Bond, James Jimmy Bond.

March 8, 2002 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Bond, James Jimmy Bond.

Last Saturday ABC television aired "Diamonds Are Forever" and digitally altered the color of character Plenty O’Toole’s panties, as well as adding a black brassiere.

What possesses a network experiencing serious viewership erosion to cause them to spend time and money is such ridiculous censorship? What are the issues regarding copyright and intellectual property?

More importantly, what are they smoking over there at ABC?
posted by jpburns (30 comments total)
Even more importantly . . . Why do you insist on using so many paragraph breaks?
posted by dogmatic at 8:29 AM on March 8, 2002

...uh... to break the paragraphs? Do you have a comment on the subject, and not regarding my formatting?
posted by jpburns at 8:38 AM on March 8, 2002

ABC is owned by Disney, which is constantly attacked for their editorial decisions both in motion pictures and television. If they don't censor, people call them hypocrites (because of decades of family entertainment since before the days of Snow White & Fantasia). If they do censor, they're called unamerican tyrants and idiots. Disney's in a no-win situation right now. It's possible the entire corporation is unable to get into the 21st century. The public impression of Disney is that of an antiquated entity, and it can't break out of its Mickey Mouse roots.

The worst thing that happened to ABC was getting bought out by Disney. Cokie Roberts recently announced she's leaving ABC's longstanding Sunday news program This Week. It used to be This Week With David Brinkley but they retired him against his will a few years back. He wasn't very happy about it at the time. Sam Donaldson will probably cling to This Week and they'll have to drag him away kicking and screaming. Still I don't see him lasting much longer either. ABC's got a similar problem that CBS has - their demographic is too old, and advertisers don't like that. Younger viewers prefer watching things like Fear Factor than they do news programs. If they're gonna get news, they'll go to cable or read the 'Net.

Recently there's been talk that ABC was trying to buy David Letterman from NBC and replace Ted Koppel's Nightline with David's show. That rumor's largely going bye-bye. David's got it better over at CBS despite his displeasure with them. However, ABC will probably still zap Koppel out of latenight because Nightline simply can't compete with both Letterman and Leno. My guess is ABC will convince someone like Regis Philbin to attempt a latenight show, and it will fall flat on its face, thus pushing ABC further into viewership erosion.

Regis Philbin on latenight will be worse than Pat Sajak or Chevy Chase, but ABC's very desperate right now. What they SHOULD do is give Bill Maher a full hour and put him on right after the news. His program is both funny and informative, but if they did that they'd need to redesign Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect and I strongly doubt Maher would go for that unless they paid him about twice the amount of money they pay him now. And as much as I love Maher, he's just not worth that much.

As for paragraph breaks, you don't need to add [P] tags. Just hit enter twice as if it were a normal text file. Mathowie's website automatically sees that as the equivalent of a [P] tag. If you do both it puts too much space between the paragraphs. Also paragraph breaks on a Front Page Post is largely discouraged on MeFi, as it takes up unnecessary space on the front page. I'm NOT complaining or bitching. I don't really care personally but other regulars in MeFi do, so I'm just hoping to educate and not annoy. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 8:45 AM on March 8, 2002

Am I crazy, or have broadcast channels always altered movies? Don't they bleep out offensive words and such?

Also, is a real film buff watching movies on ABC? I'm sure ABC did it because the people who do watch movies on ABC couldn't care less.
posted by Doug at 8:48 AM on March 8, 2002

Perhaps the flashes of skin would have been more palatable to the censors if they came from a major advertiser like Victoria's Secret. Why go through all the complaints from upset skin-objectors when you don't even get paid for it?

Though any 13-year-old boy (and many older males) could tell you that the Victoria's Secret extravaganza was infinitely better as onanistic source material.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:48 AM on March 8, 2002


Thanks for the thoughts, and for letting me know about using double "enters" instead of paragraph breaks. I had no idea...
posted by jpburns at 8:49 AM on March 8, 2002

Jpburns, I've made more than my share of mistakes here in MeFi. =) Don't lose sleep over it. It's cool.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:53 AM on March 8, 2002

My question is why the network that has shown ass galore on NYPD Blue felt the need to cover up a bare back.
posted by o2b at 9:01 AM on March 8, 2002

Regis Philbin? Joey Bishop's sidekick? Oy!
posted by agaffin at 9:08 AM on March 8, 2002

What do they do when Pussy Galore walks on screen? Call her Cat-o-matic?
posted by vbfg at 9:10 AM on March 8, 2002

I'm betting the black undies were to hide the un-disney butt-cleft. Maybe Disney is trying to atone for past indecencies.
posted by kfury at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2002

While I wouldn't make much of this story, other than the use of new technologies in the TV stations' neverending quest to butcher films, those interested might be curious about Monty Python's suit of ABC in 1975 for similar reasons. (Wish I could find more details online. I think it's mentioned in No Logo as well, though I might be wrong.)
posted by D at 9:41 AM on March 8, 2002

Let's not throw the word "censorship" around here. Censorship is done by the government...for example, if the FCC mandated that ABC alter the film, and further decreed that every copy of same be altered.
What ABC did was fine, however boneheaded it appears to you & me. You can always buy your very own un-edited copy of a Bond flick, or wait for it to appear on a different channel.
posted by davidmsc at 9:45 AM on March 8, 2002

Or you can watch as much nudity as you want on cable. Sheesh!
posted by Faze at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2002

I'm not sure what one calls corporate censorship. I'd agree it's not the same as that perpetrated by governments. In many cases, though, it's just as effective in tampering with an artist's message, as was the case with the whole Eyes Wide Shut controversy. (Here's a great article from Bright Lights Film Journal that discusses the tampering, amongst other things.)

Not that I care that much about some pink panties in a Bond film, but you could say there are some principles at stake.
posted by D at 9:59 AM on March 8, 2002

davidmsc, it certainly is censorship; it is not, however, a First Amendment issue. It's a mistake to scream "my free speech rights is bein' violated" when a corporation chooses to exercise its free speech rights to publish, or not to publish, or to alter material as it chooses. It is not, however, a mistake to hold that same corporation to the fire for the censorship or editorial decisions it makes. (We still have free speech, too!)

In this case, the hardcore Bond fans (of which I would normally call myself one) have been up in arms, even though the "EDITED FOR TELEVISION" rubric is clearly visible and it's minor compared to previous depredations. The one that most 007ers will never forgive is a 1970s broadcast of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the longest 007 film, on two nights, with ham-handed and juvenile connecting and framing material.

For reasons unknown, ABC is not showing OHMSS this time around, though it seems to have purchased the rights as part of a package (the same one that TNT used to have, which expired). Bond fans consider OHMSS to be one of the best films in the entire series, even though it stars the one-off Bond, George Lazenby. It has the best music, the best Bond girl (Diana Rigg!), one of the best locations in the entire series (the Piz Gloria restaurant in the Alps), a witty "winter sports" theme, the most masterful (and longest) chase sequence in the series, and one of the best scores. < /pitch>

But I happen to own all the films on VHS, and although they are not always "in print" (usually released around the time of a movie, then later withdrawn, a la Disney), they are not hard to find. I picked up half of them for $5/each from a Best Buy bargain bin. If the "holy writ" version is so accessible, there need not be so much outcry over some silly, mostly meaningless edits. They've been cutting out most of the bloody violence in all the films so far; and Thunderball's climactic scuba battle was chopped left and right (if you tried to listen to the music, your ears hurt).
posted by dhartung at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2002

Hmm, are they showing it wide-screen and commercial free? No? Then quit yer belly-aching. Those are more serious "artistic infringements" than changing the color of her panties!
posted by Ben Grimm at 10:56 AM on March 8, 2002

There are no such things as "artistic infringements." No work of art is sacrosanct. A commercial TV network has the same right to paint panties on a Bond babe that Marcel Duchamp had to paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa. You know what really bugs me? When you get a VHS and that screen pompously intones: "This film has been altered from its original version. It has been [whatever] to fit your screen." Oh smell me! I can't wait to see this notice: "This film's screenplay has been altered from the screenwriters' original version. Everything interesting has been taken out, and replaced with tedious cliches." Why this phoney, simpering regard for the integrity of a work of art. Throw it out into the world and let it take its chances with the rest of us.
posted by Faze at 11:30 AM on March 8, 2002

There are no such things as "artistic infringements."

wow, do you really believe that faze, or were you just being facetious.
posted by bittennails at 12:16 PM on March 8, 2002

I dunno. This kind of digital editing is just...dumb. A waste of time. Even the original shot is of pristine innocence by today's standards; why waste time and effort to make it only marginally less prurient? (Sort of like dubbing out "Motherfucker" and substituting "Melonfarmer" instead, like no one over the age of three wouldn't immediately know the difference.)

Just goes to show that ABC is in a contest with NBC to see who can suck the most before they collapse into a black hole of stupidity and vapidness.
posted by mrmanley at 1:05 PM on March 8, 2002

Somebody got paid to do that. What a job. Where do I sign up?
posted by krisjohn at 4:03 PM on March 8, 2002

I too have to assume you're kidding, Faze...right?
posted by bingo at 4:34 PM on March 8, 2002

If people are getting their news from better outlets, they're damn sure going elsewhere for movies. Still, the networks keep running (and slicing-up) these films.
Michael Mann made them take his name off Heat when NBC removed huge chunks of it.
posted by StOne at 9:00 PM on March 8, 2002

There was a great article about this sort of thing that I was reading in the dentist's office today.

a visual-effects artist who worked on the film [said] an actress who appears naked needed some “crotch replacement.” Apparently her bikini waxer had done too good a job, so “they painted in a little bit more‚ made stuff a little bit more hairy,” he says

and you all know what NYPD in NYPD Blue stands for, right? Nudity? Yes. Profanity? Definitely!
posted by jessamyn at 9:06 PM on March 8, 2002

Two people posted asking if I was just kidding about there being no such thing as "artistic infringement." I am dead serious. Who taught you that a work of art is a sacred thing that needs to be picked up with tweezers? Where did this extraordinary reverence for "art" and the artists's intention come from? You're an artist too, you know. Go wild.
posted by Faze at 9:06 AM on March 9, 2002

Thank you, Faze. I will now go wild editing your comment:

[snip] I was just kidding [snip]. I am dead [snip]. Who [snip] needs [snip] tweezers? Where did this extraordinary [snip] "art" [snip] come from? You're [snip][snip] wild.

OTOH...I recall that when Woody Allen was crusading for "preserving the director's vision," he was asked about What's Up, Tiger Lily? Oh, that was a youthful mistake and he wouldn't do such a thing again, he said. But I'm not at all sorry he did it...unless it was his idea to intersperse the Lovin' Spoonful songs--bad, Woody!
And the Japanese should get to screw around with Woody's films in return. I'm not on a high-horse about artistic control, I'm just saying films edited and retouched for TV suffer for it and seem like an even weaker drawing card for getting viewers to sit through the commercial-interrupted version.
posted by StOne at 10:42 AM on March 9, 2002

boy that jimmie dean has howard hughes down to a tee.
posted by clavdivs at 2:17 PM on March 9, 2002

Wow, Faze. I disagree with you so completely that I hardly know what to say.

I guess you probably don't believe that some works of art are better than others? Do you think there's such a thing as artistic talent? Do you believe it's possible for a work of art to be completed? Do you think that shots in movies are framed arbitrarily, and any one looks as good as another? Do you think that Duchamp's decision to put a mustache on the Mona Lisa required the same amount of skill that it took Da Vinci to paint it to begin with?

Those announcements telling you that a movie has been modified to fit your TV, are in some cases indications that about 30% of the image has been cut away. In some cases, this means that there is action going on relevant to the plot that is invisible to the viewer. Can you not understand why that wouldn't be perfectly okay to some people? Sometimes the modification involves the so-called "pan-scan," an artificial camera move created to show the viewer something that they should really be seeing anyway at the edge of the screen. This means that the "camera" is being moved in a way the director didn't want. When you sit down to watch the movie, are you sitting down to watch a series of random images, or is there some kind of construction you're looking for? And if there is, do you not think it's valid to let the construction unfold in its entirety, instead of at the discretion of some editing hack hired by the studio who may not understand the movie at all?

Why appreciate anything beautiful?
posted by bingo at 6:18 PM on March 9, 2002

Bingo, Thank you for your reasoned response. I suppose I'm mainly astonished at the sanctimony and reverence that some people have about motion pictures. If there is any artistic medium that is more "establishment," more the plaything of the idle rich, more capitalistic, more bourgeois, more..., etc., I don't know about it. I'd like to see a little of the irreverence that we all gladly dish out toward people like Bush and Clinton applied to our very wealthy, very well-connected film community. Don't forget, to make even a totally suck-ass piece of garbage film requires that someone be able to come up with at least several million dollars. Could you raise several million dollars? Did you bring enough money for lunch today?
posted by Faze at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2002

Don't forget, to make even a totally suck-ass piece of garbage film requires that someone be able to come up with at least several million dollars.

That's not really true anymore; look at movies like Clerks and Pi, and those were both before the popularization of digital video.

Anyway, I'm not sure I see the connection between there being a lot of wealthy filmmakers, and the idea that there's no such thing as artistic infringement. Most of the people who actually do the work are not rich and powerful. And even those that are, and are in a position to really create (e.g. some directors and writers) are constantly at odds with the really wealthy and powerful executives who run the show.

How was the creation of The Godfather the plaything of the idle rich?

To me, there's so much potential for greatness in film, that when someone with talent and integrity manages to work his way through the studio system and create something really good, it's a cause for celebration. The bougouis pigs you're concerned about are not the ones directing the movies (mostly), they're the ones cutting away 30% of the image for video release because they don't give a shit. That's why it's artistic infringement. That's why they're forced to put a notice at the beginning of the video, confessing that what they're showing you is not really what the artist(s) wanted you to see. Know what I mean?
posted by bingo at 9:42 AM on March 11, 2002

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