I procrastinated writing an article on using a cool little device called the TV Guardian which allows you to watch TV and DVD with the foul language muted. You can read more about it here but in short: it scans the Close-Caption (CC) signal and everytime it detects a “bad word” it mutes the sound and presents a “cleaned-up” version of the dialogue in the close captions area (eg: Let’s have sex !! became Let’s have hugs.1)
Unfortunately, my delay has cost me dearly. In the years since I tried out this fantastic new technology, most studios have disabled the Close-Captioning signal opting instead for built-in subtitles. So TV Guardian has in effect stopped working for 50% of the movies on DVD and all movies on Blu-Ray, which does not carry the CC signal.
Enter James Cameron, my hero.
He is releasing a 3-disc collector’s edition of Avatar, featuring a family-friendly language track. In this New York Times article, he mentions that he was motivated to do this by watching his kids picking up foul language from watching the original movie soundtrack. He reasons that the clean language track will be made available for airline and network showing, so why not include it now in the Collector’s Edition release.
This is very wise. One of the things that initially excited me about the DVD format was the capability to include alternate soundtracks with the movie. Over time, most studios used this feature to include commentaries by the director, producer, actors, SFX and caterers and anyone else remotely connected. And not a single one ever included a clean-language track.2
Now, the entire world is grousing about the fact that James Cameron has not included a commentary track to Avatar. But between you and me, I am 10 times more likely to listen to the clean language track in repeated viewing with my family than to listen to the commentary, as desirable as the latter may be.
Foul language adds substance to some films (Quentin Tarantino come to mind) but most other times it is just used as a filler to make sure that your movie does not get the dreaded PG rating. And I’m not looking for vulgarisms to enhance the reality of a scene. Reality may come at the cost of barraging me with foul language and that’s a hefty price. No need to have the theatre usher pummel me during action scenes so that I can feel the pain.
Let the free market decide what supplements are more useful in a DVD or Blu Ray release. Just hopin’ that the world follows your lead, Mr. Cameron. You are a true visionary.