Sony clean version

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, and opinionated about something that makes us very happy…or fills us with indescribable rage. In this edition: Sony’s new clean version initiative is a stupid and bad idea.)

Sony Pictures has announced a “Clean Version” initiative that will present edited versions of some of the studio’s films for home video purchases. To be fair, the new censored version won’t replace the regular theatrical version, but will instead be added on as an extra bonus feature. But you know that slippery slope you’re always hearing about? Editing content to make it more appropriate for families is teetering right on the edge of it.

According to Yahoo, the initiative has launched with 24 titles under its belt:

  • 50 First Dates
  • Battle Of The Year
  • Big Daddy
  • Captain Phillips
  • Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
  • Easy A
  • Elysium
  • Ghostbusters
  • Ghostbusters II
  • Goosebumps
  • Grown Ups
  • Grown Ups 2
  • Hancock
  • Inferno
  • Moneyball
  • Pixels
  • Spider-Man
  • Spider-Man 2
  • Spider-Man 3
  • The Amazing Spider-Man
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  • Step Brothers
  • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
  • White House Down

Of those films, only Elysium and Step Brothers are rated R. The rest are either PG or PG-13, so one could argue that those theatrical releases have already been “adapted for a wider audience,” as the text in this official video from their website says:

So seeing Spider-Man getting shot with some sort of electronic device is apparently too much for kids to handle. But at the risk of sounding like an old man screaming into the void: maybe kids actually should have to see things that aren’t all sunshine and rainbows every once in a while.

A Special Kind of Terror and Joy

Movies are an incredibly important part of growing up because they give us windows into the lives of other people and other cultures; they not only impart wisdom and teach us what values we should aspire to, but they also teach us what mistakes look like and how not to live. Life is inherently messy: forcing a young person to watch a “clean” version of a movie is equivalent to making them less prepared to enter the real world. (Not to mention the super annoying realization kids come to later in life that even though they think they’ve seen a movie, they actually haven’t seen the real version.)

Obviously I’m not suggesting that parents should be sitting down with their young kids to watch Straw Dogs or Saving Private Ryan. But when a significant majority of the films in this initiative are already rated PG-13, I have to wonder why they think this extra level of editing is necessary.

Because this is just a glorified bonus feature, the “clean version” doesn’t mean Sony is hampering modern kids from discovering age-inappropriate films on their own. There’s a special kind of terror and joy in seeing something you’re not “supposed” to see yet that will hopefully continue to occur throughout the generations, regardless of what form movies eventually take. But look at state of the world right now. Does anyone think providing censored versions of a handful of Sony movies is going to shelter kids from anything? Our president was caught on tape bragging about how he “grabs [women] by the pussy” and that quote circulated the entire world’s news networks. Is hearing Will Ferrell say “fuck” a couple of times really going to make much of a difference in the long run? Black people are being murdered in the streets by our own police officers for no reason beyond the color of their skin. Is seeing Spider-Man get shot with an electronic toy so bad that it needs to be censored?

Admittedly, I don’t have kids, so maybe it’s not my place to say any of this. But I do remember being a kid, and the idea of discovering a movie on my own that I was maybe a little too young to see was a formative experience in my life. I can’t imagine I’m alone in that sentiment, and the idea that a studio would cater (even just a little bit) to the desires of people who wish to scrub Hollywood of its “objectionable” content leaves me frightened about how far they’re willing to go if those voices got louder and started making more demands.

At very least, one recognizable actor/writer/director with an office on the Sony lot has already made his opinion known:

Cool Posts From Around the Web: