You call that art? I call it %$#^*!

The debate over censorship rears its ugly head again

Rated R
Censorship rears its ugly head again

Now that The Kings Speech is cleaning up at every movie awards show in the world, a re-release of the film with a PG-13 rating is stirring up the same old controversy again.

In an article published in today’s Deseret News titled, Hypocritical Hollywood?, the owner of a now defunct video-editing store in Utah County lashed out at studio executives for their hipocracy.

Cougar Video (Provo) owner Kirt Merrill says that movie producers and directors such as Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg, took companies like Merrill’s, who provided edited versions of popular movies for a niche market, to court and cleaned him and his business out (no pun intended).

Production companies took Merrill and others to court on the premise that by editing the movies, the editing companies were taking away a producers and their directors’ ability to express themselves artistically.

Merrill cries foul. He believes that movie executives knew all along that they would enter the market for edited movies because it brings in an estimated 25% to 35% in additional revenue because PG-13 films are that much more popular than movies carrying an R-rating. For a film like The Kings Speech, which has already grossed over $115 million nationwide ($271.6 million worldwide) that equates to an additional $28 to $45 million in revenue in the U.S. alone.

The debate over this controversial issue has been simmering for some time now but for most people like Merrill, it is still a raw wound that will not heal. The court case and the debate even led to an appropriately titled film of its own – CleanFlix. The film received critical acclaim on the indie circuit and covers the issue of censorship on both sides of the aisle.

While I feel bad for guys like Merrill who were making a great living selling edited versions of films we have avoided because of the R-rating, I have to side with Bobby Redford on this one. What Merrill did is a little like sitting outside of Burger King and telling customers that you will swap the regular patty in their hamburger for a Tofurkey patty so that they don’t get fat while still enjoying the meal.

I’ve done my best to avoid R-rated movies for a decade now. I use my own descretion as to whether or not a movie passes my own moral litmus test because that’s my right. I always have a right to walk into a movie or walk away.

Though I don’t agree with a lot of the content that is coming out of Hollywood these days (or for many years now if we’re going to get technical about it), the studios still own the rights to the films which means that they can do whatever they want with the film. They can re-release it in 3D, black-and-white or uncut. They can re-release it in pink, with subtitles or only in Spanish if they wanted to.

If Merrill wanted to form a partnership with the studios to produce edited versions of a film that is one thing. But to take someone else’s work and essentially tell them, “I can make this better,” is something totally different. Honestly, what Merrill and others were doing was a great service because there are some great films that have been tagged with an R-rating that could have been bumped down to a PG-13 with a little less vulgarity. But I still think the way he and companys like CleanFlicks went about the whole business the wrong way.

Agree or disagree? Tell me what you think.

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