Family Friendly Fascism

There’s a major battle going on right now between the filmmaking community and groups of arrogant, right-wing fascists who are editing so-called "clean" versions of Hollywood films. It’s more than just a horrible precedent, it’s frightening move toward a nation of group think.

A handful of companies, with names like Clean Flicks, CleanFilms and Family Flix, purchase commercial copies of popular DVDs, edit out content they find "objectionable" and resell their versions. By purchasing a copy for every copy they sell, they claim their butchering of the artists’ work falls under the doctrine of "fair use." It’s hard to know the size of their market, but one company’s edited versions are available in more than 100 stores.

You won’t be surprised to learn most of these companies are headquartered in Utah, and all purport to adhere to some generalized Christian code of how much boob is family friendly. The fact is that what they cut varies. All remove whatever they deem "sexually explicit," but Family Flix also cuts any trace of homosexual behavior. If you ask nicely, I’m sure they would also remove Blacks and Jews. Bigots have a right to watch whatever they want, but to recut a film so it fits your narrow world view – and then present it as the work of the director – that’s just plain offensive.

What tremendous entitlement these people feel. It’s hard to fathom the hubris it takes to assert that all films should be tailored to your particular tastes. These film cutters say they’re only offering choice, but the choice is already there: Don’t watch the f***ing movie.
On one hand, these hacks complain that Hollywood films are too violent and profane. On the other, they insist on watching these films. There’s plenty of films that are created for young children and prudes. Just because your whacko views put you outside the cultural mainstream, what gives you the right to disfigure mainstream art so you can feel like you’re part of the party?

If there is any dedication to art in this country, and evidence seems to the contrary, we need to revive the legal concept of "moral rights." Even though directors and screenwriters don’t own the copyright on their films, moral rights give them legal recourse should their work be altered negatively. Moral rights in Europe are strong enough that Monty Python won a multi-million dollar settlement when ABC recut Flying Circus.

There are legal challenges that should shut down the firms that sell recut films, but Congress recently paved the way for ClearPlay, makers of specialty DVD players which skip over offensive material without physically altering the actual DVD. ClearPlay is a much less offensive application, but it still presents a version of a film that was not made by the filmmakers. And it still puts the power to pick which words, boobs and shootings are offensive into the hands of some third party.

So what about the edited versions that have aired on TV and airlines for years? Those are cut by the filmmakers as part of their contract. And several directors have said they would approve of those versions being made available for sale. But even that’s not enough for some of these faux Christian Crusaders, who claim Hollywood doesn’t have the moral authority to cut its own films. But what gives them that authority? The fact is there is no one version of a film that would fit every fundamentalists particular biases.

For more on this debate, I recommend a one-hour special airing on AMC this month entitled "Bleep." I also recommend telling anyone who supports these groups to go f*** themselves.

Ballpark Etiquette

Now that baseball season is underway, and thank God that it is, I think it's time to lay down some clear rules for ballpark etiquette. Baseball is a very different kind of game, and as such requires certain behavior from the spectator. What follows is a summary of some of the most frequent, egregious fan behavior. Please forward this list to anyone you know who may be "that asshole."

1. Leave your f***ing beach ball at home. I will never understand the reason for paying good money to watch professional athletes, and then spending the entire game bopping a beach ball around until it drops to the lower deck. If you want to play with a beach ball, why not go to the beach? Or perhaps a Mommy and Me class. As if the bopping ball weren't enough distraction, for some reason it always creates a Lord of the Flies mentality in the stands where anyone who loses the ball is to be mocked, shunned and possibly fed to the lions.

2. Let "The Wave" die. Perhaps the only thing more asinine than shifting your attention to a beach ball is standing up and down in unison. I mean, seriously. If kids in middle school exhibited this behavior they would be sent to that classroom where all the kids wear leather jackets and the teacher is a former bouncer. If this is what you do when you're at a baseball game, YOU ARE NOT A BASEBALL FAN. Stay home so I can get a better seat.

3. Don't "boo" a bunt. Strategy is very important, and often this involves some sort of sacrifice to move a runner into scoring position. Don't be one of the morons who "boos" a player for laying down a bunt or a sac fly. This is a sure way to out yourself as not a true fan, just some guy who wanted to wear a polo shirt and have a drink outside.

4. A ballglove is for the kiddies. We're all eager for the chance to catch a ball in the stands. But if you're old enough to drive a car, you're old enough to catch it with your bare hands. There's few things as pathetic as a 39-year-old guy lunging to catch a foul ball with his K-mart mitt. Sure, a hard foul ball might break a bone or dislocate a finger. But bringing a glove to the park is the baseball equivalent of sleeping with a blanky.

5. Give the ball to a kid. The other important piece of foul ball etiquette is to always give any ball you catch to a nearby small child. Sure, we all want to catch the ball. But now you've caught it, so make some kid's day. To find a kid, I suggest looking to the ground, where most of them will be after being bowled over by adult jackasses with baseball gloves. It's a classy gesture and really, what would you do with the ball? Are you really going to put it on your mantle so you can always remember the day that you caught a foul ball from Russell Branyon?

6. Heckling is an art form. This is a touchy issue. There's a fine line between the drunken heckler who's amusing the crowd and rattling the opposing team and the drunken slob who's making everyone look around for the nearest security guard. Whether or not you're working blue, the key is that a good heckle should be original. One good tactic is to feign sympathy for a player, or offer them career advise. The point is, simply shouting F-bombs is just plain lazy. Even more pathetic is to start a chant of "(The other team) sucks." Particularly when the other team is ahead by 15 runs.

And finally, one for the ballpark operators...

Stop playing God Bless America. I know that in 2001 all that patriotic shit gave people goose bumps, but this really has to end. There's no better way piss all over a perfectly fine day at the park than to throw religion and politics in our faces. It's an uncomfortable exercise that comes bundled with all kinds of hooray for war baggage, and who needs it? It's also pretty contradictory for baseball to boast it's growing international appeal and then make all the Latin and Asian American players hear how great America is. Bring back Take Me Out to the Ballgame or even just play Centerfield for the 500th time.

Enjoy the games.

Iowa State Daily Article

Today's Iowa State Daily featured an article on my short film, The Persecution of Al Kida, and Andy Brodie's short doc 'Round Midnight. Both will screen this weekend at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival.