A Retraction

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My apologies to all. By my arguments I have apparently misrepresented facts in the case. Read the comments to the posts below.

There are two arguments here, each of which presents different merits, one of which is more important than the other in terms of consequences. In cases that I have described, where the changes made by an outside party are unilateral and unacknowledged I DO believe, whether the changes are made for reasons we might consider good or for reasons we might describe as evil, such changing (with a certain leeway for alteration in the creation of a work under contract or work-for-hire clauses) can result in misrepresentation of an artist and thus amount to an evil. Editing without consultation (except under conditions mentioned and carefully defined above) is a substantive evil. It may do more harm to argument and integrity than to person. They may not rise to calumny and scandal, but they should be avoided and the person so treated has been treated unjustly. There is a recognizable wrong done--whether that amounts to moral evil or not might be questionable--I honestly don't know. I know in most cases it seems clear to me that such misrepresentation is evil.

The other argument is aesthetic. When we ask whether or not an editorial change in the course of the creation of a work is aesthetically allowable and whether it constitutes and improvement or a reduction of the work, I think the case depends on where the art is in the first place. If you're trying to improve, even from a moral point of view, "Frat Boy Vacation," just give it up. There are small changes that can make the work more palatable, but may not "improve" the work. But this area is much more grey than that described above.

My bottom line, the argument I've inappropriately used CleanFlicks to make, is the unacknowledged usurpation and alteration of another's work subsequently attributed to them is a moral evil, regardless of the purpose for which it was done. Taking the sex and violence out of the Marquis de Sade without saying you have done so wrongs the Marquis by telling a substantive lie about him. (Now, why you'd even attempt to do this is another matter entirely.) That is an evil. You may have "improved" the work morally, but the end does not justify the means. And one is protected from this by a simple acknowledgment of "abridgement" and a forward that sets for the aesthetic theory under which this attempt at a miracle is conducted.

By issuing the original along with the altered version, CleanFlicks passes this test of morality--a question I confused in reading the arguments.

Once again, my sincere apologies for any confusion I may have created in making my arguments.

I still stand with those who hold that the works of artists should not be altered for our convenience--but this is an aesthetic not a moral issue. And the aesthetic argument is necessarily more nuanced and perhaps more subjective. I leave that to better minds than my own. For the time being, until convinced otherwise I will quietly hold my aesthetic theory even as I trumpet forth the moral argument. Editing is not necessarily a morally neutral activity. And this is still contra what I have understood Zippy and others to say on the matter.

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I've seen Zippy's assertions that CleanFlicks provides both versions of the movie and such -- but assuming this to be the case one can hardly be blamed for not knowing it. So far as I can tell, they say it nowhere on their website.


It sounds like they offer a NetFlicks-like service where they send edited copies of their movies, nowhere do I see any indication that they provide and original along with their 'clean' cut.

The deeper point on which I agree with you, however, is that cutting the 'objectionable' bits out of a movie seldom changes its essence at all. Titanic (to take the example of a movie on which there was a booming re-cut business) is just as sleezy and foolish a moview without the sex scene and nudity as with it. Nor would cutting all the pottee humor out of an Adam Sandler or Jim Carey movie make it, in my book, any better fodder for my children than an uncut version.

Dear Darwin,

Thank you. After I had read my article I went to the CleanFlicks site to check it out, and I never saw anything like what Zippy indicates here. But that's where sources become confusing.

And we are agreed on the futility of altering a great many "artistic" expressions that emerge from Hollywood. If it starts with nothing worthwhile to say or demonstrate, no amount of cleaning it up will make is suitable for children or anyone else.



I've seen Zippy's assertions that CleanFlicks provides both versions of the movie and such -- but assuming this to be the case one can hardly be blamed for not knowing it.

It was right in the press story that Kathy Shaidle linked to, which started this whole hubbub. That at least is where I read it.

I agree, buy the way, that a particular act of editing is not necessarily morally neutral. Editing -per se- is morally neutral. Whether a particular act of editing was good or evil depends on other facts and circumstances.

Dear Zippy,

I hope it was clear that I was NOT doubting your veracity--I was merely saying that I came at this from another source and so did not have this crucial piece of information. Unfortunately, outside of that source, it doesn't appear to be widely available.

I'm sorry if I implied any doubt about the facts.




I think you have properly made herein the distinctions that are necessary to this issue.




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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 20, 2006 1:00 PM.

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