Monday, November 22, 2004

ENABLING HOLLYWOOD There's plenty of drivel to be found in Hollywood's output these days. ClearPlay's defenders and I share that belief. (For background on ClearPlay, click here.)

Explosions substitute for narrative, gore takes the place of drama, and watching people die is an integral part of the spectacle.

It's bizarre, offensive and disappointing. And each year the envelope gets pushed a little bit further.

But ClearPlay won't solve the problem. It may even make it worse.

Consider the case of a model ClearPlay user: He wouldn't ordinarily rent LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER. But because ClearPlay allows him to watch it with all violence and mayhem excised, he feels comfortable plucking it down from the video store shelves.

That's one more rental of LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER than would have occurred in the pre-ClearPlay world. And naturally, that rental pads the industry's wallet.

But it doesn't just pad the industry's wallet in the abstract. It sends Hollywood a clear economic message: Make more films like LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER.

And so the formerly-scandalized, violence-averse viewer--with the help of ClearPlay--is effectively telling Hollywood to fill the pipeline with the kind of content he'd rather avoid.

What are the ethical implications of this sort of arrangement? Is it rational to act to enrich filmmakers whose work you find so objectionable you won't even watch it unexpurgated? And is there something self-negating about admiring a censored version of a film you would otherwise consider offensive?

ClearPlay users will need to sort through these and other dilemmas on their own. But they should understand up front that when they use ClearPlay, they aren't fighting the cultural drift. They're facilitating it.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.