. Global Road Entertainment and the filmmakers are saddened and apologize to any parent who feels the scene sends a message other than a comedic moment in the film, with no hidden or ulterior meaning, but respect their right to react to any piece of content.”

The movie, which debuted in theaters on May 18, caught the attention of several parenting blogs. Family film blog Macaroni Kid writer Terina Maldonado wrote:

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…

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.

During the movie, I 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.” 

In a post on the blog For Every Mom, writer Jenny Rapson echoed her sentiments: “Max’s success is riding on whether or not he lets both his partner (for practice) and a stranger (the competition judge) touch his private parts. IN A KIDS MOVIE. WHAT??? Newsflash, folks: THIS IS CALLED GROOMING and it’s what sexual predators do to kids!”

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the group previously known as Morality in Media, released a statement condemning the film: “The movie Show Dogs sends a troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse,” said Dawn Hawkins, the group’s executive director, in a statement. “It contains multiple scenes where a dog character must have its private parts inspected, in the course of which the dog is uncomfortable and wants to stop but is told to go to a ‘zen place.’ The dog is rewarded with advancing to the final round of the dog show after passing this barrier. Disturbingly, these are similar tactics child abusers use when grooming children—telling them to pretend they are somewhere else, and that they will get a reward for withstanding their discomfort. Children’s movies must be held to a higher standard, and must teach children bodily autonomy, the ability to say ‘no’ and safety, not confusing messages endorsing unwanted genital touching.”

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