By Dara Ekanger
“Why can’t I watch that movie?”
“Because I read the review and it’s full of garbage!”
“But all of my friends have seen it!”
Sound familiar? This was a fairly common conversation in our home for a while. We aren’t TVaholics, but we haven’t banned it outright either. Our kids are allowed one hour of “screen time” on Tuesdays and Thursdays (after their schoolwork is done), and four hours total on the weekend. They can use that for computer games, old television shows like “Leave It to Beaver,” “I Love Lucy,” and “Andy Griffith,”—and movies. Movies. There was the problem. That is, until we found a great movie filter service.
Profanity, Nudity, and Violence in “Family-Friendly Movies”
Unless you go back to pre-1940s movies, it’s tough to find a film that doesn’t have foul language, nudity, inappropriate scenes, excessive violence, or all of the above. When I was growing up, we videotaped movies off the TV that had been “cleaned-up” for television. When I went back to show my kids the entertaining “Back to the Future” that I remembered from my youth, I was horrified at the language … it certainly hadn’t been in the version my mother let me watch! Off it went.
My husband and I frequently bemoaned the fact that movies, which we had seen as sanitized TV-versions as kids, were not decent in their regular versions. And new releases?—which of course are what most kids/teens are dying to watch—it’s like playing Russian Roulette with five bullets instead of one.
Before we ever watch a movie or allow our kids to do so, we always check PluggedIn.com, which offers free reviews of movies, music, and video games from a family perspective. The vast majority of the time we have to say, “Sorry, kids.” It’s always disappointing to find that no matter how “good” the storyline of a movie may be, the producers have thrown in some garbage to ruin it. A popular movie out right now, aimed at teens, has 119 incidents of profanity, nudity, violence, etc. No thank you.
A few years ago, I heard of a company that bought movies, applied a movie filter to remove offensive content, and then re-sold the movies as “family-friendly” fare. It lasted for a while—until the government shut them down for violating copyright laws. Bummer.
A New Movie Filter Service
Then last year I heard of a new movie filter company that sounded like it was doing the same thing. They’ll be shutdown too, I thought. But I kept seeing advertisements for them, so I decided to check it out. I went to their FAQ page and read that they had indeed found a way to provide decent movies and still be in compliance with the law. It’s called VidAngel.
With VidAngel, you purchase a movie online for $20. You choose the movie filter set for the movie you now own, watch the movie on your Smart TV, Apple TV, Roku, computer, etc., and then sell it back for $19 (or $18 if you watched in HD). You don’t (can’t) “rent” the movie. You actually have to purchase it, which is nice because if you don’t want to sell it back, you don’t have to. You own it and can keep it. VidAngel just stores it for you and you access it whenever you want. There’s no membership fee to join and you only pay for the movies you want to watch. If you sell it back within 24 hours, your total cost is $1 or $2. I don’t know of any cheaper way to watch new releases.
Controlling Filters With A Click Of A Button
I was a little hesitant at first—not sure if the movie would stream properly, if the filters would actually be up to our family’s standards—but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Once loaded, it plays perfectly. We can turn on all the filters with one click of a button, or have more specific control. A kiss between a married couple doesn’t bother us, so I can unclick that specific item and leave it in the movie. We can change the filters as often as we want. I’ve even changed during the movie and restarted!
The filters cover Miscellaneous, Language, Sex/Nudity/Immodesty, Violence/Blood/Gore, and Alcohol or Drug Use. Inappropriate language audio is just removed, while scenes with violence/nudity, etc., are cut out entirely. That may affect the storyline a bit from time to time, but for our family, it’s well worth it.
Dara Ekanger is the senior editor of Molly Green Magazine. She and her husband homeschool three children in the windy plains of South Dakota.
Update: Of course, the big Hollywood movie companies are not happy with any streaming/filtering at all, even though the Family Movie Act of 2005 was specifically passed by Congress to allow families to filter what they allow into their own homes. They are suing VidAngel and have temporarily won an injunction to stop their service. You can sign a petition to support VidAngel at <http://savefiltering.nationbuilder.com/.