I’m writing in direct response to “Hard Candy” Turned Real so please read before continuing to read mine. I was first just going to comment on the post, but as I began writing my comment, I started to realize all of the ways Sweetie got me thinking about Hard Candy.
I read another article and watched the short video on Sweetie. I was really impressed with the technology, especially of a non-government agency. The way these pedophiles act, hiding behind screens, watching, not necessarily directly participating does get at some of the safeness of voyeurism or of the peeping tom, therefore highlighting the appeal of this type of gaze. Where it differs though, is that these pedophiles, engage Sweetie, from behind the screen. They want her to be aware of their presence, they communicate with her, ask her/tell her to do things, and want her to perform for them, in response. I think this goes beyond voyeurism as it pertains to film, since, in my opinion, these are real encounters, merely separated by the screen.
Also, I wouldn’t say, they are tempting children to perform for their gaze. They are paying these children; I mean, I guess that’s a form of temptation, since these children are living in poverty, often their acts serving as the sources of income for entire families. Watching the video on Sweetie, I was so disturbed by the growth of this type of industry, therefore the growth of the numbers of children in it. These children in internet sex trade are victimized in so many way. Without getting too complex about the socio-economic reason they’re in this trade, they are victimized both by their families who force them into this, the pedophiles who solicit sex from them. They lack the agency of Sweetie or Hayley.
Now, the difference between Sweetie and Hayley, both Vigilantes in a sense, would be Sweetie works to remain within the law. I was actually surprised that Terre des Hommes researchers got all of the men’s information through legal means, such as googling and finding them through their social media profiles, when getting this personal information takes so much longer than, say, hacking the men’s computers. Perhaps, this was done out of the hope their evidence will better hold up in court.
This article questions the ethics of Vigilante-type acts against pedophiles and also the effectiveness of Vigilantism.
One quote that stood out to me in particular is below:
‘This is vigilantism,’ he said. ‘With all kinds of vigilante activity, you can have a very quick success in drawing attention to a problem area, but that vigilante attention doesn’t bring with it in its wake arrests and charges and convictions. You’ve drawn attention to a problem but potentially done nothing to resolve the problem.’
This got me thinking about Hard Candy again, wondering what exactly is Hayley’s motivation. In her act of vigilantism, she technically resolved a small problem, by removing two pedophiles, but she did nothing to bring public awareness or attention to it. Maybe, she didn’t have faith in a subsequent arrest and conviction, even if she had presented evidence; she does mention this doubt briefly in the film, arguing the public would be sympathetic to a good looking and remorseful pedophile like Jeff.
When you think about it, technically, Jeff “never touched” Hayley. He was entrapped by her. We get the feeling that he’s a pedophile, but there is ambiguity.
Sweetie faces the same problem:
“any evidence gathered in the Dutch charity’s investigation would not hold up in court, as the alleged perpetrator has been entrapped. Another issue is that Sweetie is not a real child.”
This kind of statement makes me more sympathetic to Hayley’s act of vigilantism. Not that I condone her violence, but perhaps, I understand it better now, if looking at it as an act of desperation, when there seems to be no legal system in place that effectively protects children.