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Ending Sex and Violence in the Movies?

by June 13, 2004

Walmart is now selling the world's first Progressive Scan DVD player that uses preprogrammed filters to seamlessly skip over passes in a movie that contain violence, sex, swearing, drug use, or other undesireable content. The DVD player's filter settings are user-defined (graphic violence, suggestive scenes, strong language, drinking and drug use and more) and the DVD-specific filters are permanently stored on the player (it ships with 100 pre-stored DVDs, and more are available for purchase), allowing them to be used with off-the-shelf DVD titles. Why do we want this type of technology in our homes? It's simple.

Some directors in Hollywood are simply clueless.

I remember back in 1993 when I was editing dialogue on the film TimeCop. Somewhere around reel 3 or 4 there was a scene that started with a naked woman writhing on a bed. The point? It was a VR simulation (remember how hot that was going to be in the 90's?) and they were attempting to show how in the future you could simply don a headset and have sex with the girl of your dreams (of course, this particular girl came with noticeable surgical scars which the directors were probably not paying attention to at the time of shooting). Here's the point: that scene did nothing for the movie. Neither did the presence of a few curse words that contributed to the 'R' Rating. Take out a few nonessential elements and the movie could have easily made a PG-13 rating. Apparently, this didn't mesh with Director Peter Hyams' vision.

Remember the hoopla over the edited versions of Titanic that were being sold in a small family-owned Utah video store? Apparently, someone decided that a gratuitous topless shot of the female lead was ludicrous for the PG-13 movie that was otherwise a great family epic. Here's the interesting part: they made you buy the original or bring in an original copy which they then edited (charging a very nominal fee). Hollywood made its money, and everyone should be happy, right? Wrong. Hollywood sent a cease and desist letter to the Utah video store. Fortunately, the public outcry was great enough to humble the giant machine and force it to go away quietly (and to my knowlege several small companies are now editing various films in this fashion).

The really amazing thing is that there was a very clear study done by Arthur S. De Vany (from the University of California) and W. David Walls (from the University of Calgary Department of Economics) that showed how Hollywood studios have much higher profit ratios for G, PG, and PG-13 rated movies. The study even went on to conclude that a potential reason for the high number of 'R' rated films is due to the strong need for approval among Hollywood producers, executives and stars. SO much so, that:

"...commerce has taken a back seat as artists, producers, and even executives attempt to earn insider praise and esteem by making movies that are audacious, artistic, and unusual and [they show] a disposition to dislike any piece of work that too obviously panders to the public"

Enter the RCA Player with embeeded ClearPlay technology. By allowing the user to define what they want to block, and by supporting standard off the shelf DVD titles the ClearPlay technology is an incredibly useful solution for Hollywood's stunning lack of economical and social sense. So what are the uses of this type of player? Let's take a look at a few:

  1. Childrens' rooms. While I do not plan on ever putting a computer or television in my kids' room, there are more people in this country than not, who do. This type of player can be an excellent solution, in tandem with the V-chip to limit the content your children will be exposed to. After all, you're still the one responsible for what your kids see, not Hollywood.
  2. Babysitters and Relatives. If you are going to let a babysitter manage your teenage children, then you might want to ensure they don't allow the kids to see things they shouldn't. This player would allow you to set parameters so that the kids can't use this as a time to do things they cannot do while Mom and Dad are home.
  3. Releasing DVDs for Family Viewing (or "Editing Lame Directors Who Inject Unnecessarily Violence and Sex Into Otherwise Decent Movies"). Peter Hyams, be as "creative" as you want, I'm going to watch your films without the edgy additions you insert for who-knows-why reasons. This is probably the coolest option for families wanteding to be free to watch their DVDs without fear of what their kids may see. Who can remember exactly what DVDs have overtly violent or racy scenes? Rather than limiting your public viewing to PG-13 and below, ClearPlay can allow you to watch much more of your DVD collection with the family present.

Hollywood, while outwardly livid and already contemplating lawsuits, should probably take a step back and realize a few things about this type of technology: 1) sales will determine if the consumer finds this type of service desireable, 2) if this technology starts taking off (see the above useful applications) Hollywood may need to re-evaluate why exactly they believe that a gratuitous sex scene in a movie or bout of cursing is "necessary" or even acceptable when it results in an 'R' rating, and 3) this is precisely the technology that can enable them to pander to their elitist friends while others provide much needed solutions for the rest of us.

While some stories more naturally portray violence (think Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, or The Passion of the Christ) other films clearly do not and can be watched successfully without the inclusion of potentially offensive material. I am a fan of user-driven solutions that allow greater choice by the consumer . This is such a solution and I, for one, will be watching this technology with much interest.

Clint DeBoer is the Editor for the Audioholics Virtual Magazine and has an extensive background in audio and video post production, having worked for one of the largest post studios in the world, Soundelux, for over 7 years.

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About the author:

Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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