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