Monday, March 29, 2010

 

It's all a Blur

So what are the rules about blurring out faces in press photographs and TV news and documentaries? Are we protecting the innocent, or maybe the guilty? I’m confused. Is it the perpetuators, the criminals and the revolutionaries we shouldn’t see, or the police who catch them, or the innocent parties that happen to be in the picture? When ex-President Aznar flipped the bird the other day at some students who said he was a monster, we were treated in the Spanish press to Aznar, his raised second finger and the students, but not the surprised fellow with the computer-generated re-touch standing next to the truculent politician.
In England, they would have edited the offending digit.
When they remove the prisoners’ faces in those tedious documentaries about life behind bars in Alabama, I can’t help wondering (as I search for the TV control) why they don’t want us to see them. We might recognise them if we saw them again?
This would be a bad thing?
Sometimes – for our benefit and viewing pleasure – children’s faces will be blurred, if we are talking about children, or perhaps we see them modestly just from the waist down, or then again, the children just appear in the photograph, or video, because we were talking about something else. They are children, nothing more, except on news shows when they become victims or, just sometimes, future prisoners in Wandsworth. Conversely, why could we see Jon Venables as a child, but not as an adult?
Are we protecting them from these sex-lunatics we hear about, who will commit foul crimes upon themselves if left to contemplate this photo (but not that one)? So why are we occasionally covering or distorting their faces and why is it the other way round on the American shows? Or is it?
Lawyers, in a word. Don’t get me started.
It gets worse, the producers now blur out bits of the decoration they don’t like. The fellow’s tee-shirt on the Discovery Channel might have a brand-name written on it, or his cap, for Goodness sake (better not swear!). And what did that footballer just do? Heavens-to-Betsy! Blur it out!
This explains the fuss with Justin Timberlake revealing one of the boobies from that Jackson girl during the Super Bowl. We had already contemplated the horror before the producers could hit the Red Button. In fact, now they have the ‘one minute delay’.
And, as I think further, why do we suppress the sound of swearing in Anglo shows, with a LOUD BLEEP to make sure that the viewers will know that the censors and defenders of public morals are ever vigilant. Now they even put a blurry bit over the mouth so we can appreciate the censor’s zeal – unless you, the viewer, happens to be one of those rare people who can read lips closely enough to have the sound turned off (with the added advantage of not being pestered by those irritating BLEEPs), yet is somehow stirred to violence, wrath and the Old Testament by the prospect of a naughty word. If not, let me tell you all about subtitles.
Of course, beyond a previous agreement with the editor, I must abide by the Anglo rules of printing swear-words in my article with an absurd substitution of asterisks with just the first letter appearing before to give clever adults a guide as to what I might mean, yet confuse those children who look forward to my weekly output and would read them all in one go if only the adults ‘ud let them.
Those same kids are now expected to be in bed by 10.00pm as something called a ‘watershed’ is passed at this time. I am sure that they have watched enough ‘grown-ups’ telly’ long before they blossom into discovering the superior diversions of booze, sex and the other manifold attractions of young adulthood. In Spain, at least, the government control on our viewing is considerably more relaxed – and they don’t usually wait until 10.00pm before switching on ‘the better stuff’. In fact here, even some of the adverts are downright risqué. Unfortunately, the European parliament, again concerned about public decency, has recently managed to hold in check quite a bit of Spain and Italy’s more lusty output on the ‘little screen’, no doubt to keep those sweet little kids pure – those that bother to stay in and watch the box. Telly, come to think of it, is now no longer used at all by the eight to eighteen demographic, which prefers the endless attractions of the Internet where, despite the best efforts of Mrs Whitehouse’s continental successor, we can still pretty much find anything we want and, after a brave ruling from a Spanish judge recently, download anything we want as well (El Mundo 13 March) – at least here in España. Avatar, anyone?
Spain has nevertheless picked up a few ideas from the Anglos and will now blur things it doesn’t approve of. Policeman’s faces are often pixelated here and on occasion can sometimes be covered by a sinister looking black balaclava – particularly in the Basque Country – as if the local population would tear them apart if they only knew who it was that was marching their handcuffed second-cousins from their homes during a dawn raid.
So, as the blurry figures from the Sky TV – and, who knows, maybe YouTube – together with the silly expurgated BLEEPs, flicker and echo through the household, what about Hollywood? Have you ever seen a movie with a swear-word and a blurred mouth? No, you haven’t.
You won’t on Spanish TV either – here, they are not afraid of their language. All those expressive four (five and eight) letter words which pepper the idiom are given their full value, not hidden behind those silly asterisks. Honestly, the children don’t mind.
And, whether we can join the dots or not I don’t really know, but there is a lot less crime and disrespect here in Spain than you will find in Britain. Perhaps because the populace isn’t treated entirely like an idiot.

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