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Film / Hounddog

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Dakota Fanning plays Lewellen, a preteen Elvis fangirl living in the Deep South during The '50s. The movie she inhabits is a Slice of Life Coming of Age Story. The other main characters include her careless father Lou (David Morse), her religious psycho grandmother (Piper Laurie), her playmate Buddy (Cody Hanford), local Magical Negro Charles (Afemo Omilami), "Big Momma" Thornton (Jill Scott), and mini-Southern Belle Grasshopper (Isabelle Fuhrman). What little plot there is centers on Lewellen's desire to see Elvis perform in person.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Lou shoots Lewellen's dog because it barked too much. And a conversation she had earlier with Buddy heavily implies that Lou hits her, given that she shows Buddy a bruise on her leg that she claims her father gave her.
  • Asshole Victim: Plenty of tragic events occur to Lou that he deserved for being a terrible parent. He gets struck by lightning, which makes him disabled to the point of being infantile. And at the end, he picks up a rattlesnake that seems to have been killed by him, but was still alive and bites him. He is left writhing on the ground in agony and most likely dying.
  • Book Ends: In the beginning of the movie, Lewellen tells Buddy that she's going to kill her father someday. At the end of the movie, as Lewellen is sneaking off to go with Ellen, her father appears to kill a rattlesnake but she remembers Charlie's words about rattlesnakes and she is about to warn her father but decides against it and her father gets bitten.
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: Lewellen's father gets struck by lightning and her grandmother believes it's this trope at work.
  • The Caretaker: Lewellen becomes this for her father after he's hit by lightning.
  • Children Are Innocent: Subverted with Buddy, who unwittingly helps lure Lewellen into Wooden's Boy's clutches, then fails to help her or tell any adults after the rape. To boot, when Wooden Boy gives him the Elvis tickets, he takes Grasshopper to the concert instead of Lewellen and hangs out with Wooden's Boy instead of her. However, he still cares for Lewellen as he peeked in at Lewellen and argued about her with Wooden's Boy when she got sick.
  • Coming of Age Story: Considering that this involves a girl dealing from fun to experiencing tragedies, which all causes her to mature quite a lot, this is a given.
  • Covered Up: invoked Noted in-universe. Lewellen is surprised to discover "Hound Dog" wasn't originated by her beloved Elvis.
  • Death by Despair: Nearly. Lewellen is so depressed after the rape that it causes her to get very sick and almost die.
  • Dirty Coward: Buddy hides under the pool table when a naked, drunken Lew enters the bar. He, Wooden's Boy, and another boy also run off when Charles confronts them.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In the end, considering all the crap that Lewellen went through, she is finally able to overcome her rape thanks to Charles, finds a cute puppy on the side of the road, and is offered an opportunity to move in by her aunt Ellen. When she tries to ask permission from her father, she realizes that it's not worth it and leaves him, her grandmother, and everything else behind. She walks to her aunt, driving off, ready to start a new chapter in her life.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Buddy and Wooden's Boy are right next to the black hangout and are discussing how the latter had raped Lewellen. Charles, who was at an upstairs window lighting up a smoke, happens to overhear them. He becomes furious, and the boys down below realize that they're in trouble, so they run out of there as fast as they can.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Buddy has this in the dark shack as he asks Lewellen to undress herself. Comes to show that he is in on a sinister secret. Indeed, it's then revealed afterwards that he has been helping Wooden's Boy in preparing to rape Lewellen.
  • Fictional Fan, Real Celebrity: Lewellen is a big fan of Elvis Presley, to the point where catching a glimpse of him after one of his concerts provides her with strength to go on.
  • From Bad to Worse: Lewellen's life isn't the best in the beginning and it only gets worse, especially after she gets raped.
  • The Fundamentalist: Lewellen's grandmother.
  • I Have No Son!: "My daughter is dead."
  • Impaled Palm: While being raped by Wooden's Boy in the rotting shack, Lewellen accidentally puts her hand on a wooden board with a nail sticking out, leaving a cut.
  • Innocence Lost: Buddy, thanks to Wooden's Boy's influence. When the latter tasked the former to bring Lewellen in for a trick, he apparently thought that what he was going to do with her was not so harmless, but Buddy then sees what Wooden's Boy does to her right in front of him. This causes him to realize that the world can be a cruel place.
  • Ironic Echo: A truly dark example. The beginning has Lewellen make a bet with Buddy that if he pulled his bottom clothes off and showed his penis to her, she would give him a kiss. He pulls his trousers down, but she replied, "No, stupid, you have to take them all the way off." So he pulls his underpants down as well, which satisfies Lewellen, and she gives him his kiss as she promised. Later, Lewellen makes a bet with Wooden's Boy, that she would do her Elvis dance naked in front of him in exchange for tickets to his concert in town. She merely takes her dress off, leaving her only wearing an underblouse and panties. But Buddy uses the exact same quote that she told him before. So she reluctantly strips down completely naked to do her dance. However, Buddy did his part earlier and Lewellen rewarded him as per the deal. Lewellen did her part for this deal, yet Wooden's Boy didn't hold up his end of the bargain, to say the least.
  • Karma Houdini: Wooden's Boy, who is never held accountable for raping Lewellen.
  • Kick the Dog: Wooden's Boy not only rapes Lewellen, but he also taunts her mentally disabled father one night when Lou wanders off.
    • Given that Lou shot Lewellen's dog earlier in the movie, this could also be interpreted as a Kick The Son Of A Bitch moment.
  • Kids Are Cruel: After luring Lewellen to be raped, Buddy doesn't help her and takes Grasshopper to the concert instead and hangs out with Wooden's Boy instead of her. Subverted when we learn that he does still show concern for Lewellen.
  • Lightning Reveal: How Lewellen finds out that Wooden's Boy is in the shack with her, much to her shock. It gets worse from there.
  • Lured into a Trap: Wooden's Boy has Buddy lure Lewellen into the shed where the rape takes place with the promise of Elvis tickets.
  • Magical Negro: Charles, perhaps the only character, other than Lewellen, who is not a Jerkass to at least some degree.
  • Mature Work, Child Protagonists: It revolves around a preteen girl named Lewellen (played by then-12-years-old Dakota Fanning) who has an extremely troubled life involving abusive and/or neglectful parents and an overly-stern grandmother, and engages in Troubling Unchildlike Behavior (including smoking, drinking and sexualized behavior) due to her trauma. The film also became infamous for a plotline where Lewellen is raped by an older boy. Needless to say, this one isn't for 12-year-olds.
  • Naked People Are Funny: A mentally handicapped Lou wanders out one night completely in the nude. He stumbles into a bar full of boys, and he sees Buddy, who cowers in distress as he tries to make illegible conversation with him. The other amused boys start heckling Lou. It takes Lewellen to find him in there, break up the scuffle, and lead him back home.
  • The New Rock & Roll: The Trope Namer is viewed as the "devil's music" by some characters, most notably Lewellen's grandmother.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Grasshopper's real name is Gwendolyn, but everyone just calls her by her nickname. Played more straight with Wooden's Boy, who is only known by this nickname.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Lou and Ellen.
  • Parental Substitute: Ellen, until she runs off. Fortunately, she returns for Lewellen at the end of the film.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Grasshopper's dress and headband are light pink.
  • Playing Doctor: Lewellen and Buddy in the opening scene.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Lewellen is barefoot for nearly the whole movie.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Even though she suffers utter depression, which boosts heavily due to her rape, Lewellen stills tries to compose herself in front of others. But then she rescues her naked father from a bar while suffering humiliation, to which he then listens to "Hounddog" at their home, oblivious to the fact that this is what she had to sing herself before she was raped. This is what causes Lewellen to finally lose her cool. She shuts the music off, hits her father, and screams at him multiple times that he's so stupid.
  • Raised by Grandparents: After Lou is struck by lightning and rendered mentally disabled, Lewellen's grandmother becomes the parental figure in her life.
  • Rape as Drama: The part of the film that you've probably heard of.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: After the rape, when Lewellen plunges into a deep depression, she hallucinates that she is surrounded by snakes.
  • Squee: Lewellen's reaction to Elvis-related things.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Wooden's Boy. He initially seems to be quite friendly towards Lewellen, but then he shows his true colors to her in the shack.
  • Titled After the Song: And boy, do we get to hear that song a lot.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Lewellen and Grasshopper.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: 11-year-old Lewellen is seen smoking and drinking. This is apparently normal for her. Also, she and Buddy apparently strip in front of each other.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: After being raped, Lewellen excuses herself from a church service to go outside, where she runs off-screen to throw up.
  • With Friends Like These...: Buddy is mainly responsible for Lewellen's rape happening, given that he lured her into Wooden's Boy shed. Turns out he's in cahoots with him and gives her Elvis ticket to Grasshopper. Subverted when it shows that he stills cares for her and argues about her with Wooden's Boy.