The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

12 July 2006

You will watch what you're told to watch

Much of the media coverage of yesterday's court ruling against various firms which "sanitize" Hollywood pictures and distribute the bowdlerized versions to their customers has been almost gleeful in its portrayal of those customers as the dumb hicks they obviously must be.

I carry no particular brief for dumb hicks, and I like my violence uncut and my nudity gratuitous, but I find this decision annoying. Nick Gillespie explains:

I'm squarely on the side of the easily offended CleanFlicks customers. They are doing precisely what technology is there for: to create the sort of art, music, video, and text that an individual or group of individuals wants to consume.

By all accounts, the CleanFlicks-type outfits weren't ripping off Hollywood in any way, shape, or form — they were paying full fees for content — and they weren't fooling anyone into thinking their versions were the originals; the whole selling point of CleanFlicks' Titanic is that it spared audiences the original movie's brief moment of full-frontal Winslet. CleanFlicks was simply part of a great and liberatory trend in which audiences are empowered to consume culture on their own terms — not the producers'. Big content providers may have prevailed in this specific case, but the sooner they understand and adapt to a much larger and more powerful cultural dynamic, the better they'll be at serving the audiences who are increasingly in control of what they watch, listen to, and read.

This isn't a censorship issue: it's a control issue. I, for one, am loath to permit The Industry to assert any power over any content I've paid for. My reaction would be the same if Visual Artist X complained that some people weren't hanging his paintings exactly in the center of the wall, or if Influential Band Y demanded that listeners play their entire CD through every time.

Culture isn't top-down anymore. Get used to it.

Posted at 7:28 AM to Almost Yogurt

I'd agree with you PROVIDED that the cleaned-up version states that it's a cleaned-up version very very very clearly. It's kind of like Readers Digest versions of books which some people love but which would piss me off to think I had read the unexpurgated version when I had actually read a shortened one. It'd be fine to read selections from War & Peace, but not if you didn't know.

Posted by: anne at 8:35 AM on 12 July 2006

"I'd agree with you PROVIDED that the cleaned-up version states that it's a cleaned-up version very very very clearly."

Don't you have to get these DVDs at 'CleanFlicks-type outfits'? They aren't mixed in with the unedited ones in the case at Wal-Mart are they? And since the whole reason Clean-Flicks exists (and calls itself 'Clean-flicks' for Pete's sake) is to sell clean movies, how could someone not know they are getting the edited version?

I'm not against sanitizing movies, but it would seem to me that those VCRs that are programmed to bleep out, or fast forward past objectionable content would be the way to go.

I guess it'll have to be.

Posted by: Bobbert at 9:51 AM on 12 July 2006