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Old 09-08-2001, 11:44 PM   #1
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Film Censorship

I don't know how many of you are fans of director, Todd Solondz, but this is a fine example to show you of censorship in "the land of the free." Apparently, the reign of terror highlighted with the "Eyes Wide Shut" incident has gotten worse. If you want to read it chronologically, start from the bottom-up.

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9/6/01
Slightly Less Mutilated Storytelling DVD

Contractually obligated to give Fine Line Features an R-rated picture, Todd Solondz has had to censor (in addition to the whole James Van Der Beek sequence) an explicit sex scene with Selma Blair and Robert Wisdom from his latest film.
Well, according to a recently published article in IndieWIRE, Solondz claims the scene will be included, un-censored, in foreign prints and the upcoming DVD, adding, "I knew that the U.S. would be the only place - except for Iran and Iraq - that I would have this problem... It's not just the MPAA; the studios are complicit and the whole country has issues that you don't have to deal with abroad."
The same article also mentions that the MPAA also censored one of the trailers Solondz wanted for the film, which explains why the big red box which covers the aforementioned Blair/ Wisdom scene is there. "The MPAA didn't approve it," Solondz said, "because it suggested they would be censors. While, strictly speaking, it's unfair to say that the red box is censorship, this is one irrefutable example of censorship in the trailer: they're not letting us state the facts about why there's a big red box in the movie."
Well, it's good news, at least, that the one scene will find its way onto the DVD uncensored, and, hey - maybe we could even get Solondz' proposed trailer on there, too, but as far as the shorn Van Der Beek/ Matarazzo subplot, it still looks like we may never see a non-butchered Storytelling. "I wish that I didn't have these obstacles," Solondz said. "On the other hand, perhaps on some unconscious level, that's what spurs me on."

8/16/01
Storytelling Preview in Premiere:

"It's two stories in one. And it's not exactly clear how they relate to each other. "They resonate," says producer Christine Vachon (Boys Don't Cry). In the first, "Fiction" (which was edited down so heavily that a story line featuring a sexually confused James Van Der Beek disappeared), a college student (Blair) leaves her handicapped boyfriend (Leo Pitzpatrick) to seduce her African-American writing professor; in "Nonfiction," a documentary filmmaker (Giamatti) reveals how clueless his teen subject (Webber) is, all under the suspicious gaze of his parents (Goodman and Julie Haggerty). "I've never dealt with race as an issue before," says Solondz (Happiness). "I know I'm playing with fire. There's a certain thrill there. I know people will be offended by it." Happiness, which dealt with pedophilia and masturbation, was released unrated, but Fine LIne wants to open Storytelling with an R. So Solondz has placed a red box over strategic body parts during the scene in which the professor thrusts against the student while forcing her to yell the N-word.
Eyes Wide Open: The cover-up is "the oppposite" pf what Stanley Kubrick did in the orgy scene of Eyes Wide Shut, Solondz says. "I want the audience to know [that what we're hiding] can't be digitally removed. That this is so censored." - Premiere 9/01

8/01/01
Storytelling's Untold Story:

Ok. As I understand it, now, Solondz original cut of Storytelling was about two and a half hours, rated NC-17, and featured three stories! Apparently, the producers wanted the film cut for both a shorter running time and an R rating. According to Dark Horizons, the shorn segment starred James van der Beek as "a closeted high school jock who becomes involved in a very explicit gay sex scene," along with Heather Matarazzo and Emanuelle Chriqui (Detroit Rock City, A.I. Artificial Intelligence). That's right, Matarazzo is out of the picture, too! Hopefully (my fingers are crossed, but I'm not holding my breath), the disappointing reception at Cannes (see below) might help convince the film's producers to do right and restore the third segment for Storytelling's official release. ...More relasitically, maybe we can just keep our fingers crossed for an inclusive DVD?

7/27/01
Storytelling Soundtrack Information:

According to their official site, Belle and Sebastian recorded the music for the second half of Storytelling, with the first part of the film being scored by Shudder To Think's Nathan Larsson, who also composed the music for Boys Don't Cry and High Art. They expect the film to be released in October, with the soundtrack album coming out through Jeepster and Matador Records around the same time.

7/4/01
Disturbing Storytelling news!

"Storytelling, the new film from Todd Solondz, got a lukewarm reception from reviewers. Solondz is blaming its producers. He says they cut an entire hour of it, including a controversial scene where James Van Der Beek of Dawson's Creek fame engages in a homosexual sex act. In the version seen at Cannes, not only is the scene gone, but also Van Der Beek is not seen at all." - from The Kansas City Star

"Director Todd Solondz is complaining that the producers of his new movie made him edit out a scene in which James van der Beek is on the receiving end of anal sex. When asked for a comment, van der Beek said, 'They were FILMING that?'" - from Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update

6/30/01
It's Never Been Easy Fitting In... Until Now!

Solondz' latest film, Storytelling,due out September 28th (Dec, is divided into two segments: Fiction and Non Fiction. The first stars Selma Blair (she played Uma Thurman in Cruel Intentions) and Leo Fitzpatrick (Kids), while Non Fiction stars Paul Giamatti (Martin Lawrence's partner in Big Momma's House), John Goodman, Mike Shank (American Movie) and Julie Hagerty (Airplane!). James Van Der Beek ("Dawson" of Dawson's Creek) and Heather Matarazzo (of course from Welcome To the Dollhouse) also star.

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But it just completely disgusts me! So, we don't even get an option to be able to see it uncut? Luckily, I saw it in the Edinburgh International Film Festival before they digitally altered the sex scene, but the entire James Van Der Beek story was removed already. It's just completely fucking sad that, for a nation that tries to pride itself on freedom, the U.S. is the only industrialized Western nation that encourages censorship of it's films. But that's what you get when you have to rely on an anticompetitive oligarchy of film studios and a reactionary religion-influenced rating system that sees sex as bad, but violence as good. Fuck all that shit...

Your reactions?

Melon

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Old 09-09-2001, 04:04 PM   #2
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Melon:

Yeah, you can say, "F*** the industry", but welcome to capitalism: the consumers don't want films like this, so the industry will not provide them.

I would suggest that the filmmaker try to circumvent the entire system and use the Internet to sell videos or DVDs.

And if you're going to say that sex and violence are treated differently by the American culture -- and you could, but only on the extreme ends, such as where the NC-17 line is drawn -- the reasons are at least understandable:

This nation was founded by people who, to quote "The Wanderer", carried Bibles and guns. There were many religious people who sought the freedom to worship as they wished, and many condemned and still condemn liberal sexual practices. And many early Americans had guns for several reasons:

1) They had to hunt for food.
2) They had to defend themselves (and guns kinda helped during that whole Revolution thing).
3) They could. They were an ocean away from kings and nobleman who restricted both gun ownership and hunting privileges.

And it could VERY EASILY be said that our freedoms to worship and to speak freely are in part guaranteed by gun ownership and the "twisted American values" that perpetuate gun ownership.

More than that, I sense an assumption that violence is inherently bad and sex is either good or neutral; at least, I get the feeling you believe sex is the "lesser of two evils".

That may or may not be true, but in terms of the arts -- films in particular -- violence is sometimes noble. There are films that speak on the destructiveness of violence (Apocolypse Now, The Bridge Over the River Kwai), but other films (Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart) recognize that violence may be necessary and heroic:

The difference between Saving Private Ryan and a movie like Eyes Wide Shut is not just violence vs. sex. The main characters in Saving Private Ryan made tremendous sacrifices for the sake of a greater good; the characters in Eyes Wide Shut were selfish and obsessed with their own pleasure.

I've reached the belief that guns are an evil -- they are designed, after all, to wound and kill -- but they can be necessary evils, as in World War II, when the Allied Forces fought a very real evil to protect the freedoms of most of the world. And while some films are gore-fests for the lowest common denominator, there are others that show soldiers as heroes.

At the same time, I believe that sex is inherently good and beautiful in its proper place -- and my religious beliefs compel me to believe that place to be a marriage between a man and a woman. It's only outside of these boundaries that it becomes corrupted. The problem is, most films involving sex are outside these bounds AND make no attempt to show sex as the beautiful thing it can be. Most of these films reduce to porn or shock for shock's sake.

(Heck, the greatest example of sexual heroism in film is Casablanca (SPOILER AHEAD). The hero, Rick, gave up the girl for the great good -- again, the effort against the Nazis.)

At least some violent films show the violent to be heroic; most sex films show the sexual to be selfish.

In life, guns are evil but can be necessary, and sex is beautiful but can be corrupted. The problem is, some gun films show guns at their most necessary -- at their very best. Most sex films show sex at its most corrupted -- at its very worst.

Finally, one statement you wrote:

And if American culture is synonymous with hypocritical cries of us being the "freest nation in the world" then fluctuating to acts of censorship like this, then I'm not very American.

It's NOT censorship if the government isn't involved. Thus, the freest nation in the world is not being hypocritical.

Let me reiterate: it is NOT censorship.

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Old 09-09-2001, 05:40 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by Achtung Bubba:
Melon:

Yeah, you can say, "F*** the industry", but welcome to capitalism: the consumers don't want films like this, so the industry will not provide them.
Please note that I'm taking this argument in the spirit of debate, and I hope you aren't taking any of it personally. Disagreeing with me doesn't change my opinion of anyone.

But back to the topic at hand, what is a "consumer"? The industry, apparently, sees the "consumer" as an idiot considering the majority of the tripe I see coming out of the studios. And that's fine. I, myself, do enjoy some tripe now and again, but they have to learn something called "diversity," where there is room for the sugary-sweet Julia Roberts films and films that tackle controversial issues that make people uncomfortable, and if that takes James Van Der Beek to have gay sex, well, then that's what it takes.

Sex, in itself, can say a lot, and you have to take in the context as well. First of all, it is assumed that all NC-17 films are gratuitous, and, I do agree, many of them are. In the case of "Storytelling," context was not taken in, and it was lumped in the same category as "Debbie Does Dallas." Hermes made an excellent point that there should be a ratings distinction between straight pornography and adult-oriented films. You obviously don't have to see it if you don't want to, but, as a "consumer" myself, I have the right to see uncensored films. I don't want to see the Family Channel version every goddamn time!!

Quote:
I would suggest that the filmmaker try to circumvent the entire system and use the Internet to sell videos or DVDs.
That I would agree with, but even that is circumvented by studio bureaucracy. The DVD for "Eyes Wide Shut," for instance, was released uncensored in all areas of the world, except for the region 1 DVD--North America.

Quote:
And if you're going to say that sex and violence are treated differently by the American culture -- and you could, but only on the extreme ends, such as where the NC-17 line is drawn -- the reasons are at least understandable:

This nation was founded by people who, to quote "The Wanderer", carried Bibles and guns. There were many religious people who sought the freedom to worship as they wished, and many condemned and still condemn liberal sexual practices. And many early Americans had guns for several reasons:

1) They had to hunt for food.
2) They had to defend themselves (and guns kinda helped during that whole Revolution thing).
3) They could. They were an ocean away from kings and nobleman who restricted both gun ownership and hunting privileges.

And it could VERY EASILY be said that our freedoms to worship and to speak freely are in part guaranteed by gun ownership and the "twisted American values" that perpetuate gun ownership.


I am well-aware of our Bible & gun-toting forefathers, but I really don't care to live under their shadow. I don't generally come from the same cultural heritage that values these values, and I do have the geneological records to prove it. I very much agree that this is the reason why sex and violence are treated differently as well, but I don't have to like it. However, as a secular nation that has an official church-state separation, religious morals should have no bearing on ratings systems. Gratuitious sex and gratuitous violence should be on the same playing field. Likewise, contextual sex and contextual violence should be on the same field, but, as it stands, sex is put on a separate playing field from violence in the ratings system.

Quote:
More than that, I sense an assumption that violence is inherently bad and sex is either good or neutral; at least, I get the feeling you believe sex is the "lesser of two evils".

That may or may not be true, but in terms of the arts -- films in particular -- violence is sometimes noble. There are films that speak on the destructiveness of violence (Apocolypse Now, The Bridge Over the River Kwai), but other films (Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart) recognize that violence may be necessary and heroic:

The difference between Saving Private Ryan and a movie like Eyes Wide Shut is not just violence vs. sex. The main characters in Saving Private Ryan made tremendous sacrifices for the sake of a greater good; the characters in Eyes Wide Shut were selfish and obsessed with their own pleasure.
Well, was such graphic violence in "Saving Private Ryan" necessary to engage the plot? Most likely not, but it did make the film more interesting and realistic, yes? "Eyes Wide Shut" was about self-serving characters, but it was also an adaptation of a semi-classic novel, "Traumnovelle." But the emphasis in the MPAA with EWS was not on the entirety of the film, but on one orgy scene. Like digital people somehow make the film more suitable to put in an 'R' rating. When you are dealing with a subject about sex and obsession, you are bound to have more power if you show sex and obsession! Likewise, showing death and explosions is going to make a war film more powerful.

So, how about this: what if "Saving Private Ryan" was deemed NC-17, and hence, to make it suitable for an 'R' rating, they had to take out all graphic depictions of violence that made this film memorable? That's my objection with the MPAA and sex films. Not all films with sexual acts are pornographic. In "Storytelling," the sex acts are put in context with themes of racism, and, from what it looks like with the James Van Der Beek scenario, issues of homophobia and intolerance. You could make it another stereotypical sanitary "Will and Grace" scenario, but it's neither realistic nor original that way.

Quote:
I've reached the belief that guns are an evil -- they are designed, after all, to wound and kill -- but they can be necessary evils, as in World War II, when the Allied Forces fought a very real evil to protect the freedoms of most of the world. And while some films are gore-fests for the lowest common denominator, there are others that show soldiers as heroes.
They tend to call those "propaganda films." War is neither glamorous nor heroic. It is the ultimate expression of diplomatic cowardice.

Quote:
At the same time, I believe that sex is inherently good and beautiful in its proper place -- and my religious beliefs compel me to believe that place to be a marriage between a man and a woman. It's only outside of these boundaries that it becomes corrupted. The problem is, most films involving sex are outside these bounds AND make no attempt to show sex as the beautiful thing it can be. Most of these films reduce to porn or shock for shock's sake.
Well, you are free to agree with that. My problems come when such boundaries are forced upon everyone else. Movies do not and should not have to be "morality tales." But here's the flip side: heterosexual acts of depravity can regularly pass through the MPAA as 'R' rated films. Non-heterosexual acts are automatically labelled "depraved" regardless of context, and it is generally only through effeminate stereotypes that cater to heterosexuals that they will pass into 'R' territory.

Quote:
(Heck, the greatest example of sexual heroism in film is Casablanca (SPOILER AHEAD). The hero, Rick, gave up the girl for the great good -- again, the effort against the Nazis.)
A good film, yes, but not everyone has to live up to Victorian ideals.

Quote:
At least some violent films show the violent to be heroic; most sex films show the sexual to be selfish.

In life, guns are evil but can be necessary, and sex is beautiful but can be corrupted. The problem is, some gun films show guns at their most necessary -- at their very best. Most sex films show sex at its most corrupted -- at its very worst.
And in the case of non-heroic violent films, are they rated NC-17? No. Yes, many sex films do show the sex to be selfish, but not all do, and even they are cast into the corporate censorship bin. But even then, quite often, selfish heteosexual acts are deemed worthy of an 'R' rating in many cases.

Quote:
Finally, one statement you wrote:

And if American culture is synonymous with hypocritical cries of us being the "freest nation in the world" then fluctuating to acts of censorship like this, then I'm not very American.

It's NOT censorship if the government isn't involved. Thus, the freest nation in the world is not being hypocritical.
Our Founding Fathers were smart to realize the inherent abuse of power that lies in government, but were naive to believe that business could regulate itself.

Business, in turn, has taken the place of government in all of it's tyranny. It may not be government censorship, but it is blatant corporate censorship. So many of our rights, from internet privacy to how the world news is written, is being trampled over, because of insufficient regulation of business. It's only ironic that in the U.S., PBS is our most freest of networks regarding free speech, while in many nations, government-owned television is a symbol of oppression and propaganda. Profit, unfortunately, is the guillotine above our heads.

Quote:
Let me reiterate: it is NOT censorship.
It is.

Melon

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Old 09-09-2001, 06:45 PM   #4
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I've always thought America had a terrible rating system. The reason why major theatre chains and studios don't push use NC-17 as to what it appropietly should be, as a film for adults but not porn and haven't created a rating between R and NC-17 to create a rating that would be for adults only but still mainstream and accessable is that every R rated film is aimed at kids still. None are squarely aimed at adults. Kids go to movies much in larger numbers and more often than adults do. Studios figure that with an R rating kids are smart enough to find a way in and they are right, most kids are clever enough to get in. The whole reason of creating NC-17 was to distinguish it as an adult rating but not porn which the label X was beginning to get in America. Now even NC-17 is looked upon as porn and even treated like it. So i fear a rating like R+ which would be in between both would end up being considered porn too and that America is going to continue to keep such a bad rating system.

~rougerum

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Old 09-09-2001, 07:56 PM   #5
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No, I'm not taking this personally, but I must be completely honest.

I can readily admit that sex and violence are treated differently, and there are good arguments for leveling the playing field. I would like to, on that point, call it even. I honestly don't know whether I would adjust the standards, but I see your point.

But I STRONGLY disagree with a few of your comments, and I believe that we're starting from completely different frames of mind on many issues.

In order of your last reply...


On the issue of going around the film industry:

That I would agree with, but even that is circumvented by studio bureaucracy. The DVD for "Eyes Wide Shut," for instance, was released uncensored in all areas of the world, except for the region 1 DVD--North America.

I agree, but I still see DVD as a viable option. See, in that case above, the big studio is still in complete control over the release of their fillm. What I'm suggesting is that filmmakers who want to circumvent the MPAA budget, produce, and own their own film. They can then produce DVD's on their own or release the film through the Internet.


On the American culture:

I am well-aware of our Bible & gun-toting forefathers, but I really don't care to live under their shadow. I don't generally come from the same cultural heritage that values these values, and I do have the geneological records to prove it.

(I'm assuming -- hopefully correctly -- that you are an American.)

This is where my big disagreements begin.

It doesn't matter whether you care to live under their shadow or whether you're their genetic or cultural progeny. You're in our forefathers' culture. You're in a culture based on free speech, free religion, and the right to bear arms. You're in a culture founded on the ideals of Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson -- capitalism, liberty, republicanism, and limited government.

There is a distinct American culture, more distinct than many know or would like to admit. You can change the culture -- as I believe FDR did with the New Deal -- but you have to use this culture as the starting point.

However, as a secular nation that has an official church-state separation, religious morals should have no bearing on ratings systems.

Well, first of all, we do offically have the church-and-state separation; that may make us a secular nation, but not an atheistic nation, and certainly not one that denies any higher order.

In our Declaration of Independence, Jefferson says that we are "endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights". Even assuming that mentioning a creator was just speech of that age (or, less likely, something to merely appeal to the religious), the assertion of unalienable, inherent rights implies a belief in a higher order. You can't POSSIBLY look at just the physical world and "see" our inherent rights. For this reason alone, we can say that the government does acknowledge a power higher than the mere comforts of its citizenry -- and thus the govenment can rule by basic moral principles.

Beyond that, this isn't even an issue where the government matters. Once again, the MPAA is a PRIVATE organization who bases its standards on the general consensus of the nation's people, not the nation's government.

Granted, there is a wide array of religious beliefs, but we are essentially a Christian nation -- and at very least most of us believe in (if not practice) what C.S. Lewis refers to as the Tao, the morality that everyone in his heart knows to be true.

(See The Abolition of Man for more from C.S. Lewis on the subject: I highly recommend it.)

So, given that our culture has religious and moral values, it makes sense that the MPAA would use those values as guidelines.


On war films:

They tend to call those "propaganda films." War is neither glamorous nor heroic. It is the ultimate expression of diplomatic cowardice.

I didn't say war was glamorous. But to your other observations...

Soldiers aren't heroic?

War is diplomatic cowardice?

Are you fucking insane?

Are you telling me that the boys who would become our grandfathers were not heroic when they stormed Normandy and countless islands in the Pacific? That the men who were willing to give their lives for the cause of freedom (and many did give their lives) were not more brave than you or I have ever been?

What the hell were they? Cowards?

And was the Nazi invasion that started WWII "diplomatic cowardice" on Poland's part? Was the bombing of Pearl Harbor cowardice on our part?

What were we supposed to do? Negotiate a treaty with these aggressors? Wait for them to invade the U.S.? How about surrendering?

...

No, I won't wait for an answer. I will TELL you the answer.

Fighting a war, being asked day after day to kill complete strangers who are trying to kill you is about the most frightening thing any individual may be asked to face. And the men who faced them -- in the case of World War II, our grandfathers and thousands buried in France, North Africa, and the South Pacific -- are truly heroes for facing that for our sakes.

And while fighting a war is never your first option, sometimes you have no options. The Axis powers of World War II were EVIL.

(Yes, there is true evil in the world, and not just mere inconveniences.)

Nazi Germany invaded Austria, Poland, and France; they started a war that cost the lives of thousands and instituted a Holocaust that caused the terrible deaths of thousands of others. Japan bombed us in an unprovoked attack. And with Italy, those two nations were bent on conquering as many other nations and peoples as they could. For the sake of freedom and the sake of goodness, we had to fight a war with these guys.

And many of those war films are not propaganda films. "Private Ryan", in particular, did not strike me as one that tried to take a stand on war (pro or con). Our soldiers were not supermen, and were not above fear and acts of cruelty. Neither were their soldiers monsters. It simply presented the horrors of war and the heroism of those who fought it.

And if Americans are occasionally reminded of the bravery of their forefathers and the price of the freedom we so casually enjoy, so much the better.


Finally, "corporate censorship":

Our Founding Fathers were smart to realize the inherent abuse of power that lies in government, but were naive to believe that business could regulate itself.

Business, in turn, has taken the place of government in all of it's tyranny. It may not be government censorship, but it is blatant corporate censorship. So many of our rights, from internet privacy to how the world news is written, is being trampled over, because of insufficient regulation of business. It's only ironic that in the U.S., PBS is our most freest of networks regarding free speech, while in many nations, government-owned television is a symbol of oppression and propaganda. Profit, unfortunately, is the guillotine above our heads.


Allow me to tackle a couple individual issues:

In terms of privacy, I'll grant that corporations are probably intruding on our privacy. The government usually stays away from business practices to ensure competition, but sometimes it will intrude to bust a monopoly. In the same way, the government may have to intrude to protect the privacy of the individual. BUT, by definition, the intrusion on privacy is not censorship.

(Now, if corporations start telling employees what they can or cannot say/email on office time on office workstations, you could say that that's censorship. But that's a VERY questionable case for "blatant" censorship.)

I actually don't know about the problems distributing the world news, so I can't comment on it. But, even there, unless the content is being squelched on a global level (so that not only do news agencies not release information, but other people are prevented from doing so), you don't have much of a case for censorship.

Censorship is the total prevention or control of speech.

Let's take the older example of newspapers. If a corporately-owned newspaper refused to publish your editorial, it's merely a business decision, not censorship. If every newspaper separately decided not to run your article, it's STILL not censorship; you can start your own paper, if you have the funding. The publishers would somehow have to prevent you from starting your own paper for it to qualify as censorship.

Now, if you can't convince stores to offer your paper or people to buy your paper, it's your problem.

The same scenario applies to film: even if every studio refuses your film, you can start your own -- and distribution and revenues are your problem.

Now, to PBS the "guilltine" that is capitalism:

Actually, a few of the reasons broadcast networks are so similar is because of GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS. Broadcast channels need space on the airwaves; enter the FCC and its regulations. Now, cable is a whole different matter -- no airwaves, no FCC. This is why you have the more cutting-edge shows on HBO and Comedy Central.

Two intersting things also to note about PBS:

1) Thanks to cable television , there is no longer anything unique about PBS.

"If PBS won't do it, who will?"

The History Channel, A&E, The Discovery Channel, BBCAmerica, Bravo, etc.

2) Ratings-wise, I don't believe PBS has a single show in the top 100. UPN is more popular.

Finally, the "guillotine" comment.

That's crap, complete crap. The greatest films of all time were made because of profit. Profit is what appeals to people who fund most movies, and profit is what allows people to fund movies. It's true that many filmmakers (Scorsese, Coppola) probably do not sacrifice the integrity of their works for the sake of profit, but the profit their films produce allow them to make more.

There seems to be a belief that capitalism and profit motive produces poor works of art, and that's not necessarily true. There may also be the assumption that public funding would ensure quality. To that, I would point you to the National Endowment for the Arts. Some of the works due to the NEA are of questionable quality AT VERY BEST.


Seriously, you've criticized the veterans who have fought to protect our way of life, and you criticize the capitalist system of free choice.

It seems that you appreciate neither the men who risked their lives to ensure your freedom nor the very freedom they sought to protect.

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Old 09-10-2001, 01:29 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Achtung Bubba:
No, I'm not taking this personally, but I must be completely honest.
Excellent. I couldn't expect any less.

Quote:
I can readily admit that sex and violence are treated differently, and there are good arguments for leveling the playing field. I would like to, on that point, call it even. I honestly don't know whether I would adjust the standards, but I see your point.
Great. I'm glad we were able to come to some consensus.

Quote:
But I STRONGLY disagree with a few of your comments, and I believe that we're starting from completely different frames of mind on many issues.
As I very much expected.

Quote:
In order of your last reply...


On the issue of going around the film industry:

That I would agree with, but even that is circumvented by studio bureaucracy. The DVD for "Eyes Wide Shut," for instance, was released uncensored in all areas of the world, except for the region 1 DVD--North America.

I agree, but I still see DVD as a viable option. See, in that case above, the big studio is still in complete control over the release of their fillm. What I'm suggesting is that filmmakers who want to circumvent the MPAA budget, produce, and own their own film. They can then produce DVD's on their own or release the film through the Internet.
What you propose isn't really viable. Filmmaking isn't as simple as turning on the old camcorder and shooting. There are quite a lot of expenses even in production of the film, and, with the U.S. at least, one is generally forced to use the commercial film studios for funding. Now this would be a different story if this film were made in Europe, where many films are funded with government grants. Hence, you can once and for all, be wholly independent.

DVD production is still quite expensive, although technology is radically changing, particularly with the addition of DVD-R's on the latest Apple G4 computers and the DVD+RW technology arising in the PC world. This may be a viable option in a couple years, as technology becomes cheaper, faster, and more readily available.

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On the American culture:

I am well-aware of our Bible & gun-toting forefathers, but I really don't care to live under their shadow. I don't generally come from the same cultural heritage that values these values, and I do have the geneological records to prove it.

(I'm assuming -- hopefully correctly -- that you are an American.)

This is where my big disagreements begin.

It doesn't matter whether you care to live under their shadow or whether you're their genetic or cultural progeny. You're in our forefathers' culture. You're in a culture based on free speech, free religion, and the right to bear arms. You're in a culture founded on the ideals of Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson -- capitalism, liberty, republicanism, and limited government.

There is a distinct American culture, more distinct than many know or would like to admit. You can change the culture -- as I believe FDR did with the New Deal -- but you have to use this culture as the starting point.
People do find this very hard to believe, but I'm probably the antithesis of the "American," even though I've lived in America all my life. I really don't know how it happened, but I'm very European at heart. I hate guns. I love secularism, even though I'm a fairly religious bloke at heart. I like socialist democracy. I like mass transportation over my own car. 90% of my CDs are from British / Irish artists. Undoubtedly, though, these are probably just my cultural perceptions of Europe, and I'm completely off-base (apologies if I've offended any Europeans), but I don't fit in with America. I've never fit in.

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However, as a secular nation that has an official church-state separation, religious morals should have no bearing on ratings systems.

Well, first of all, we do offically have the church-and-state separation; that may make us a secular nation, but not an atheistic nation, and certainly not one that denies any higher order.

In our Declaration of Independence, Jefferson says that we are "endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights". Even assuming that mentioning a creator was just speech of that age (or, less likely, something to merely appeal to the religious), the assertion of unalienable, inherent rights implies a belief in a higher order. You can't POSSIBLY look at just the physical world and "see" our inherent rights. For this reason alone, we can say that the government does acknowledge a power higher than the mere comforts of its citizenry -- and thus the govenment can rule by basic moral principles.
Thomas Jefferson was a deist, meaning he believed in a God who created the world and abandoned it. When he coined the term, "separation of church and state," in 1801, he wholly meant exactly as it is stated.

Secularism doesn't mean atheism, but simply prevents a certain religion from thrusting it's values on other people. It would be easy to say that "morality" was universal, but it isn't. When you take into account the various beliefs of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Wicca, etc., you have various values that directly conflict with Christian moral conventions. Yet, of course, it's Christianity that should always rule, right?

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Beyond that, this isn't even an issue where the government matters. Once again, the MPAA is a PRIVATE organization who bases its standards on the general consensus of the nation's people, not the nation's government.
The MPAA rating system was created under government pressure. It would have been legislatively mandated, but the industry conceded defeat, and created this system on it's own. If the MPAA dropped the ratings system tomorrow, the government would likely legislate a replacement.

But to say that government politics have no bearing on the ratings system is silly. If it gets too lax, the Legislature is there to bitch and call for more stringent legislation, with the latest whining coming over 'R' rated movie trailers during non-'R' rated films. The industry, of course, voluntarily conceded defeat again, but the government obviously had it's hand in it.

It's not really the consensus of the American public as much as the political climate in Washington, D.C. The public, generally, has grown more apathetic in regards to conventional morality. The evidence is all there: most births now are illegitimate, over half of all marriages end in divorce, church attendance has fallen dramatically, the majority of the public supports abortion rights and gay rights, only 10% of parents actually admit to using the TV ratings for their children's viewing habits, and Clinton's popularity skyrocketed during his "witch trial." However, this same majority is also apathetic when it comes to voting, and, with the moral minority being ardent voters, they determine the tone of America.

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Granted, there is a wide array of religious beliefs, but we are essentially a Christian nation -- and at very least most of us believe in (if not practice) what C.S. Lewis refers to as the Tao, the morality that everyone in his heart knows to be true.
Well, I can only feel pity for the non-Christians and the liberal Christians in this nation. My Tao is quite different from others' apparently.

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(See The Abolition of Man for more from C.S. Lewis on the subject: I highly recommend it.)
I still quite admire his fiction writing, though, even though I find it funny that people take him as a serious religion writer. It's almost as funny as taking L. Ron Hubbard as a serious religion writer. But this is a very Catholic observation of mine.

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So, given that our culture has religious and moral values, it makes sense that the MPAA would use those values as guidelines.
Understood.

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On war films:

They tend to call those "propaganda films." War is neither glamorous nor heroic. It is the ultimate expression of diplomatic cowardice.

I didn't say war was glamorous. But to your other observations...

Soldiers aren't heroic?

War is diplomatic cowardice?

Are you fucking insane?

Are you telling me that the boys who would become our grandfathers were not heroic when they stormed Normandy and countless islands in the Pacific? That the men who were willing to give their lives for the cause of freedom (and many did give their lives) were not more brave than you or I have ever been?

What the hell were they? Cowards?

And was the Nazi invasion that started WWII "diplomatic cowardice" on Poland's part? Was the bombing of Pearl Harbor cowardice on our part?

What were we supposed to do? Negotiate a treaty with these aggressors? Wait for them to invade the U.S.? How about surrendering?

...

No, I won't wait for an answer. I will TELL you the answer.

Fighting a war, being asked day after day to kill complete strangers who are trying to kill you is about the most frightening thing any individual may be asked to face. And the men who faced them -- in the case of World War II, our grandfathers and thousands buried in France, North Africa, and the South Pacific -- are truly heroes for facing that for our sakes.

And while fighting a war is never your first option, sometimes you have no options. The Axis powers of World War II were EVIL.

(Yes, there is true evil in the world, and not just mere inconveniences.)

Nazi Germany invaded Austria, Poland, and France; they started a war that cost the lives of thousands and instituted a Holocaust that caused the terrible deaths of thousands of others. Japan bombed us in an unprovoked attack. And with Italy, those two nations were bent on conquering as many other nations and peoples as they could. For the sake of freedom and the sake of goodness, we had to fight a war with these guys.

And many of those war films are not propaganda films. "Private Ryan", in particular, did not strike me as one that tried to take a stand on war (pro or con). Our soldiers were not supermen, and were not above fear and acts of cruelty. Neither were their soldiers monsters. It simply presented the horrors of war and the heroism of those who fought it.

And if Americans are occasionally reminded of the bravery of their forefathers and the price of the freedom we so casually enjoy, so much the better.
A nice tangent, but reread my statement:

"War is neither glamorous nor heroic. It is the ultimate expression of diplomatic cowardice."

These words applied to war, not soldiers. I'm not calling our soldiers cowards; they are but pawns in a global chess game. They do exactly as their told, and they do it well.

However, war is not started by soldiers, but by distant world leaders who hide behind their desks. The president never has to fight in the war. When they executed the draft, which was common in the Vietnam War and prior, they never had to go. The world leaders are bureaucratic cowards, hiding behind weapons of mass destruction and innumerable manpower.

Of course, I knowingly put a gaping hole in my argument. There does come a time when war is absolutely necessary, and I find it interesting that you use World War II as your only example. That, to me, was our last justified war. Since then, it's never really made sense. Korea...Vietnam...Granada...Panama...Iraq...we never really belonged to any of those places. And it's only fitting that the Bush Administration has been fighting against the creation of a permanent War Crimes Tribunal, as some of our actions in Vietnam and even World War II were befitting of some of the stuff Slobodan Milosevic pulled as leader of Yugoslavia. But you won't read these tales in high school history or watch it on CNN. The U.S. is always right, yes?

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Finally, "corporate censorship":

Our Founding Fathers were smart to realize the inherent abuse of power that lies in government, but were naive to believe that business could regulate itself.

Business, in turn, has taken the place of government in all of it's tyranny. It may not be government censorship, but it is blatant corporate censorship. So many of our rights, from internet privacy to how the world news is written, is being trampled over, because of insufficient regulation of business. It's only ironic that in the U.S., PBS is our most freest of networks regarding free speech, while in many nations, government-owned television is a symbol of oppression and propaganda. Profit, unfortunately, is the guillotine above our heads.


Allow me to tackle a couple individual issues:

In terms of privacy, I'll grant that corporations are probably intruding on our privacy. The government usually stays away from business practices to ensure competition, but sometimes it will intrude to bust a monopoly. In the same way, the government may have to intrude to protect the privacy of the individual. BUT, by definition, the intrusion on privacy is not censorship.
Heh...monopoly busting is interesting as well. The AT&T divestiture in 1984 was at the secret behest of AT&T itself. It wanted to eliminate it's unprofitable local phone network and also rid itself of it's prior consent decree not to enter the world of computers and networking, which it prophetically saw as very profitable. It's no wonder Reagan pursued the antitrust suit so fervently. AT&T also wants to divest it's long distance network now, but, at least during the Clinton administration, the government wouldn't allow it.

No, privacy intrusion is not censorship. I never claimed it to be so. It was merely an example of business trampling on individual rights in places where the government is generally limited by law.

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(Now, if corporations start telling employees what they can or cannot say/email on office time on office workstations, you could say that that's censorship. But that's a VERY questionable case for "blatant" censorship.)
Well, regardless of the semantics, it happens all the time.

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I actually don't know about the problems distributing the world news, so I can't comment on it. But, even there, unless the content is being squelched on a global level (so that not only do news agencies not release information, but other people are prevented from doing so), you don't have much of a case for censorship.

Censorship is the total prevention or control of speech.

Let's take the older example of newspapers. If a corporately-owned newspaper refused to publish your editorial, it's merely a business decision, not censorship. If every newspaper separately decided not to run your article, it's STILL not censorship; you can start your own paper, if you have the funding. The publishers would somehow have to prevent you from starting your own paper for it to qualify as censorship.

Now, if you can't convince stores to offer your paper or people to buy your paper, it's your problem.

The same scenario applies to film: even if every studio refuses your film, you can start your own -- and distribution and revenues are your problem.
True, true. I'm too tired to argue.

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Now, to PBS the "guilltine" that is capitalism:

Actually, a few of the reasons broadcast networks are so similar is because of GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS. Broadcast channels need space on the airwaves; enter the FCC and its regulations. Now, cable is a whole different matter -- no airwaves, no FCC. This is why you have the more cutting-edge shows on HBO and Comedy Central.
The FCC does have regulation over cable, and it's because of them that we have such gems as C-SPAN and local network stations on every cable network. But it is regulated less stringently regarding content.

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Two intersting things also to note about PBS:

1) Thanks to cable television , there is no longer anything unique about PBS.

"If PBS won't do it, who will?"

The History Channel, A&E, The Discovery Channel, BBCAmerica, Bravo, etc.

2) Ratings-wise, I don't believe PBS has a single show in the top 100. UPN is more popular.
#1 is crap, as most of the stuff on PBS is infinitely more intelligent than anything you'll get on cable, and it doesn't have annoying commercial breaks either.

It's coverage of news, especially with it's news magazines, is unique and unduplicated in it's open-mindedness. It's ironic that the government station is the most critical of the government.

#2 is true, but I guess I don't define "value" by numbers. I don't like half the stuff that people find "good" on TV.

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Finally, the "guillotine" comment.

That's crap, complete crap. The greatest films of all time were made because of profit. Profit is what appeals to people who fund most movies, and profit is what allows people to fund movies. It's true that many filmmakers (Scorsese, Coppola) probably do not sacrifice the integrity of their works for the sake of profit, but the profit their films produce allow them to make more.
It's interesting how you mention Martin Scorsese, who admits to making occasional crap films to generate money for the films he really wants to make. "Cape Fear" was wholly made for the purposes of funding his next film.

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There seems to be a belief that capitalism and profit motive produces poor works of art, and that's not necessarily true. There may also be the assumption that public funding would ensure quality. To that, I would point you to the National Endowment for the Arts. Some of the works due to the NEA are of questionable quality AT VERY BEST.
Quality is at the eye of the beholder, I guess. Perhaps I'm a minority here, but I like Robert Mapplethorpe (homoerotic photography), Damien Hirst (sliced formaldehyde animals), and the urine jar with the crucifix. The NEA budget, however, is only a small fraction of the U.S. budget. Trent Lott wastes more money with pork projects in his home district.

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Seriously, you've criticized the veterans who have fought to protect our way of life, and you criticize the capitalist system of free choice.
Well, I've already pointed out how I didn't criticize veterans.

And capitalism is separate from democracy, which gives us free choice. Capitalism just gives us the freedom to be greedy or homeless, depending on the whims of the market.

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It seems that you appreciate neither the men who risked their lives to ensure your freedom nor the very freedom they sought to protect.
I always love it when I'm denounced like this. I guess the "land of the free" doesn't like criticism. On the contrary, the U.S. needs people like me, otherwise it would implode in complacent self-indulgence. If no one's there to point fingers, why would anything ever change?

Melon

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Old 09-10-2001, 03:13 AM   #7
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Personally, I worry about anyone who's this mad about missing James Van Der Beek engaged in man-love.

Anyway...

My first observation is that this is not censorship -- that it isn't the government (federal, state, or local) that is pushing for cutting the film. It is private organizations (the MPAA), the film industry (which operates almost entirely within the MPAA), and market forces (no one is willing to distribute the film because history suggests that no one will watch it, or at least too few will watch it to make it profirtable).

So, it's a cultural thing, mostly. And here in the "land of the free", you are for the most part free to film what you want. But you can't make the MPAA to accept it, make a company to distribute it, or make an audience watch it. They're all also free to ignore you.

It's the freedom to speak, not the right to an audience.

And honestly, I don't see the national culture or the industry taking the opinion that violence is good but sex is bad.

You've seen American Pie, right?

It's all a matter of context, intent, realism, and how graphic the content is.

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Old 09-10-2001, 03:26 AM   #8
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If it was in his contract to deliver an R-rated film, then he doesnt have a justification to be complaining about the producers, he signed the damn thing.

The real problem here is the often arbitrary nature of the ratings board and it's obvious bias against certain adult themes while throwing caution to the wind with others. The ratings board is highly maleable to whatever is politicaly correct at the time and it's differentiations betwwen R, PG-13 and X are pretty much meaningless at this point.

Nothing really will solve this sense parents are either too lazy, or don't have enough sense to control thier children, but I think it would be helpful to have a rating A or an equivolent that would draw the line between adult oriented films and pronography, because an R is a useless indicator when Eyes Wide Shut is threatened with an X and Scary Movie passes by, and an X is the mark of death. that's why movie companies put a delivery of an R in thier contract because an X will sink more often than not.

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Old 09-10-2001, 03:26 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Achtung Bubba:
Personally, I worry about anyone who's this mad about missing James Van Der Beek engaged in man-love.
I need not get into it...

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Anyway...

My first observation is that this is not censorship -- that it isn't the government (federal, state, or local) that is pushing for cutting the film. It is private organizations (the MPAA), the film industry (which operates almost entirely within the MPAA), and market forces (no one is willing to distribute the film because history suggests that no one will watch it, or at least too few will watch it to make it profirtable).
Well, that I would have to agree with. But I've always been known to say "fuck the market" and "fuck the film industry." They make enough money on complete crap like "Pearl Harbor" and "American Pie 2." And I have seen "Storytelling." The film is noticably lopsided as the industry pretty much forced Solondz to edit it.

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So, it's a cultural thing, mostly.
And if American culture is synonymous with hypocritical cries of us being the "freest nation in the world" then fluctuating to acts of censorship like this, then I'm not very American.

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And honestly, I don't see the national culture or the industry taking the opinion that violence is good but sex is bad.
"Saving Private Ryan" was due to be rated NC-17 over violence, but Steven Spielberg just threw money at the MPAA and they changed it to R, without one iota changing in the film. 99.9% of movies rated NC-17 are over sex acts, while very gratuitiously violent movies are still rated R. This, of course, has to deal with twisted American values, deeming sex as evil and violence as not-so evil.

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You've seen American Pie, right?

It's all a matter of context, intent, realism, and how graphic the content is.
Well, needless to say, that movie was censored as well. Have you ever seen the director's cut in the video release? Once again, it's all over sex.

Melon

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Old 09-10-2001, 03:30 AM   #10
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Originally posted by hermes:
I think it would be helpful to have a rating A or an equivolent that would draw the line between adult oriented films and pornography.
I agree that there should be two different rating systems that differentiate pornography from adult-themed films. As it stands, NC-17 is the kiss of death, as it is seen as always pornographic.

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