I have always been fascinated by stories of people taking a piece of art and editing it to avoid controversy. A painter once painted a strap on a dress that wasn’t there in order to appease the European elite. Major studio films danced around sexual acts by using stand ins such as lighting cigarettes for each other in order to be in compliance with the Hays Code. Even today filmmakers are still taking out seriously graphic things in order to avoid getting an unsuitable rating and therefore killing any distribution deals. The consequences for these people are very serious. People still burn books that they find offensive. They also burn CDs, DVDs, and restrict anything that is questionable from coming over the border. Because of this we haven’t seen some Asian and European classics to enjoy because they have a level of nudity or violence deemed unsuitable for our pure eyes. Why are so many people afraid of pieces of art just because they have violence, nudity, or radical ideas in them? For a lot of people in the Utah area it is because religion tells them that they should not watch such bad things on the screen because then they will do bad things in real life. That is how Cleanflix came about.
Cleanflix was a company that edited films in order to make it safe for Mormons to watch them. Major Hollywood releases would be taken through this process, permanently altering the director’s vision just so that the viewer can avoid an uncomfortable moment. These stores were majorly successful to the point that it caught Hollywood’s eye and forced them to shut down. But the owner operators of these very successful businesses were not going to take that ruling lying down. They bent the rules until they found another way and another way and another way to rent to such a profitable audience. The whole time these men had no regard for the piece of art that was being mutilated at all.
Although working with a compelling subject matter, the documentary falls short in a couple of ways. First off the choice to have no narrator was a hinderance for the first part of the film. There was a lot of set up that had to be done in huge chunks of text on the screen. The other problem was the focusing on one man’s story that wasn’t amazingly compelling. He was one of the owners of an edited video shop that kept re opening even when the government told him not to. He also tried to seek as much attention as possible and became a mini celebrity. This was all before he got caught soliciting sex from under age girls. While this is definitely an ironic story, they missed a oppurtinuity to explore the idea of censorship for moral reasons in more depth. It started out as an intellectual film and ended in a case study.
Despite my problems with the film, it is still worth watching if only because they are not afraid of the censorship conversation. We think of censorship as something that happened in the past, but it still happens today just in ways that don’t get as much press. It also brings up the question, should creators care about how their product affects the viewer? Should we think twice about putting an extremely gory scene into a film because someone small or someone with high moral standards might see the finished product and get upset by the scene? These questions I asked myself when watching this film. I came to the conclusion that no one should get upset by curse words, boobies or radical ideas. They should get upset about restricting our viewing of these things. Don’t think of the insane parents that are purchasing these films in video stores, but instead think of their children. Their children deserve to grow up and be able to ask uncomfortable questions. One way they can think of these uncomfortable questions is by seeing films where they see something they don’t quite understand. They need to learn what is moral and not moral individually not en mass. If they don’t then they will become the next generation of drones that I saw in this film. People that spit out what a prophet tells them without truly understanding the implications of what they are saying.