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April 27, 2005
Movie Ranting

(These rants don't always go where I expect them to. I offer no apologies. If you've been here before, you know how I get.)


Hollywood is right. Altering the content of movies is a violation of copyright and companies that sell altered copies of movies, without the studios' consent, should be fined. And they should have to negotiate with studios to pay fees for using copyrighted content. On the other hand, a gadget that allows private users to mute or skip "objectionable" content is harder to argue with.

Granted, anyone who isn't an idiot would use their fast-forward button, but what a lot of parents want are movies automatically sanitized for their children so that they don't actually have to sit down and watch movies with their kids. You see, they also don't want to have to fight with their kids about what they can watch and parents certainly don't have the time to watch these movies themselves to see if they are suitable for kids. Black-box censoring amounts to reprogramming their electronic babysitter. (That's unfair and I know it. But still.)

But whatever, okay? As someone who uses both the fast-forward and mute buttons frequently, I can sympathize with them, I really can. Movies are full of objectionable content and it's good if people don't have to watch it.

I mean, I would hope that any child of mine would never have to face a murderer or be involved in a high-speed chase, or need to know how to escape from a resurrected psychotic wearing a scary mask and a lot of scars, so I don't want those in my child's entertainment/education. Kids have a hard enough life these days as it is, I certainly wouldn't train my child to accept violence as casually as today's movies accept violence.

While we're at it, I think there should be a setting that allows the viewer to skip boring things. Any scene that features a long, slow pan over the landscape, for instance. I can't tell you how many movies have been ruined for me because the filmmaker thought I wanted a twenty-minute look at the trees or the cactus or the sand or whatever. So, let's add a No-Pan setting.

Chase scenes. Once you've watched an action movie once, you know where the chase scene is going. 90% of the time, you don't need or want to watch it again. Skip-Chase.

And scenes of people crying. I don't watch movies to be depressed. I want a No Tears setting on my new DVD player.

Come to that, most movies have at least one character who's really annoying, so I want a No Dorks button, too. The first time a character appears on-screen, you hit the button and the box automatically deletes their lines from then on.

While we're at it, what's with the cheesiness of subtitles? I can't count the number of times I'm watching a foreign film and a character talks for five minutes without pause and the subtitles give me, "He said they went thataway." If you're going to subtitle, then give me all the words. There needs to be a Subtitle - All setting for those of us capable of reading more than ten words a minute.

And the religious stuff. I'm not personally superstitious but I certainly understand the need to reference the gods in historical epics from Roman times, so I don't mind that. I don't mind the religion references in, you know, religious movies (mostly because I don't watch them), but I don't want my mainstream entertainment filled with offensive references to someone's personal mythology unless I'm watching a movie labeled, "fantasy." I want a button that bleeps out religious material. It's offensive to me. I want a No-Cults setting.

Sex is okay, though. It seems reasonable that sex is something most of us encounter in our lives, unlike shape-changing aliens that jump out at you from corners of inexplicably damp spaceships. Sex a part of a normal life and should be treated as such. I'd rather have my kid see sex treated respectfully, and in context, by Hollywood than have them learning it from the neighborhood priest.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:38 PM


I love it! You must have watched that AMC show about censorship last night too. :) My husband says it was one of those programs that made him want to throw stuff at the TV screen...

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at April 27, 2005 02:39 PM

If I'd known the show was on, I'd have watched it, but I didn't. I'll keep an eye out for the repeats.

I'm glad it amused you, though.

Posted by: Anne at April 27, 2005 03:54 PM

Actually, one of the great things about digital technology is that we will, eventually, have exactly the capacity to do everything you cite. Someday. If the lawyers and legislators don't muck it up.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at April 28, 2005 03:39 AM

Jonathan - And then we can run around coving up all of the bare body parts on statues around the country?

Posted by: Anne at April 28, 2005 01:34 PM

Well..... with high speed digital processing and GPS mapping, it would be possible to design either cameras or even, with nanotechnology, visors/goggles/glasses which would edit one's vision real-time to exclude or obscure stationary (or, with really good processing, moving) objects or images.

You could, for example, program your visor to replace all billboard advertising with rainbow colored clouds (or just the bad movie advertising, if you prefer to look at car and real estate ads).

In fact, it would make it possible to wear and display a wider range of clothing and body parts, knowing that most people would have decency settings on their visors. In the workplace this could be a fantastic corrective, for example, to clothing harrassment....

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at April 28, 2005 03:07 PM

Hey, I like your vision of the future best. I like the idea of "blanking out" billboards.

In fact....no, I don't have time for this, because on second thought, I just visualized an entire future of Political Correctness Run Mad in which everyone lives in a reality a little different from everyone else's and seventy percent of the population is on drugs to help them deal with the disconnect.

I'll be pondering this one for a week. :)

Posted by: Anne at April 28, 2005 04:02 PM

It's really just another extension of phenomena we've already observed: physical cocooning, within neighborhoods or even homes (last year, never leaving home for anything was a stunt; next year it'll be in the lifestyle section); news segmentation and entertainment niche development; parallel education systems..... yeah, it's kind of ugly, and you're right, drugs will probably be necessary.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at April 29, 2005 04:44 AM