No more "cleaned up" versions of Hollywood movies?

Andy Rau

A judge has ruled that services which delete offensive scenes and language from DVDs are illegal. That means you won't be able to buy or rent "cleaned up" versions of movies from places like CleanFlicks and CleanFilms. From the article:

The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought by 16 U.S. directors — including Steven Spielberg, Robert Redford and Martin Scorsese — against three Utah-based companies that "scrub" films.

Judge Richard P. Matsch decreed on Thursday in Denver, Colo., that sanitizing movies to delete content that may offend some people is an "illegitimate business."

The judge took the side of the directors, who claim that editing the "bad parts" out of their films damages their artistic value.

I'm not too thrilled about the ruling, but I'm not sure what to make of the family-friendly editing services. On the one hand, I can sympathize with (for example) parents who are frustrated that an otherwise wholesome movie is "spoiled" for their kids by a random profanity or inappropriate scene--I can name a number of movies that fall into that category.

But I also think that these editing services can encourage the unhealthy belief that a film can be made "clean and safe" by just removing the most obvious "bad parts." What about movies that depict non-violent, non-sexual sin like greed or selfishness? Those sins aren't easily edited out of a movie, but are no less spiritually dangerous than more graphic sins. And what about movies in which the portrayal of sin is not just gratuitous, but part of an overarching moral message? Requiem for a Dream and Saving Private Ryan would lose much of their moral punch if you cleaned them up too thoroughly. There's more to spiritual discernment than just bleeping out the swear words.

What's your take on the ruling, and on family-friendly editing services?

(Hat tip: Slashdot. Some good commentary by Peter Chattaway at FilmChat; he notes that at least one editing service, ClearPlay, has managed to evade this ruling due to the different way in which its editing service operates.)

Topics: Movies