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Censor yourself

Published by marco on

According to Your Handy Home Censorship Kit (AlterNet), there is now in America a purification device for the wicked emissions coming from Hollywood in the form of “[a] new device [that] allows consumers to cleanse their DVDs of sex, profanity and violence.”

Whoop-dee-doo. It’s called network television or basic cable; we’ve had it for decades. This brilliant technology is now also available for the home in the form of a ClearPlay DVD player:

“ that are designed to mute or skip over foul language, nudity, violence and other “inappropriate” behavior in hundreds of commercial DVDs. What content will be expunged is theoretically left to the viewer’s discretion. For example, if you load When Harry Met Sally and select the “Vain References to Deity” or the “Sensual Content” filters, you will skip right over Meg Ryan’s ersatz, “Oh God!” orgasm.”

This new product is one legalized by Bush’s signing of the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act (FECA), which includes severe punishments for copyright breaking − up to ten years − and a family clause, which legitimizes such ‘post-processing’ devices for the home. Previously, these were considered copyright infringements as they allowed alteration of copyrighted content by entities other than the copyright holders.

The uproar seems to be more over whether yokels want to ruin their own cinema experiences* than over the fact that copyright infringement now carries a longer minimum sentence than rape. The drastic sentences for victimless crimes (include most drug crimes here) proposed by businesses and lackadaisically sworn into law by fully-bought representatives is far more outrageous than companies that enable people to self-censor.

*Even more than they already do by missing out on “European” versions of films (that would be the “full” version of a film for non-US readers).

I think the post-processing is fine (especially when it reduces the amount of time I have to see Meg Ryan on screen). Americans already accept all of their news about the world in a similarly pre-processed way; why not carry the concept to movies? They can buy this device and have it provide a palliative experience with no fun and no mental stimulation. I’m not sure who’ll buy it though. The business itself doesn’t seem to be really booming, as the model involves hand-picking the areas to block, which they’ve only done for “hundreds of films”.

“To true cinephiles, the absence of such iconic moments might ruin these films completely.” Most “true” cinephiles probably aren’t that worried about “Vain References to Deit[ies]” in their films either. However, in America, the FCC already censors the living crap out of anything that makes it onto the airwaves. What exactly is the difference here? Imagine “A Clockwork Orange” on American TV, perhaps on NBC. It would be the most confusing 5 minutes of your life. At least this system carries the censoring system to those that want it. Naturally, they can’t choose exactly which portions are removed: those choices lie with the churchy folk at ClearPlay. That shouldn’t worry anyone who’s spent any time getting their news from Reader’s Digest, though; it’s called a digest because they censor out all of the “offensive” ideas and any bits that aren’t sufficiently jingoistic.

If they want to censor themselves, let them. What with the popularity of horror, hyper-action, porno and other films in America, I can’t imagine who the hell’s going to use this thing. If a segment of America (most of these censorship companies are headquartered in Utah) wants to make itself even more culturally ignorant and divorced from reality, more power to them. It’s just another stage of evolution, like when Neanderthals had to live with Cro Magnons until they died out. We can do these folk the same favor, can’t we? At least they’ll be happy as they slide into obsolesence.

“Censorship under the guise of child protection,“ added Heins, “has traditionally been, and continues to be, a convenient excuse for not educating children—about media, critical thinking, and moral values.”

This hyperbole is completely unjustified, as the state has no business what happens in a private home. Children raised without any television at all and those raised with a massive amount of television have just as little training in “critical thinking and moral values”. These ideas still assume that children can be raised without parenting, learning only from out wonderful machines. All of a sudden, people are concerned about education and think that Hollywood movies are a source of “critical thinking” for kids? Gimme a break. The article even asks “why did the government approve such technology?” as if the government has any right to ban it in the first place. If a parent wants to install the most idiotic safeguards against the Internet(s) on their computer at home, who is the government to stop them?

There is a dark side to this, though. MegOnTheMountain makes a good point (in one of the last comments attached to the article) in mentioning that this technology is being used publically, instead of by private citizens. Government programs, like TANF (welfare), sometimes screen films for their classes; these cannot impose a blanket censorship on a group. “Meg” said her class saw Erin Brockovich and that the “video had been edited by ClearPlay” to eliminate cursing. Even worse, though, was how the class was run:

“The other disturbing thing was that the facilitator of this “class” − a middle-aged woman, by the way − kept stopping the tape to point out all the things Erin was doing wrong: her low cut clothes, her foul mouth, her outspoken nature, the way she questioned and challenged authority and the sta[t]us quo.”

This, for me, is far more dangerous than people using ClearPlay in their homes. Even using ClearPlay in this government program is not nearly as bad as women being trained not to “challenge authority and the status quo”. The government is training the poor to be docile and subservient − that’s much more frightening. It is here that I like to invoke the name of George Orwell and his good pal, Big Brother.

Let parents install the device. Kids will just go watch at their friends’ houses and life will continue for them as it always has. The best we can hope for is that the kind of people that feel they need these, can convince their children that sex is so evil that they never breed and evolution closes off another useless loop in its long, long history.

Until then, we’ll just keep electing as many of them as possible to office.