Friday, February 26, 2010

What the Junk? Censorship in Corporate America

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but my favourite song in the entire world is California, by Phantom Planet. Why?

Well… the lead singer, Alex Greenwald, was featured heavily in the mid nineties Gap “Everybody” campaign. Remember: Everybody in Leather, Everybody in Vests, Everybody in Cords? If that campaign doesn’t turn a frown upside down, then clearly you have no more soul then Angel after he de-virginized Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and apparently I’m still living in 1998.

California was also the theme song to the OC, which was, at least in its first season, an excellent teenage drama.

While dithering around my apartment this afternoon looking for a distraction I ended up YouTubing my way over to Everybody in Vests, which reminded me of my love for California. A quick type into YouTube and soon enough I was quickly “cruising down the 101” reminiscing about Seth Cohen, his bromance with Chino’s favourite son Ryan Atwood and some of the best TV dialogue ever written; how can you forget: “Welcome to the OC bitch; this is how its done in Orange County.”

These days most music video’s on YouTube are hosted via Vevo. Vevo was launched by Sony Music Entertainment as a compiler of music video’s. Vevo is also an act of corporate cooperation; EMI, Universal as well as Google and YouTube have all signed on board the project. Vevo is an attempt by the record industry to counter pirated YouTube music video’s and allow record companies to profit from people viewing music videos online.

Vevo… however, is not your friend. My euphoric moment of OC memory lane-age was quickly destroyed, when Alex sang the second verse of the song: “Hustler grab your guns. Shadow weighs a tonne. Driving down the 101”. On Vevo the word guns is bleeped. Guns. Bleeped in a country that prides itself on the Second Amendment to its Constitution, which states, “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” Apparently in America you can bear arms but you just can’t talk about it in song. Not even bothering to get into America’s fucked up gun culture, how does this make any sense?

I had my moment with Vevo on the same day that Apple began removing “suggestive” iphone applications from its App Store. Apple is concerned that the App Store was becoming cluttered with “racy content”. According to the company it was also fending off complaints from customers concerned with sexual applications. According to the NY Times some of the applications that have been removed include: “SlideHer, a puzzle that challenged users to reassemble a photograph of a scantily clad actress and Sexy Scratch Off, an app which depicted a woman whose dress could be whisked away at the swipe of a finger, revealing her undergarments.”

Oh My Gawd. Scantily clad women? Undergarments? Is this seriously what people consider racy? Here’s a little tip: if you have time to call Apple to complain about racy applications you probably need to get laid.

I find it shocking that a scantily clad woman application caused a corporate uproar. I’d like to know if anyone who complained to Apple has ever typed the word “tit” into Google; cause I can tell you, you don’t need to be a computer hacker to see things on the internet that are a lot more sexualized then a woman in her undergarments. I just typed “tit” into google images and saw a lot more then I was expecting. In fact I saw a lot more then I’d ever seen before. And less you think that only app’s which sexualized women were removed; gay-centric app “Hunk du Jour” (which does exactly what you think it does, it sends you a daily picture of a shirtless hunk in undergarments) was also removed from the App Store.

Jesus Christ Corporate America, this is what you’re concerning yourself with? Never mind the Iraqi War, the Country’s massive fiscal deficit, broken revenue models, racial inequality, marriage inequality, health care… you’re busy fucking white washing mildly suggestive content from entertainment properties. (But of course… if you slap a Rated M for Mature on games like Grand Theft Auto, which can be used on the Sony Playstation, then all is ok). Dummbasses.

And this is the greatest problem with America today, the lingering sense of Puritanism that its populace demands and that its corporate leaders are obliged to acquiesce to. Remember how the American public was so scandalized when Janet Jackson accidentally showed her nipple the Super Bowl? Its like corporate America has become afraid of its buying public. Even the Tiger Woods narrative is indicative of this fear; Tiger’s mistake wasn’t that he fucked a bunch of stripper’s, rather his mistake was convincing American’s that he was a perfect family man while he continued to fuck a bunch of stripper’s. But ask yourself this: did Tiger have to sell himself as a perfect family man to solidify his endorsements? What we the public told corporate American is that being a great golfer apparently isn’t good enough. We needed a husband and a father as well as a great golfer. Tiger just tried to give us what we wanted and we wanted wasn’t racy.

Because god-forbid Vevo lets a child somewhere in Illinois here the word gun in a music video and woah nelly – imagine if Apple let a 14 year-old boy download an application that featured a scantily clad women? Or even worse, what if a 14 year-old boy downloaded a Hunk du Jour application and liked it?

One of the reasons that America as we know it has been so successful is because of its corporate culture. Corporate America, and its iconic brands, have defined much of twentieth century mass culture. Corporations have also driven innovation. America is built on the ideology of the private corporation. But this corporate ethos should be about openness, not censorship.

The world already has one superpower that censors the web (hi China!); the world doesn’t need another super power where corporations practice censorship as well.

So grow up corporate America; show us your balls.

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