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I've been following this issue for a while. In fact, several years ago a co-worker and I made an effort to modify an open source DVD player and add the ability to have programable skips. We got it working and then got bored and never did anything with it.

This is a superior idea to that of CleanFlicks. Not only does it not involve editing the original media, but Orrin Hatch passed a law that specifically allows for this technology.

From a tech standpoint you could see even more interesting applications of this. You could have a file that describes or tags and rates all the content of the movie. Then you could apply a custom filter on the fly in order to get an edit that meets your tastes. For instance, the file for The Phantom Menace could note all the frames where Jar Jar is visible and could rate how annoying he is in each of them. You could set a filter that would remove any Jar Jar content above a 5. Or you could set a filter that would play that in slow motion. Or play it twice in a row. Or turn subtitles on or off. You get the idea.

Oddly, when DVDs were about to be introduced the idea that they would have a dynamic rating system that allowed you to see a PG version or an R version of a movie that was released as PG-13 was a widely praised selling point. My understanding is the technology to do this is present in the base DVD format but that studio has chosen to not implement it. Thus we have work-arounds like ClearPlay.

I guess we should be grateful for those dedicated to self sacrifice and are willing to subject themselves to nudity, profanity and violence in order to create the files used to block content.

Here's a USA Today article with the full story: Hollywood riled up over Clearplay.

It is worth noting that the article is a few years old and since then Clean Flicks has been sued out of existence and ClearPlay has been protected by an act of congress. Still, I haven't noticed widespread adoption of ClearPlay.

While I'm at it, let me throw this out:

Discs are dead. Apple TV and similar devices are the future. The Apple TV has proven to be pretty hackable so far. I would guess that it would/could be a very nice platform for some software that can filter TV and movies.

Hmm, I'm wondering if I should chalk this post up under "A Modest Proposal" or "The Importance of Being Earnest."

So it's ok to buy morally objectionable media, thereby helping to ensure more of it is made, just as long as you don't actually watch the objectionable bits?

Marcus, I think you're overstating things. Not all rated R material is morally objectionable, just as not all PG or PG-13 material can be given a clean pass. In the end, nothing will ever be able to substitute for real, concerned parental guidance. Just because a movie doesn't have (or has filtered out) nudity or other sexually suggestive imagery doesn't mean that the attitudes of the characters don't still portray sexual immorality.

And some very good stories have nudity or violence thrown in just to "punch" them up and are actually much better without the objectionable material; why should I have to watch the trash to get to the treasure?

Marcus,

Would you feel differently if the disc came from the studio with filtering capability?

Because the endgame here if these services become popular is that studios will either rely on them to meet the demands of a particular market or they will simply put in that feature to begin with and obviate the need for ClearPlay.

Either way the studio is going to be aware of the market for cleaned up material. Boycotting does not communicate the existence of this market nearly as effectively.

PDoE, I agree with you that all R material is not morally objectionable, nor are all G rated films free from objectionable content. I have not surrendered my agency to the folks at the MPAA who determine film ratings, and do quite a bit of research on any film I watch before putting down money to watch it.

My point is that by paying money for a film that contains sexually suggestive or violent material one is directly funding the creation of said materials. By buying movies that include content like this, even if it was included to punch it up, you encourage this filmmaker and others like him or her to continue to include it in their films.

The only way to really get good stories, free from this type of material, is for a large enough group of people to stop paying money for it.

It doesn't really matter where the editing takes place. If you pay to see a movie that was originally filmed with a sex scene, your money is going directly to funding those people getting naked and simulating sexual acts.

Marcus, I think you have a valid point: in a perfect world maybe some of those films wouldn't be made or would be made differently. But in our world (which tolerates free expression) it's not fair to expect average citizens to do much more than look after their own choices and their own families. They just want to clean up movies they show in their own home. It seems like a perfectly understandable and commendable preference. In the long run enough action by consumers will change how Hollywood makes the movies.

Marcus,

I guess this boils down to whether you think that the simulated act that was filmed is worse than the viewing of it many times over once it is on DVD.

I'll go ahead an drive you further out of the ClearPlay fanclub by saying that I think it is entirely possible that such technology will result in more objectionable content being placed on the original media with the knowledge that consumers will filter as they please. Thus a single movie will appeal to an even broader range of consumers. It will be simultaneously more and less family friendly. Sort of like real life.

If you had a marshmallow covered in cow manure, and you scrape off the manure, would you eat the marshmallow? What if there's a fresh bag of uncontaminated marshmallows available?

It just seems to me that what ClearPlay and CleanFlicks are offering is to remove the manure from the marshmallow, but there are plenty of marshmallows that have never been covered in manure. Wouldn't we better off choosing those instead?

I am too much of a pragmatist. I also think that the reason why Hollywood is up in arms is because they are artists and have all the craziness that goes along with that. If were to buy anything from clothes, to a car, and then alter them after the fact, no one would care. I remember an episode of Viva La Bam where Bam Margera and friends, put a "custom" sunroof in his Lamborgini with a Makita Sawsall. The Lamborgini company did not sue Margera for altering their car. What I don't get is why it is any different with movies, or any work of art?

Wouldn't it be a tragedy if people went back to reading books?

Hilarious and cogent!

From the article:

"Thompson said working through the educational loophole is only temporary, and his distributor is negotiating with the Director's Guild of America to secure a permanent solution. He expects that official versions of films edited for airlines and television will be available for sale by Christmas."

I've often wondered why film companies don't sell airplane edited versions of films. It seems like a smart thing to do, financially. And doesn't the existence of airplane and television versions of films sort of undermine those arguments that come up about maintaining an artist's original vision?

Yes, worm, it sure makes them look like a bunch of lying hypocrites. But they're good actors, so they can deliver their lines with a straight face.

And from a creative perspective, the sort of selective muting that Clearplay is offering seems much less heavyhanded than the "editing for time" that TV stations do to make movies fit available time slots. They chop out entire scenes. I haven't heard any Hollywood griping about that longstanding practice.

I've often wondered why film companies don't sell airplane edited versions of films.

I've also often wondered why movies edited for home viewing offend Hollywood's collective artistic sensibilities...while editing them for the airlines, don't.

marcus, I suppose you also oppose to anyone who alters clothing to be more modest by, say, adding a longer t-shirt under it, or be extending a hem? And all those naughty brides who buy those dresses--only to LINE them with fabric. Tsk tsk. They are just lining the pockets of immodest clothing designers.

My primary concern is films that contain nudity. In most instances, the morally objectionable content is merely actors pretending to do something. Actors aren't really committing acts of violence, or doing drugs, or even drinking alcohol, these are all simulated. At worst, a Mormon pretending to do these things might get an invitation to sit down with your bishop, and probably told to stop. However, in the case of nude scenes, the actor/actress is actually breaking the laws of modesty and chastity that members are expected to adhere to. As a best case scenario, a Mormon doing these things would face some sort of a official discipline from the church and excommunication at worst. Even though the actor or actress may not be LDS, we still believe what they are doing is immoral. By paying money for a movie with such scenes means we not only condone this behavior but encourage it.

In my mind its like hiring a stripper to come to your house, you pay them then turn around and don't actually watch as they do their thing. With a movie, there are several middle-men between you and the stripper, but in the end your is money still going to a stripper for their services.

Marcus, the fact that none of the successful Mormon athletes who spent their entire careers "breaking the Sabbath" were (to my knowledge) ever rebuked by a bishop for their career-related conduct makes me think you are off-base in your thinking. You may have objections to some things, but trying to give credibility to your own views by speculating that local LDS leaders might think like you do and might use LDS church courts to enforce your views is utterly inappropriate. There is simply no basis in fact for such speculation.

I am clearly not welcome here, so I shall leave.

Like a moth to a flame, I just can't leave this alone.

Dave, are you suggesting that because pro athletes break the sabbath for the sake of their careers that any manner of sin is excusable if committed under the auspices of being "career-related"? You also seem to be implying that I am alone in my opinion that it's a violation of the law of chastity for an actor or actress to take off their clothes in front of a bunch of people, who aren't there spouse, for the purpose of entertainment.

Please tell me this isn't what you meant.

marcus,

I think he is suggesting that it is a bit odd for you to insist that they'd face church discipline over it. Are you a bishop? Would you excommunicate someone for being in an R-rated movie? How about for being a character in Grey's Anatomy?

I never "insisted" any such thing. I was merely drawing a distinction between the difference between what I see as the lesser sins of pretending to drink alcohol, do drugs, or commit acts of violence, versus what I see as the more serious sin of violating the law of chastity. If the analogy I used was inappropriate then perhaps this one might be more appropriate.

Say you're a parent, and your 18 year old son/daughter comes to you and says they were in a movie and pretended to drink and do drugs. How would you counsel them? What if they then went on to tell you that they took off their clothes and got in bed with someone else? Does your counsel change? Would you tell them that this is something they need to discuss with the Bishop?

If I were in that situation, in the first case I would probably tell that we've been taught that even the appearance of evil is wrong, so it would be best not to do it again. In the second case though, I would almost certainly tell them they needed to discuss this with the Bishop.

I am not a Bishop, but I have known many people who have faced various levels of Church discipline, and based on that experience I have a pretty good idea of the types of things for which people face such discipline. In most cases the discipline isn't so severe as being excommunicated or disfellowshipped. Most of the time the discipline is merely a probationary period.

Obviously, I can't say what I would do if I were a Bishop, because every situation is different, and depends on guidance from the spirit. I can say that if I were a bishop, and I heard that one of the members of the ward I was serving had been taking off their clothes and getting in bed with another naked person, I'd want to have a talk with that ward member.

Marcus, your endorsement of the idea that a bishop would take disciplinary action against an actor or actress who was pressured to or chose to act a scene that required partial or total nudity just seems over the top -- the kind of thing I would take for satire if you weren't so deadly earnest about it. Do you think undressing in a doctor's office is a violation of the law of chastity? Backstage between scenes or at a fashion show? How about what people wear at the beach these days -- do you think Latter-day Saints are subject to discipline for going to the beach in less than a shirt and tie or a long dress? Like bishops don't have enough to do without becoming the Victorian Nudity Police.

I guess I'm not sure you grasp the difference between your own views, which might be expressed as "I think people who do X should be subject to discipline and excommunication by their LDS bishops," and stating such a view as if it was actually what bishops do. Bluntly, it's the distinction between fact and fantasy. I guess I responded with a rather sharp comment so that readers who visit this site are made aware of that distinction and don't go away with the misimpression that LDS bishops in fact act as you are suggesting they do or as you somehow believe they should act. It is less controversial if you state your own opinions as clearly your own opinions.

First, let me point out that I conceded the point about that using the analogy of church discipline might have been inappropriate, which is why I wrote the second analogy about how you would council your son or daughter in that situation.

Secondly, I do understand the difference between expressing my own views, and stating something as fact. If I were stating something as fact I would have included specific examples, or referenced documents that were authoritative on the subject.

Don't you see the inherent contradiction in your last paragraph? You're critical of my statements for not clearly stipulating that they are my opinion, yet you refute them without doing the same. Visitors to your site could just as easily get the misimpression that your views are in fact the way that local church leaders act.

In my opinion, I just don't see how when the General Authorities have counseled us to avoid watching movies with explicit content, that a member of the Church can be involved in the production of such a film with a clear conscience.

Marcus, what you actually said was "if the analogy I used was inappropriate ..." That's not quite the same thing as an admission your analogy was inappropriate, much less admitting it was factually unsupported. What I was pointing out was there is no evidence to support what you assumed as fact when you originally put forth your scenario, as follows: "As a best case scenario, a Mormon doing these things would face some sort of a official discipline from the church and excommunication at worst."

There is no evidence to support your claim that "a Mormon doing these things would face some sort of official discipline from the church and excommunication at worst."

While comments are open for a variety of opinions, I do try to correct factual misstatements when they appear. Excommunication is a touchy topic with some people. Nothing personal, just being a responsible site manager.

Thanks for setting the record straight Dave. When I first started this discussion, I was of the opinion that watching movies with morally objectionable content was wrong. But you have now convinced that it's ok, not only to watch these kinds of movies, but also to take a starring role in their production. I'm glad you cleared that up for me.

Marcus, I'm guessing you would enjoy reading Michael Medved's book Hollywood vs. America, which I talked about rather favorably in today's post.

It would seem that I am not alone in my belief that people who violate the law of chastity could face church discipline. According to the Gospel Principles Manual, "It is extremely important to our Heavenly Father that his children obey the law of chastity. Members of the Church who break this law may be disfellowshipped or excommunicated (see D&C 42:22–26, 80–81)."

Really, the only question that remains is whether it is a violation of the law of chastity for an actor or actress to do a nude scene. I think it is, and will again draw on the Gospel Principles lesson on the law of Chastity for support.

"Satan attacks the standards of modesty. He wants us to believe that because the human body is beautiful, it should be seen and appreciated. Our Heavenly Father wants us to keep our bodies covered so that we do not put improper thoughts into the minds of others.

Satan not only encourages us to dress immodestly, but he also encourages us to think immoral or improper thoughts. He does this with pictures, movies, stories, jokes, music, and dances that suggest immoral acts. The law of chastity requires that our thoughts as well as our actions be pure. "

My opinions are not over-the-top, nor fantasy as has been suggested here. Further, they seem to be well grounded in fact, as taught in official church study guides.

Those are fine guidelines for conduct, Marcus. I don't believe anyone was questioning that claim. The point of the earlier comments was about the role of formal LDS disciplinary councils, which only come into play for serious sins. If everyday sins like immodesty and impure thoughts triggered formal discipline, there wouldn't be anyone left in the Church. Obviously, that isn't how it works.

I also caution against the idea that a bishop is going to invoke formal discipline against any work-related conduct that isn't a felony that has resulted in a conviction. My earlier reference to Mormon athletes who play on Sunday was a hint. Other examples: Mormons occupy executive positions in Las Vegas casinos with no apparent objection from LDS local leaders. There are LDS scientists and engineers who work in the defense industry, designing and building weapons that kill thousands of people. So should job-related nudity be subject to LDS disciplary action, while breaking the Sabbath and casino work and building better bombs gets a free pass? Do we all have to be farmers? (As long as you're not growing coca, coffee, hemp, tobacco, grapes, rice, or hops, I suppose.)

The fact is the Church stays out of employment related activities. So I think your original analogy (that nudity is a serious enough sin in the context of moviemaking that LDS actors and actresses ought to be excommunicated if they flirt with it) is fatally flawed. But outside the context of disciplinary action and phrased as a general guideline for conduct, I don't think anyone disagrees with your general point.

marcus,
I don't think those two propositions in Gospel Essentials mean what you want them to mean. The suggestion that a member _may_ be disfellowshipped or excommunicated for disobedience to the law of chastity and the idea that the law of chastity calls for modesty does not equal immodesty = excommunication (as you seem to argue).

Because the question becomes, where do you draw the line? Immodesty? What about, as Dave suggests, beachgoers, in public in their swimsuits? Or dancers or swimmers, performing and competing in clothing they wouldn't wear to the temple? Or is it just nudity? And are we talking only sexual nudity, or is the person who poses nude for a figure-painting class also caught? And what about people with immoral thoughts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

Seriously, you don't automatically get ex'd for having sex with someone not your spouse (although, I'll grant you, you can--it's situational). But the logical leaps in your explication of the manual do not get you to excommunication for nudity.

I understood what you were saying about work-related conduct, which is why I asked you this: are you suggesting that because pro athletes break the sabbath for the sake of their careers that any manner of sin is excusable if committed under the auspices of being "career-related"?

Your last statement seems to be suggesting that, but now your are the one dabbling in conjecture with no basis in fact. I know of no doctrine that grants people indulgences for sins committed while on the job. Looking at the examples you provided, I can see why the church would turn a blind eye to members working in these fields. The church requires some of it's employees to work on the sabbath, I have a brother-in-law who works security for the temple here in Atlanta who is required to work on Sundays. The church also condones military service and defense work. I suspect seeing it's seen as part of being loyal subjects as the 12th AoF stipulates. I question whether LDS Casino execs would be given a free pass. As I understand it the church accept tithing on winnings from the lottery and gambling, so it would seem unlikely that a member whose income was derived from the same funds would be allowed to pay tithing. The one instance I can think of where this might be allowed to slide, is if the exec in question managed the hotel portion of the casino, and was not directly involved with the gambling.

If the Church really were to stay completely out of employment related activities, than all anyone would need to do in order to get off the hook for any sin, is to have some pay them to commit it. Tempted by the law of chastity, just move to Nevada, set up shop as a prostitute, and every time you spend a night with someone, just have them leave you a couple bucks before they go, then you're getting paid for it, so it's employment related and not a sin. Right?

Marcus, I commend your diligence in considering how rules apply to these difficult situations. I think rules are useful as guides to behavior, but they don't provide a complete basis for judgment. The problem is that one can always use a rule to judge one's neighbor, while at the same time crafting an exception for one's own conduct.

I think you need to distinguish between these two scenarios: (1) using rules to guide one's own conduct (or that others might use to guide their conduct), which is helpful; and (2) using rules to judge or condemn others, which is an entirely different thing.

Your own second paragraph in comment 34 shows how difficult it is to apply even a simple rule like "don't work on Sundays." As a guide to one's own behavior, it is very helpful. As a basis for judging one's neighbor, it just creates problems.

In the Church, bishops are the ones with the responsibility to exercise those kinds judgments. And they don't mechanically apply rules or commandments. Instead, they take into account all the facts related to that particular individual's situation, as noted by Sam B in comment 33. They are supposed to have the best interests and the spiritual welfare of the individual being examined in mind. It is primarily a fact-based exercise, not a rule-based exercise, so trying to craft general rules that apply to all situations (as you have been trying to do) simply doesn't work.

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