The movie Show Dogs came out a few weeks ago, and if you’re a regular Pajiba reader, you know we didn’t cover it here. TK doesn’t put us through that much pain. But perhaps you saw the movie’s posters, in which Will Arnett clearly is hating every element of his life that led him to this moment:
And oh hey, Natasha Lyonne is in this! Of the forever classic queer film But I’m a Cheerleader and the little-seen but totally unhinged B-movie Antibirth! Maybe Show Dogs is just a wacky kid’s movie to help pay her and Arnett’s bills!
But, you know, there’s also this:
PSA DO NOT GO TO OR SUPPORT THE MOVIE “Show Dogs”. ***IT NORMALIZES SEXUAL ABUSE*** spread the word, I know many parents who would have no idea because it’s portrayed as kid-friendly & rated PG. This is just not okay. pic.twitter.com/lFbcitd9wg— lucinda (@lucindasowards) May 20, 2018
And yup, she’s right. I had to see Show Dogs for another publication, and I wrote about this in my review for Chesapeake Family: this movie is NOT OKAY FOR CHILDREN. Show Dogs is actually extremely bizarre and borderline fucked-up, a faux family comedy that normalizes unwanted touching and uses forced physical closeness for laughs.
My friend Sandie Angulo Chen, a mother of three who writes for family publication Common Sense Media, and I saw this movie together and we kept looking at each other with the same expression: What in the actual fuck is going on here?
The movie focuses on protagonist Max, an NYPD K9 (Ludacris doing his best Ice T on Law and Order: SVU impression), who talks over and over again about being from “the streets” and looking down on dog competitions. It’s not worth explaining why Rottweiler Max ends up in the very show dogs world he abhors, but once he advances to the finals of the Las Vegas-held Canini International, he has to be trained on how to win the whole thing. And the primary elements of “training” are unwanted sexual touching.
First there’s the hair removal: FBI agent Frank (Arnett), who is partnered with Max, is delighted to learn that he gets to give Max a bikini wax under his tail, and the unwanted touching is simultaneously malevolent … but also supposed to be hilarious? After all the times Max has run off (and played music Frank doesn’t like on the car radio, inspiring stellar dialogue like “What kind of dog likes hip-hop?”), Frank is eager to get some pain payback. The creators of the film are so convinced this will be funny that it’s given prime placement as the final scene in the trailer (cue up the final 12 seconds):
That’s already kind of awful! But then the film takes things one step further by dedicating the final act to this question: Can Max keep his composure as Frank, or Canini judges, touch his genitals against his will?
“The inspection of the private parts is the hardest part of being a show dog,” says Philippe, a prior Canini winner (voiced by Stanley Tucci, why?!), who has decided to coach Max. And so Frank and Max train over and over again, with Frank touching Max’s genitals countless times to the same reaction: anger and discomfort. But after Philippe, Frank, and trainer Mattie (Lyonne) continue reiterating that Max’s acceptance of this touching is the only way he can win the Canini, during the final competition, Max keeps his cool. When his genitals are touched, he goes to his “happy place,” where Max is surrounded by rose petals reminiscent of American Beauty and executes the iconic Dirty Dancing jump with Frank. IT IS SO FUCKING WEIRD, AND HONESTLY VERY INAPPROPRIATE FOR KIDS.
Ultimately, Max goes from hating the unwanted touching to finding it emotionally transcendent; after that experience, he considers Frank his “homedog.” Show Dogs not only normalizes being touched against your will, but also makes it a positive thing — even Max, the toughest of dogs who other competitors positively praise as “alpha,” ends up both accepting it and gaining something from it. Oh, and what song plays after Max calmly doesn’t react to the touching of his genitals? LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.” Get it? Because he’s sexy! When he lets people touch him in parts he didn’t want them to be touching!
There’s other weird stuff here — a joke about the size of Max’s penis, a character who is shown as an addict who happens to be Max’s informant, jokes about how Philippe went “crazy” after his owner made him undergo unwanted plastic surgery, and another dog character voiced by RuPaul who is suggested as being hideous, but interested in seducing Max despite his disgust — but it all comes back to the fact that Show Dogs is a movie for children that is primarily interested in pushing a plot that normalizes unwanted sexual touching. For an audience of any age, kids or adults, that’s pretty fucked up.