Moviemakers versus the clean-flicks revolt
By John Hughes (Christian Science Monitor)
SALT LAKE CITY - When a little Utah mom-and-pop video store snipped
the Kate Winslet nude scene out of the "Titanic" movie a few years
ago, it didn't know what it was starting. That act caught the
interest of many video-renters in Utah, a conservative state with a
large Mormon population, whose church discourages viewing of movies
with heavy doses of violence, steamy sex scenes, and profanity. It
turned out there was a considerable market for the edited version of
"Titanic" among all kinds of families who didn't want their children
watching the sex scenes.
And as it further turned out, a national market has flourished for
"E-rated" or edited films, which are cleaned up for families who
don't want it the violence and crudity that Hollywood injects into
far too many of its movies. We are not talking about what scoffers
call the "Mary Poppins" line of family movies here. We are talking
about major and often significant movies that are simply overladen
with filth that some families would just as soon avoid.
A lot of the edited films were originally R-rated, but some films
rated P-13 such as "Big Daddy" and "Anna and the King" are getting an
editing as violence and profanity creep in. Stores renting the
E-rated videos have mushroomed in many states, but the edited
versions can also be ordered from websites that put the cleaned-up
movies within reach of anybody with a mail box.
This grass-roots revolt against the moviemakers' pollution of our
culture has not been well received in Hollywood. The argument
producers and directors have used hitherto to justify the increasing
use in their productions of four-letter filth and violence is that
movie-goers demand it. The emergence of a substantial audience that
clearly does not approve of this content surely belies this theory.
So now, the Hollywood opposition to edited videos centers on the
thesis that it represents censorship of the original artist's
creativity, and is an invasion of his or her intellectual property.
It is an intriguing ethical argument, with the hint of legal action
by the originating studios hovering in the background.
The argument is somewhat undercut by the fact that the studios
themselves alter movies for various markets, notably television, and
for showing on airlines. Less well-known to American moviegoers is
the fact that more than half of a popular movie's revenue comes from
overseas, and movie-makers make substantial changes in those movies
to accommodate foreign tastes. Violence is often toned down for
European audiences, and sex scenes are often eliminated for viewers
in India, and for Islamic countries like Indonesia and Pakistan.
One key legal question is whether a viewer has the right to make
changes to a video he himself owns. To illustrate this point: My
family pays a small annual fee to belong to a cooperative at a local
video-rental store that actually owns the edited videos. A section of
the store is devoted to these edited movies and when I exercise my
membership I pay a small rental fee to take out a video of which I am
But other venues make no ownership demands. Albertson's, the second
largest grocery chain in the country, recently began offering E-rated
movie videos for rental, and expects to have them in all of its 1,000
stores by summer's end.
New digital technology may soon make the actual editing of videotapes
by snipping irrelevant. This technology, downloaded onto a computer
that plays a DVD movie, will be programmed to skip over objectionable
material, eliminating bad language, nudity, and violence, without
copying or altering the permanent contents of the DVD.
Moviemakers see all this as unethical and immoral and are pressing
the studios to take legal action to protect the directors' artistic
rights. Some academics argue we are on a slippery and dangerous slope
The best solution would be simply a recognition by Hollywood that it
has descended to the outer limits of good taste and that it needs to
clean up its act. At the very least, it could provide edited and
nonedited versions of its products, so that viewers could make up
their minds which version to buy.
While the debate over its ethics and legality is yet to play out, the
revolt by a substantial number of viewers against the tawdriness of
some Hollywood offerings is a signal that the moviemakers should heed.
* John Hughes, editor and chief operating officer of The Deseret
News, is former editor of the Monitor
-- Carrie McLaren Editor, Stay Free! 718.398.9324 www.stayfreemagazine.org www.illegal-art.org ---------------------------------------------------- Rumori, the Detritus.net Discussion List to unsubscribe, send mail to majordomoATdetritus.net with "unsubscribe rumori" in the message body. ---------------------------------------------------- Rumori list archives & other information are at http://detritus.net/contact/rumori ----------------------------------------------------
[an error occurred while processing this directive] N© Detritus.net. Sharerights extended to all.