Today, Sony announced their “Clean Version” initiative, which “allows viewers to screen the broadcast or airline versions of select Sony films, free from certain mature content.”
When I first read the news, I though, “Oh, surely this belongs to the Stupid Ideas From Giant Corporations In Order To Make More Money Department because film studios, particularly Sony, are desperate to fill the revenue void left by plummeting DVD sales and rentals.” Like, Sony would give you the option to buy the original, unedited version of a film OR buy the Clean Version at additional cost. That’s annoying, but I kind of get it. Sony is looking at their bottom line.
But alas, that is not the case. Sony wants to gift you selected films that have been “adapted for a wider audience” — it’s just going to be a free extra feature when you buy the film. FREE? NOTHING? IT’S NOT A MONEY GRAB?
Then why is Sony doing it? Let’s look at the list of films that the company doesn’t think are fit for the general population:
- 50 First Dates
- Battle Of The Year
- Big Daddy
- Captain Phillips
- Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
- Easy A
- Ghostbusters II
- Grown Ups
- Grown Ups 2
- Spider-Man 2
- Spider-Man 3
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- Step Brothers
- Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
- White House Down
Two movies from this list are rated R: Step Brothers and Elysium. All the others are rated PG-13 and one movie, Goosebumps is rated PG. Yes, PG-13 movies have moments of maturity, but the MPAA, for what their advice is worth (see the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated for more information on this archaic organization) have declared most of these films appropriate for young teenagers.
I know that films are edited for content all the time — movies shown on TV and in airplanes are consistently shed of their more “adult” moments. And I don’t take issue with that because broadcasters must abide by FCC regulations and airplanes need to cater to an all-ages audience. I’m not a fan, but fair enough. I take issue, however, with films being “cleaned up” for the sake of being “more accessible” to a broader audience.
Films, from the most rarefied art house experiment to the banal Hollywood blockbusters, are art; Creative works made by communities of people whose livelihoods are dedicated to the form. Even the most atrocious movies were made with the efforts and talents of many. Cutting these movies, even just to clean up language, is not in the spirit of the art form.
But before I get too film geek on you, check out what Sony has cut out and how they do it in their promotional video:
They’ve digitally altered the mouths of actors to get rid of swears and cut scenes of violence in order to make these films more digestible for family movie nights.
What family is going to gather the kids around the boob tube for a fun viewing of Captain Phillips, a movie about the real-life hijacking of a cargo ship by pirates (the answer is probably not too many…) Tom Hanks gives one of the most heart-wrenching and raw performance of his career in this film. This movie is VIOLENT. It’s also VERY ADULT. So I ask Sony, how do you clean up a movie that’s based on a true story, one where people die from gunshots? You can’t without completely changing the movie.
Look, if you can’t handle the original cut of Captain Phillips, then you probably shouldn’t be watching it. Same goes with the rest of the movies. They aren’t meant for young children, because even if the only thing that’s changed is language, the mature themes (sex, violence, dirty jokes) remain. Smart bet is that Moneyball will be boring for the under-10 set (it was boring to me in the over 21-set). These films are already rated PG and PG-13, which means the real mature content never even made it to the final cut. Plus, plenty of kids are ready for these films in their original form – who didn’t watch Ghostbusters growing up and get freaked out by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?!
Instead of watching the Clean Version of these films, wait until everyone has the maturity to watch them in their original cuts. There are plenty of films made with all-ages in mind – here’s a list of 50 fantastic movies (although I dread to think which of these films would get the Sony Clean Version treatment…)
So I can’t really figure out why Sony is doing it, but I hope they don’t unnecessarily “clean up” any more movies.