The Opening Scene in Kids (Larry Clark, 1995)
Though controversial for many, many reasons and scenes, particularly the tragic rape scene at the end, Kids was met with protest from the very first shot, which features a depiction of a 17-year-old boy (Leo Fitzpatrick) deflowering a 12-year-old girl (Sarah Henderson). Many viewers questioned the legality or morality of employing this seemingly age-appropriate actress, critics called it borderline kiddy porn, and the filmmakers constantly had to assure audiences that she was in fact 18. The film had its share of protests and distribution problems, but fortunately for the filmmakers, it was made and released before the signing of the Child Pornography Prevention Act, unlike…
Humbert and Lolita Play a Game in Lolita (Adrian Lyne, 1997)
Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s classic novel was obviously controversial for its semi-incestuous, pedophilic sex scenes, even though they were only hinted at and occurred off screen. 35 years later, in an era thought to be more progressive and allowing, Adrian Lyne’s version was just as objectionable, if not more so, because it left less to the imagination. One sex scene carefully substituted a 19-year-old body double for 15-year-old actress Dominique Swain, but despite the fact that plenty of movies had employed legal-aged girls portraying underage characters in nude and sex scenes before, Lyne’s Lolita was unfortunately being filmed just as President Clinton signed the Child Pornography Prevention Act. This banned even virtual child pornography, which Lolita’s sex scene might be considered to be, so Lyne videotaped the making of all questionable scenes in case he needed to produce evidence in court that his film falls into the boundaries of the law. Of course, legal or not, the film became a difficult sell to audiences and failed to find proper theatrical distribution. Meanwhile, after five years, the Child Pornography Prevention Act was struck down in 2002 for being too broad.
Nazi Commits Statutory Rape in The Reader (Stephen Daldry, 2008)
This wasn’t the first film to depict an underage boy having sex with an older woman, nor was it the first to incite protests regarding the double standard of statutory rape being more acceptable when the minor is male. But due to its added controversy of involving a former Nazi (Kate Winslet), whose humanity is defended through the film’s early lovemaking and romance scenes, The Reader makes it onto this list instead of other titles (which due to the double standard aren’t even seen as that controversial anyway).