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Many Ways to ‘Exercise' Your Rights

29 Jun, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

This is an industry built on letting people watch what they want, when they want to. It even used to be a VSDA slogan. Yet every time I turn around these days, someone is trying to limit what and how we watch.

In the most instant case, though, the “what” folks are at war with the “how” camp. In the “what” corner, we have Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who thinks people should be able to watch what they want in their own homes and not have to see things they find objectionable. In the “how” corner are several directors and their trade union, the Directors Guild of America (DGA). Apparently they think consumers should be able to watch whatever they want to in their own homes, as long as they watch it the way the directors want them to see it.

The dispute centers on technology from ClearPlay Technologies, which lets consumers set filters on an interface with their playback devices so they skip over foul language, violence, sex and other potentially objectionable content. How the courts — or the Legislature — will handle it remains to be seen. But maybe we should give the directors a little slack. After all, their concerns aren't all over allegedly derivative works.

No, in fact it looks like the directors are acting out of an abiding concern for the movie-watching public. Anyone who has not heard news reports of an obesity epidemic in the United States has to have been living under a rock for the last year. Or maybe they were so fat they could not get up to turn on CNN or replace the batteries in the remote. The directors, bless 'em, want to save us from ourselves.

I'm convinced this is the directors' way of making sure we all start getting enough exercise. Instead of skipping offensive parts of movies —£ what the heck were you thinking letting your kid watch an inappropriate, profanity-laced movie like Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat unattended anyway? — they want you to get up off your couch-potato butts and herd the kids out of the room.

Just think how much exercise we would all get if we had to shuttle the little dears into the dining area for a scene, then shoo them all back into the family room when the swearing is over. It's kind of surreal, a bit like the old Secret Word gag on “Pee Wee's Playhouse.” Remember? (For those of you who don't remember, Image Entertainment just scored a deal that will have Pee-Wee on our DVD players this fall.) Any time someone said the day's secret word, everyone had to shout. But in this case, they all have to scatter.

I applaud the directors' efforts to save us all from our inherent laziness and boorish taste. They are willing to give up countless dollars in box office revenue by making movies with content so strong that ratings shrink the potential audience, and ticket sales, in theaters. They aren't even worried about the potential lost DVD revenue from people who won't watch their movies without a sanitizing feature, the very feature they hope to quash. What a selfless bunch.

Heading into a weekend that is all about celebrating freedom, I think we should support the directors' position. Vote with your feet. Let's all get out there and get some exercise. Shut off the TV, go outside and play.

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