Leading national organizations in the fight against child sexual abuse are criticizing Adam Sandler's new movie That's My Boy for making light of statutory rape in its depiction of a 13-year old boy's sexual relationship with his teacher at school. That relationship results in the teacher's pregnancy, a jail sentence and Sandler's character being forced to raise the child himself. When the child turns eighteen, he leaves home and does not interact with his father again until the eve of his wedding.
Although the story ultimately focuses on the characters' reconciliation, organizations such as Prevent Child Abuse America, Darkness to Light and Stop It Now! are strongly criticizing the movie's outdated views on child sexuality, and the sexuality of boys specifically. The movie also minimizes the long term impact of sexual abuse on children.
As someone who works to protect children from abuse and exploitation, I must say that it should be unacceptable that Columbia Pictures and Happy Madison Productions would promote child rape as a joking matter, and as a means for making a profit. The movie also clearly highlights a double-standard when dealing with sexuality of boys as compared to girls.
Jim Hmurovich, President & CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America, issued the following statement in response to the film:
"It goes without saying that Adam Sandler and Columbia Pictures would never have made a similar movie about a thirteen-year old girl and a teacher of hers. How is it that in 2012 they still find it acceptable to make such a movie about a character who is a boy? This is a movie about rape, plain and simple, and while we could have an endless dialogue about how this is a comedy, or a story that highlights the resilience of children, I call upon the viewing public to express their strong disapproval.
Along with my colleagues from Darkness to Light and Stop It Now! we have sent the producers of the film an offer to discuss how misguided this attempt at humor is, and what message can be salvaged from this screenplay. All of us regardless of what we do in our lives have a responsibility to the children and families in this country. I suggest we figure out together how they can fulfill that responsibility in a way that supports the healthy child development of all children.
Given the national conversation about protecting children from sexual abuse that has occurred in the wake of the scandal at Penn State, it is troubling that we now see a high profile comedy movie that trivializes statutory rape of a boy. It's not a laughing matter.
Just as it is no longer acceptable for comedians like Don Rickles to tell racially stereotypical jokes, I look forward to the day when it is no longer acceptable to joke about exploiting or causing harm to children.