Allen Covert is an old friend of Adam Sandler’s, appears in many of his movies (I loved him in “The Wedding Singer”) and co-produces “That’s My Boy,” Sandler’s latest. Covert is also an outspoken conservative and “family values” promoter. So how he or Sandler thought this was a great idea makes zero sense to me.
Sandler plays a rape victim whose rapist became pregnant with a son he now reconnects with, first for cynical and later sentimental reasons. It’s that twist, of course, Sandler’s tender shtick, that supposedly excuses this abominable idea. And I’m sure most will see a harmless plot driven by a snarky, devil-may-care 13 year-old who impregnates his sexy teacher.
It isn’t. It’s child rape.
But the victim is a boy and the abuser an attractive, white woman, so who cares? Bring up the crimes of Mary Kay Letourneau or Debra LaFave, and you’ll likely get eye-rolling, then air quotes around the word “crimes.” Their victims, many believe, are really the luckiest boys on earth, fast-tracked James Bond’s with the world on a string. The 80’s saw a few awful movies with similar themes. But to my memory, the boys were around 16. Sandler’s character is 13. Older boys can and do suffer just as much from rape by women. But younger ones almost always fare far worse.
Vili Fualaau, a victim I wouldn’t name except that he’s living his life story publicly, was 13 when he was first raped by Letourneau, a relentless predator who never stopped hunting him. He is now a 26 year-old high school dropout, convicted of DUI, and a survivor of a suicide attempt. The only success he seems to have found is in capitalizing on his victimization (with Letourneau) at promoted events in bars for a few bucks.
The victim of LaFave, according to the testimony of his sister, remains in psychiatric care still devastated from the rape he endured. LaFave was released years early from probation by a judge who joked with her while compromising both the punishment and treatment she earned when she destroyed the boy she victimized.
What we call “compliant” victims of child sexual abuse are remarkably common, especially in adolescence. The older the child, the more society blames the child for at least knowing the score, if not outright luring or asking for the abuse. Predators know and rely on this. Female “tweens” and teens are certainly judged, shunned and blamed for their own victimization by adult males, as almost all adult victims are. But a boy, unless the perpetrator is a male, must celebrate his abuse, and at the expense of far more than just looking like some mysteriously disgruntled lottery winner.
Sandler’s character as a boy is shown smirking and proudly high-fiving classmates when his rapist appears in court pregnant. The message sent to boys are who are similarly victimized is clear: You’d better react the same way, or you’re not a man. You’re a loser, and the affections of a “real woman” were wasted on you. But alas, in reality when guilt, shame, fear and confusion surface due to a clearly pathological relationship, the boy is utterly alone. No one- absolutely no one- will understand if he dares voice any disturbance. Instead they’ll smirk. They’ll joke about how it should have been them. They’ll wonder aloud what else isn’t quite right with him. And so on.
I am highly unpopular, generally, with men’s rights groups familiar with me. But this is one area where I find some common ground with them. Adolescent female victims of men are commonly mistreated and unfairly blamed when they report. But boys victimized by women had better not report at all. Or else. But if the abuse is discovered and the woman prosecuted, she is usually under-punished if at all.
The fact that Sandler’s adult character is a failure could presumably be called instructive, and act in defense of trivializing something tragic and evil. But that’s a sorry argument. Clear enough from the trailer is that the character, while a loveable loser, is still happy-go-lucky and serendipitous, not alone, desperate and suffering. Child rape as humor promotes nothing redeeming, despite the Sandler soft-touch. It’s garishly misplaced as such.