SMOKE: Filtered Movies

Originally published: 2 June 2004

Remember the nipple that shocked the world? The Janet Jackson Nipplegate? If that happened in South Africa (a performer had a "wardrobe malfunction" and revealed a nipple during a live rugby match, for example) - we'd have a good chortle and go to bed none the worse off.

But Janet's Nipplegate sparked entire meetings of senate subcommittees, not to mention countless talk shows trying to understand the meaning of it all - the social ramifications of a nipple being exposed to the innocent children and the morally incorruptible.

In fact - one fellow unsuccessfully tried to sue Viacom (the owner of CBS Television, which broadcast the offending nipple during the 2004 Superbowl) for $5000, claiming they had falsely advertised their show as family entertainment.

I'm sure he rests good at night, safe in the knowledge that his stout wife and spruce children will support him on his lonely crusade against the corruption of once decent social values and the reprehensible media organisations that would attempt to force the devil into their decent lives.

Of course - something as big as Nipplegate cannot be ignored by the millions of entrepreneurial Americans who intend getting their slice of the American Dream, and true to form some guy has come up with an idea which will make him his million and get him his five minutes. An industry spawned by a "wardrobe malfunction" for a fleeting second on a television show.

Two brothers - Matt and Lee Jarman - have founded a company called ClearPlay, which allows people to watch DVD movies with all offensive content screened out.

All graphic violence, strong language and sexually explicit content is removed (you buy a special ClearPlay DVD player), and they even have a number of sub-categories of filters like moderate violence, graphic violence, disturbing images, sensual content, crude sensual content, nudity, explicit sexual situations, vain reference to deity, crude language and humour, ethnic and social slurs, cursing and strong profanity.

You can choose your scale of filtering - according to the ClearPlay website you have 16,384 potential user configurations - and there are already some 600 movie titles to choose from.

The immense scale of Nipplegate made the Brothers Jarman realise that indecency is something guaranteed to rile a lot of people up, and while some have cried "censorship" at ClearPlay that argument is a little ridiculous - if you don't want your movies censored then don't watch them through ClearPlay.

Nobody's forcing it upon you and no matter what you think of folks who prefer to shield themselves from anything that faintly offends their sensibilities - if they want to watch their movies filtered, then let them.

It would be an interesting experience watching Pulp Fiction, I would think. Here's an extract from the opening scene, between Vincent and Jules:

"Look, just because I wouldn't give no man a foot massage, don't make it right for Marsellus to throw Antwan off a building into a glass-*beep*-house, *beep* up the way the *beep* talks. That ain't right, man. *Beep* do that to me, he better paralyze my *beep*, 'cause I'd *beep* the mother*beep*."

The ClearPlay service works in one of two ways - either you can have offensive audio beeped out, or you can choose to have it skip unsavoury moments in scenes. You are the censor, and how you protect your family from the evils of profanity and nudity is up to you.

Hell - your family need never know that such a thing as a nipple exists, much less be exposed to nipples that don't belong to them. You can create an entire nipple-less world, and I'm sure your children will grow up all the more decent for it.

So big up to the Jarman brothers - they spotted a hole and they plugged it, and as soon as they get the Utah Contract they'll break into the league of super-millionaires.

Rather obviously I have absolutely no problem with their product - the whole supply and demand bit - and just as obviously I do have a problem with those who would purchase it.

Pulp Fiction is a good example, because why on Earth would you want to watch it if you aren't prepared to watch the whole experience? It's no coincidence that the word "fuck" is used 185 times throughout the script, or that the violence is as graphic as it is, or that black people are called "niggers" or that God's name is taken in vain.

The movie is an assault on the senses from start to finish and is intended to stir you out of your comfort zone and into a place you don't necessarily want to go. It's confrontational, as I believe moviemaking should be.

To watch an edited version of that film entirely negates the whole thing, and you will not get the full story.

It's not like the few chunks of script that would be morally acceptable are going to make any sense in a context other than that which they were intended for, so you might as well take out How To Make An American Quilt instead, fire up the Bovril pot and settle in for a night of light entertainment, far from the evils of this world.

I think people get far too appalled by the good things in life - like nipples - instead of embracing them, enjoying them, and - in the case of nipples - feasting on them.

They should. It's the right thing to do.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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