Cleaning the World, One Lie at a Time

I have a secret confession. I harbor a deep (and somewhat unsettling) love of animated, talking vegetables. My glee can scarcely be contained when I chance upon a commercial with a singing radish, or that one where the carrots talk to each other in the grocery store. I love it! So imagine my joy when my channel surfing landed me on an entire program made up solely of talking produce! I could hardly wait for my first exposure to the show, after seeing the ad for Larryboy: The Angry Eyebrows, about a pontificating cucumber.

But as I watched the program, my enjoyment was tempered by WHAT the cute little fella was saying. He was quoting scripture, moralizing about right and wrong, talking about Jesus! What in the hell is this? Now I•m a good man, but I don•t want to be preached to by anybody, particularly not an over-ripe melon, or a godly gourd. I found the biblical aspect of the program detracted from the quality of the show, and really wasn•t necessary to the plot. Veggie Tales promised so much, but my introduction to it was ruined by pious propaganda. I could barely stand to watch it. I took the rest of the tapes back to my rental store and resigned myself to never enjoying talking vegetables again.

Until I found a place on the Internet called www.nogodvideos.com. I clicked, and to my delight and surprise, there was my old friend, Larryboy! And in the little clip they showed, he danced and sang, and talked with his friends about all manner of things, and thankfully, never mentioned God, doing good, or the Bible once. I couldn•t enter my credit card information fast enough. I•m now the proud renter of a dozen edited Veggie Tales videos, and I spend my days laughing myself sick with the joy that is a singing eggplant. Life is good, with a few minor corrections.

Sound ludicrous? Not to some people. Not to people who would rent videos from Clean Flicks, an internet DVD rental site that rents only “E-Rated” movies. What are “E-Rated” movies? To quote the website: “E-rated DVD movies are movies that have been edited for content to remove nudity and sexual situations, offensive language, and graphic violence.” These are movies such as Rock Star and The Green Mile, the same films you have seen in theatres or rented from Blockbuster, only with all the “naughty bits” removed. Or anything, one supposes, that the company thinks their customers would find offensive. No more jiggling breasts in teen summer flicks, none of that nasty swearing in a war picture. Simply by paying $22.85 and up a month, you get to experience the hard work and creative effort of filmmakers and actors in a form that aligns itself with your worldview and personal preference.

Except you aren•t. When Ridley Scott filmed Aliens, he made it graphic and gory in parts. It starred a strong female character played by Sigourney Weaver, who cussed. What does the “Clean Flicks” version show? A muted, crippled version of a film about a bad thing on a spaceship? Or what would Swordfish be without a topless Halle Berry? (Unwatchable, most likely). These are only a few of the movies available via Clean Flicks. There is a list of movies that they can•t provide, which includes American History X, Election, and Pretty Woman and about 20 more, that “…we will not have edited or offer for rental due to the overall theme or number of required edits” And therein lies the rub. Why couldn•t you edit Pretty Woman? It has only a few scenes of nudity (I can•t remember any, but it was a while ago when I watched it). Could it be because the main character of the movie is a prostitute who isn•t portrayed as a drug-addicted sleazebag, and who ends up prospering in the end? That certainly doesn•t gibe with Christian dogma, and no amount of editing and bleeping can make it so. How about Election or Primary Colors? We can•t let the notion that our political process is tainted by self-serving hypocrites be shown to our children, can we? Why, they might begin to question the world around them and horror of horrors, might not vote Republican! Or not vote at all, seeing the system for what it is, a dog and pony show based on the ancient magical technique of misdirection. These movies are objectionable because they dare question the belief systems of American Christians, and no one else. They seemingly have no problems with pictures that depict the killing of Muslims such as The Three Kings or Black Hawk Down, or godless Orientals by the score in Pearl Harbor, because these people were (or are) our “enemy” – and they don•t believe in OUR God – and deserve to be slaughtered.

This issue is currently winding its way through the courts, being argued on copyright issues and “fair use” practices. While it is apparent to me that if you are selling or renting a copy of a copyrighted DVD that is not the original, factory-pressed disc, then you are bootlegging, and the industry has correctly protected their interests in that regard for years. “Clean Flicks” should be put out of business on that alone. Secondary issues involving the publicity rights of public figures are being questioned as well – it is illegal to use a public person’s image or name in advertising without compensation or their approval. I doubt seriously any of the people involved in the creation of the original works of art would allow their work to be presented in this narrow, warped method.

But the bigger issue, as I see it – being one who uses whatever meager talents I have as a writer to create what I feel is an original work of art (or whatever you might call it) – is that these people are profiting from theft. If someone read my novel and excised the parts to which they object, and then resold it, or rented it, my vision would be negated and blunted, and I would consider it theft. If someone objects to my – or any – work of art, then they are free to ignore it, dismiss it publicly, or create their own. What they are not permitted to do is to hammer a fig leaf over a bare crotch, or change the words and intent of an artist’s creation. What they are not permitted to do is to lie and serve their own ends with my work. They are not allowed to feed their children a view of the world whitewashed of any conflict and human emotion – an imaginary world, a benignly false world that doesn•t exist – with my words. They are not allowed to lull themselves into brain-dead complacency using my images and thoughts, or some bastardization thereof.

The scenario I depicted at the onset of this piece was designed to invoke a laugh. However, if done on a large scale, such actions would be decried as “Un-American” or insulting to those of faith. Instead, those of us who wish not to be preached to avoid those films, books or records that do so – and any other aspect of day-to-day life that attempts to force a viewpoint we don•t believe in down our throats. This might come as a surprise to some, but not all of us are Christian. Or white. Or Republican. But we all are Americans with a constitutional right to create and maintain our own property. Part of this is the right to protect our creations from the meddling of those vocal few who don•t agree with our worldview. Anything less is an “ism” of the worst sort. And people died to defend that right. Good people. People who swore, had sex, and perhaps were even atheists. It has been stated that freedom can be defined as the right to swing your fist. That right ends at my face. “Clean Flicks” swings their fist at my face. They are permitted to live in any sort of imaginary world they wish. As am I. That is America. That is freedom. “Clean Flicks” distrusts freedom and is uncomfortable with reality. Perhaps a move to Cuba or China is in order for these moral revisionists. They do a dandy job of stopping filth. And expression. And freedom. At the end of a gun barrel.

Recently on Ink 19...