Edited Clean Version

Edited Clean

I remember October 23, 2006. I subbed at a local middle school, and at the end of the day I jumped in my car to go buy the new My Chemical Romance album, “The Black Parade.” I drove across town to Target to pick up the CD, even though I passed 2 Wal-Mart stores on the way there. Why?

Because I knew that Wal-Mart either would not carry it, or, if they did, it would be the “edited clean version” – meaning that if there was any profanity or other bad langauge, it would be censored somehow. If the edited version costs the same as the unedited version, why would anyone buy the edited version – especially since now people can make their own edited versions using Audacity or other audio editing program.

This is the premise of Raiford Guins’ book, “Edited Clean Version: Technology and the Culture of Control.”

In an age of V-chips, Internet filters, edited films and music, we have fallen into a trap where we pay to have less of a product.

Mr. Guins’ book is a scholarly look at the culture of editing works of art flowing through six chapters where he talks about a separate type of editing in depth. He goes from controlling content, to blocking it, filtering it, sanitizing it, cleaning it, and finally patching the content.

The first chapter, Control, mentions Wal-Mart’s stance on “family values” and how they won’t sell unedited music.

Blocking opens with the “most Tivo’d moment” – yes, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction and the FCC backlash that prompted. As an aside, I don’t think the malfunction helped her popularity at all. When I walked into a Circuit City on the last day of its going out of business sale, there were 15 CDs comprising the entirety of the CD department. Thirteen of those were Janet Jackson’s newest album. They stayed there until the store closed forever. I have no idea what happened to them. No one bought them, even at $2.50 each.

The chapter on filtering talks about ways to filter content such as by using Internet filtering devices. While these devices are created to “protect” children, I don’t use any kind of filtering device on my own personal computers, why should I?

The sanitizing chapter is related to the chapter on filtering, except in this regard Mr. Guins is talking about filtering content in DVDs. An example is how MovieMask made a digital corset for Kate Winslet in a certain scene in the film Titanic when they made their edited version of the 1997 film.

The chapter on cleaning shows how sometimes instead of just cutting something out, it gets changed. As an example in the unedited version of My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” the singer (Gerard Way) screams/yells/sings the line “I’m not o-fucking-kay” while in the radio version of the song he says “I’m really not okay” – close listening shows that he tries to match the length of the unedited line so as not to throw the song’s pacing off.

The final chapter, the chapter on Patching, opens with a recount of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ Hot Coffee mod, which was content removed from the game before it was released, that found its way back in via a bit of code from a Dutch programmer. This section, the shortest of the book’s chapters, talks about the ESRB’s attempts to monitor and filter videogame content via its system of categorizing different content pieces.

In all, this is a great read. I recommend it to anyone who tries to read, listen, watch, or play in this modern era.

Official webpage

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