Bowdlerising Blockbusters

A funny article in yesterday’s Independent delves into the world of Clearplay and Cleanflicks – two American companies devoted to renting out “cleaned-up” DVDs of otherwise biblically-unacceptable Hollywood films.

What are decent-minded middle-American Christian conservatives to do if they abhor sex, bad language, illicit drug use and gut-spilling violence but still have an urge to see Saving Private Ryan? Or Goodfellas? Or The Amityville Horror? The beginnings of an answer came a few years ago with the advent of CleanFlicks, a kitchen-sized Utah company that decided to offer videos and DVD for rental – after they had been edited to remove all content likely to be offensive to the local Mormon population.

Some of the films they rent turn out to be quite short. You’ll have to read the whole article, because there’s too much to condense in this small space. But we should point out that John Beyer would almost certainly disagree with this form of censorship, because it would permit adults to make their own choices about what to watch. As his latest comment on Mediawatch-UK (on the issue of mobile phone porn) confirms, there is only one solution:

The complete answer to this problem is to strengthen the law against pornography so that much of the imagery that is now available becomes illegal in line with Parliament’s intention in the 1959 Obscene Publications Act

Because, as we all know, if you criminalise something, it just disappears.

But back to the DVD tamperers. MWW was interested in finding out if a Christian ex-porn addict would be able to rent “cleaned-up” hardcore movies from them, featuring the likes of Jenna Jameson and Jill Kelly not “in action” per se, but rather speaking the lines that drive on the plot of your average adult feature. Their response:

We do not clean up any of these types of movies.

Thank you


40 Responses to “Bowdlerising Blockbusters”

  1. Mike says:


    Don’t think for one minute it could ‘only happen in America’, here in the UK there is something along similar lines, a company called Christian TV sells or rents satellite recievers, the unsubscribed units that can only be used to watch the free to view channels, but here’s the twist… Christian TV detunes the boxes so that only ‘wholesome’ channels can be viewed, by ‘wholesome’ they mean naturally, the God channels, wow, you too can watch Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer conning suckers out of their savings, and for just £19.79 a month! tempting, so, so tempting… there’s one born every minute….

    Seeing is believing…

  2. Christopher Shell says:

    No-one says that if you criminalise something it disappears.
    The argument is, rather, that whatever is not criminalised is given a veneer of respectability which in some cases it may not deserve.
    And the issue is, rather, that some things (not all) may be lessened by criminalising them. Some may be lessened greatly. It’s not a matter of all or nothing (chaos or complete law-abiding), but of greater or lesser incidence/quantity, on a sliding scale.

  3. Andy A says:

    Christopher, prostitution per se is not illegal (soliciting is), but I don’t see the ‘veneer of respectability’ there (although I see no reason why one should not sell one’s body for sex as a ballet dancer sells her/his body to a viewing audience). If pornography is really such a bad thing, then education is the only thing that is going to make people aware of that; and, if they’re properly educated, in a balanced manner, and they find that the thing is not as toxic as some make it out to be, then education has done its stuff. Porn alone is neutral; what we do with it or as a result of it is entirely of our own making.

    As for this crazy censorship to take the ‘unwholesome’ bits out of movies, it would be interesting to see how much would be left of The Passion of the Christ!

  4. Christopher Shell says:

    Er – Andy – don’t you think the wives and children of some of the clients might beg to differ with your blanket statement ‘I see no reason why not’. Unfaithfulness is felt by them like a sword-stab, like a living death.

    Or else you’re in favour of people living compromised lives? Or double lives? Or perfecting the eleventh commandment ‘Thou shalt not get found out’? Which of these r u in favour of?

    Now – when you say pornography is neutral, I think there are various things you have not considered. Its sellers have particular precise motives, and not others. That is not neutral. Its models likewise. Its buyers likewise. What is neutral about that?

    I mentioned earlier that I regularly play ‘The Passion of the Christ’ to customers including young children. Gratuitous violence is one thing; historically warranted violence is another.

  5. Monitor says:

    I mentioned earlier that I regularly play ‘The Passion of the Christ’ to customers including young children.

    Does this illegal activity take place on the premises of the Kensington Temple?

    I seriously question the morality – not to mention the sanity – of someone who would deny adults their legal right to view a comic opera because he imagines it does them “harm”, yet who regularly breaks the law by exposing young children to graphic scenes of physical torture.

    You are a sick individual, Christopher Shell.

  6. Andy L says:

    Gratuitous violence is one thing; historically warranted violence is another.

    That doesn’t make any sense. Either children will see violence on screen and copy it (thus becoming more violent, as you postulate), or they won’t. How would the violence being fictional or real alter that?

    I think you just blew a hole in your own arguement. A massive one.

  7. Andrew Nixon says:

    I mentioned earlier that I regularly play ‘The Passion of the Christ’ to customers including young children.

    Terrible. I, as an adult, shouldn’t be allowed to watch pornography or JS:TO, but you should be able to show scenes of graphic violence to young children? Verging on the hypocritical.

    The film has an 18 certificate for a reason. Because it is not suitable for children.

  8. Andy A says:

    Christopher wrote,

    Er – Andy – don’t you think the wives and children of some of the clients might beg to differ with your blanket statement ‘I see no reason why not’. Unfaithfulness is felt by them like a sword-stab, like a living death.

    If I sold kitchen knives, would I ask each potential customer whether he/she wanted it for cutting up food or to do violence to someone (not that I’m suggesting prostituion is per se violent)? People’s relationships come down to honesty. I believe, as I’m sure you do, that people in relationships – be they officially married (and I include both same- and opposite-sex civil partnerships in that) or unofficially ‘an item’) – should be honest with each other. But I cannot blame the prostitute if the client happens to be married to someone else. If prostitutes decided en bloc to begin asking this question of their clients, said clients would simply resort to saying they were not married/in a relationship and another layer of dishonesty would be added to the whole biz.

    As fpr pornography’s being ‘neutral’, as I put it, I am talking about, say, a picture of a nice-looking guy or girl who’s naked and doing things consensually with another nice-looking guy or girl and getting paid for acting it out in front of a camera. Once someone begins to get hurt against their will (including animals), that’s when another dimension comes into it. That’s why I said porn per se is neutral. Admittedly, much porn is not, and people are hurt in the making of it or possibly, as in the illicit drugs trade, in the sale of it.

  9. tom p says:

    Christopher – not everyone who visits a prostitute is married.
    Are you saying it’s OK for unmarried men?

  10. Christopher Shell says:

    Hi Tom-
    No – married men are just the worst case: a scenario which is worth everyone pondering. Even in the case of unmarried, every party is negatively affected, and none positively. The pimp cynically and amorally rakes in the money; the prostitute gets her body and (more importantly) soul mixed up with a whole stream of complex individuals till her personal boundaries & ‘integrity’ are completely eroded; the unmarried man becomes less able to conduct a stable once-for-all relationship, and is not likely to gain self-esteem. A lose-lose situation.

    Hi Andy-
    Alas, the undergrounds you speak of are run by cynical money-minded characters. Do you imagine they could care less whether what they do is or is not morally justified?

  11. Andrew Nixon says:

    I note you fail to address your showing of graphic violence to minors Christopher….. which may possibly be illegal.

    Come on, why should you be able to do that when I shouldn’t be able to watch pornography, or JS:TO?

  12. Christopher Shell says:

    Well, I suppose two wrongs don’t make a right. We’d each have to justify it first.

  13. Andrew Nixon says:

    You are the one doing something that may well be illegal Christopher. Despite what you want, watching porn and JS:TO is still legal.

    Showing an 18 certificate film to anyone under the age of 18 in a commercial environment is illegal, unless your local council has expresley given you permission to do so, or waived the certificate of the film, as they are allowed to do.

    Please either:

    1. Show that you are not doing anything illegal


    2. Justify illegally showing an 18 certificate film to children in a commercial environment.

  14. Andrew Nixon says:

    Oh, and you are aware that showing a DVD/Video recording to anyone outside your own home is 100% illegal under UK copyright law right?

    Unless of course the copyright holder has given you permission to do so.

    If you are showing this film on the premises of your shop, you are breaking at least one law (unless permission has been onbtained)

    If you are showing this film to children, you are, as Monitor put it, a sick individual.

    In fact, I’d even go as far to say that exposing children to scenes of violent torture is tantamount to child abuse.

  15. Monitor says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth, Andrew. This kind of casual child abuse is something that comes very easily to certain kinds of religiously-convicted individuals. Whether they are beating the demons out of them with sticks, or exposing them to extended scenes of horrifying physical torture on screen, they are so convinced that they are doing the work of the Lord that it never occurs to them that they might be harming these kids.

  16. Andy L says:

    Yep, I’d like to know too. And how exactly graphic violence is supposed to cause violent behaviour in individuals who watch it, but only if it’s not in a historical re-enaction.

    Goodfellas is broadly historically accurate. Does that mean it’s okay to show to ten year olds?

  17. Joe says:

    “Men Behind The Sun” is surprisingly historically accurate, too… Ditto “Ai No Corrida”, “The Devils” – even “Saló”.

  18. Christopher Shell says:

    Hi Andrew-

    You’re not seriously suggesting that the law is always right? There are at least 3 reasons why not:
    (1) It is always changing.
    (2) It is made by fallible human beings.
    (3) It is made by elected bodies who are interested in what will gain them the popular vote, rather than always in issues of right and wrong.

    Many years ago I was taking down cards in phoneboxes (and subsequently beaten up) only to be told that my littering was a crime and their advertising was (then) not.

    This is an example of the fact that the law can sometimes be an ass. Even if you dont accept this example (and youd have to be a heartless brute not to!! :o) you can think of examples of your own that confirm this principle.

  19. Andrew Nixon says:

    Yes the law is an ass. Yes, in some cases I disagree with the law. The blasphemy law for example, Sunday trading laws and several others.

    But showing scenes of violent torture to young children is pratically child abuse. Even if someone doesn’t class it as child abuse, it is certainly very morally questionable.

    But you seem to think that you should be allowed to do this, while at the same time denying adults the right to watch what they want.

    I don’t get it.

  20. Christopher Shell says:

    Im puzzled that you are still using ‘want’ as a criterion. This needs explaining. Havent we established that it is only children and adolescents who (incorrectly) characteristically try to use this as a criterion? So how does this square with your use of the term ‘adults’? It’s precisely true adults who know that ‘want’ is not a valid criterion. They’ve matured beyond that stage.

    Re the violence: gratuitousness and historical accuracy are important considerations.

  21. Andrew Nixon says:

    You know what I mean Christopher. By my second to last sentence I mean denying adults the right to watch perfectly legal material.

    Re the violence: gratuitousness and historical accuracy are important considerations.

    You continue to justify your child abuse with this get out clause.

    Can I also assume that you see no problem with showing a child the historically accurate violence in Goodfellas? Which by the way, has much more evidence for it’s accuracy than “Passion of the Christ” (That’s another debate though)

    I still consider what you are doing to be A) illegal, B) immoral and C) child abuse

  22. marc says:

    Bible (O.T. in particular) promotes violence and in many places actively condones it provided it’s against the enemies of Yahooie (it’s too late to look up the correct spelling).

    Course, you don’t find that in a Children’s bible – so why should TV, etc. be any diferent. Historical violence may well be violence in a historical context: but it’s still violence. That’s why “Soldier Blue” was rated X in its day.

  23. Andy L says:

    Yep, still not provided any justification for your illegal showing of films to the underaged.

    Again, do you think Goodfellas is suitable for children? If anything, although certainly brutal in places, it’s less gratutious than The Passion of the Christ is.

  24. Christopher Shell says:

    Alas, I haven’t seen Goodfellas, nor am I familiar with its subject-matter. For all I know, you could be right that it is less gratuitous. Of course, if it depicts a modern situation, children are more likely to see it as being part of the world they inhabit than they are with ‘The Passion’, which depicts a 2000-year-old situation.

    Marc is right about children’s bibles. I always chuckle over how they censor/emasculate the book of Revelation.

  25. Andy L says:

    Goodfellas is about the mafia in the 60s (to the 80s), and features several murders, adultry, one character who murders a schoolboy for making a sarcastic remark back at him and significant amounts of both drug abuse and drug dealing.

    It’s certainly the sort of thing you’d claim was terrible for society. And yet, it’s a true story. It pretty much all happened – and that can be said with far more evidence than The Passion. While people are shot in the head on screen, that’s nothing compared to The Passion.

    And again – you’ve completely failed to explain how, if people are apparently moved to commit violent and “immoral” acts by the media they watch, why if it’s historically accurate makes any difference whatsoever. Either people copy what they see on screen or they don’t. Your own argument quite clearly states that what you are doing will increase the chances of the children you’re exposing this to crucifying someone to death.

    Either your entire argument on the principle of censorship is incorrect, or you are contributing towards a potential murder. Which is it, Shell?

  26. tom p says:

    Christopher – were there no litter bins near you prozzie card-littered phone boxes? could you not have used them so you weren’t littering?

    Also, prositiutes and their pimps (if they have them) are benefitting from the whoring in one way – financially. The pimp would of course be living off immoral earnings, which is illegal, but he’d be living off of them.
    The punter, while your analysis isn’t fundamentally incorrect (at least the way I see it), would at least get his rocks off so not everyone suffers in every was from prostitution (which is not to defend it).

  27. Andy L says:

    Odd how we’re still waiting for a comeback by Christopher here…

  28. Andrew Nixon says:

    And the topic below this one too. I tend to find that once Christopher gets fed up of us not accepting any of his arguments, he diaspears for a couple of weeks and then comes back with the same arguments, hoping we’ve forgotten about them.

  29. Christopher Shell says:

    Hi Andy-
    Being an unsensationalised documentary-style movie wd definitely help the cause of ‘Goodfellas’. For example, when ‘Scum’ ca,me out in the early 1980s, I was against the school ban on it – and similarly for the nuclear holocause TV movie in 1983 (name?). Surely, the more documentary content, the more justification.

    Hi Tom-
    I enjoyed your devil’s advocacy.
    To be blunt, what I find refreshing about the black Christians I meet every day is their *positiveness*. They have a quite correct no-nonsense attitude to *negative* things like prostitution (such that no good comes of even talking about them, let alone countenancing any good in them: it’s precisely through drugtaking etc being seen as a live possibility, rather than simply out of bounds, that they have become just that, and more). If everyone had the same common sense, we’d all be better off.

    Alas, the only time I disappear is while I lack internet access. I have no home computer, so rely on odd lunchbreaks at work etc – but plenty of lunchbreaks I have to do other things.

  30. Christopher Shell says:

    read ‘holocaust’ – these typos!

  31. tom p says:

    The problem with a viewpoint that ‘no good comes of talking about [it]’ regarding something one views as negative is that you can’t then properly sort out the problem.
    Sticking your head in the sand and bellowing ‘it’s a sin, la la la, i can’t hear you, stamp it out now’ is that it fails to address the vast range of problems surrounding it.
    An example would be with prostitution – the dogmatic attitude would be to simply lock up anyone involved in it, but most of the prossies themselves are really victims of abuse, so should they be locked up? And if you just lock up the visible side of it then the pimps controlling from behind the scenes get away.
    Many prostitutes have drug problems. Should we just say ‘this is bad, m’kay, don’t do druugs’ and hope they’ll stop? or should we lock them up for it? Much hard drug use is heavily linked with childhood abuse. Should we punish people who were abuse victims and lock them up with bullying abusive types becasue the path they ended up going down to repress the memories?

    We would not all be better off if we had the same ‘common sense’ as you call it. We’d be far worse off.
    Does the moralising attitude of black christians lead to significantly less ‘immoral’ behaviour in the black community? I’ll leave you to answer that one

  32. Christopher Shell says:

    I should say the black community/-ies is/are divided in this respect – but why would one put down the drug abuse, promiscuity and rap music to reaction against Christianity? Aren’t there likelier explanations?

    Re: sin – I would never argue ‘It’s sin and that’s that – since that is not an argument. But once one had rehearsed the arguments, that is,nevertheless,what it would come down to. And the no-nonsense approach would do far superior to the flirting-with-danger ‘wishy-washy’ approach. There is one key way to cut bad stats, and that is for the bad things never to be viewed as options in that particular community in the first place.
    Don’t you think that your own example of child-abuse being endemically interlinked with prostitution and both endemically interlinked with drug abuse backs up the Christian viewpoint that ‘sin’ is a single interlinked reality?

  33. Andrew Nixon says:

    but why would one put down the drug abuse, promiscuity and rap music to reaction against Christianity?

    Are you putting rap music in the same bracket as you put drug abuse and promiscuity? If so why?

    Don’t you think that your own example of child-abuse being endemically interlinked with prostitution

    Where did he link child abuse to prostitution?

  34. Christopher Shell says:

    Rap music tout simple: no. I should have been more specific: rap music that glorifies (generally in a sneering, mindless tone of voice that -somewhat frighteningly- accepts no argument nor debate – not that it would be capable of any) negative things.

  35. Andrew Nixon says:

    Thanks for the clarification, now the second question I asked…….

  36. tom p says:

    I didn’t put it down to a reaction against christianity at all. You put those words in my mouth. I said that the overt religiosity and (as you see it) ‘common sense refusal to talk about negative behaviour’ (I paraphrase) has not meant that the black community as a whole is significantly (or indeed at all) less ‘immoral’ than the white comunity.

    Also, I certainly didn’t call rap music immoral. I’m a big fan of hip-hop myself. I reckon you’d like Kanye West and the overt christianity of ‘jesus walks’ (which is not a personal endorsement of the christianity displayed in hiphop, just an attempt to broaden your musical horizons).
    I see from your reply to Andrew that you were referring to Gangsta Rap. Please do try to keep it separate from the good rap out there when dissing the genre. Especially as there is an awful lot of hiphop giving out a positive message.

    Andrew, I was intentionally linking prostitution with child abuse (through drugs), but I certainly didn’t say it was endemically so. I was doing so to point out that the whores are victims and generally deserve help rather than punishment and that christopher’s not offering any solutions, simpy saying that it’s bad and shouldn’t be considered, in a rather typically simplistic christian stylee.

    There is often a causal link with abused children turning to drugs and through that being forced into prostitution (or running away from home and ending up forced into prostitution), but that merely reinforces the need to stamp out child abuse and help to treat drug addicts and offer support to prostitutes. You say that a no-nonsense approach is best, but you haven’t said what you mean by that. To me it sounds like locking ’em all up, but I’ve pointed out why this is a bad thing already.

    You reckon your bible has all the answers, then how would you solve this?

  37. Christopher Shell says:

    Child abuse was not directly linked to prostitution – my mistake. Each separately was linked to drug abuse. The former link also undeniably exists, the causative link often being low self-esteem (and the feeling that once one’s sexual life has got off on the wrong foot, the next best option is to be as promiscuous as possible – which then becomes an addiction).

    There is plenty of Christian rap music, though Ive never found any I like, and consequently am not an expert so can’t always see a lot of difference between gangsta and non-gangsta rap. Yes, I definitely loathe the former! – of course, Im not alone there!

    I think I mean by a no-nonsense approach an approach which maintains boundaries of right and wrong, adult and child, on the basis that older ppl will have seen which things have bad effects in the long-term, something which younger ppl cannot be expected to know (and often dont care about anyway). It remains unarguable that the societies which have low stats for bad things are the ones where those things are not seen as options in the first place. Sex education and drug education, when they lack a moral framework, are counter-productive.

  38. Monitor says:

    It remains unarguable that the societies which have low stats for bad things are the ones where those things are not seen as options in the first place.


    The USA is the most religious – ie most Christian – of the developed countries, yet

    In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

    The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.


  39. Andrew Nixon says:

    Plus, since the USA introduced a christianity based abstinence only sex education program, teenage pregnancies, teenage STDs and teenage abortion have all gone up.

  40. Christopher Shell says:

    In the USA these things are very much seen as options. They are public issues publicly discussed. im not discussing whether or not they are approved of: I am discussing whether or not they are seen as live issues in the society at all.

    Whereas when I was growing up (and after all Im still in my 30s, which shown how quick things can change in the absence of parameters) I wouldnt have known a drug if I saw or smelt it. In fact Im not sure I do even now. Extrapolate that to the population as a whole, and how much drug abuse would there be?