Saturday, February 23, 2013
We love freedom. It’s a pillar of Western society. For all intents and purposes, we worship the idea that our actions shouldn’t be constrained. Being prevented from doing something we want to do, particularly when our want is pretty much harmless, is anathema. So why is it I can’t just jump to the “Play” option on my freaking DVDs?
Oh, no, instead I’m told “Operation prohibited by disc.” Or the little “forbidden” symbol, the ol’ crossed-out circle, appears in the corner. Or the screen flashes with a mocking caricature of the Batman villain Joker, laughing at me. Whatever mechanism the DVD player chooses to use, they all mean the same thing: my freedoms have been curtailed. I’m forced to sit through previews I don’t want to see, the FBI’s warning (which I know by this point nearly as well as my Miranda rights, even though I’m a Canadian citizen, and neither the FBI OR Miranda apply to me), and/or a cautionary tale about how any viewpoints I’m about to witness don’t belong to the production company and are the sole responsibility of the overpaid actor spouting them. Worse yet, I might see the classic characters of “Casablanca” co-opted into a morality tale about the evils of video piracy. I don’t do the piracy thing, but that particular ad is so irritating, I almost want to start just to spite it. As an additional kick to the berries, every DVD uses a different method for avoiding the opening act. Fast forward, skip-a-scene, Menu… they’ve all been used, and in varying ways, sometimes on the very same disc. Escaping the preamble almost requires the manual dexterity of a pre-pubescent playing Mortal Kombat. (Menu-FF-Play-Skip-Menu-Circle-Up-Up-Down.) Nor can you just walk away for ten minutes (twenty minutes if it’s a Disney DVD; wow, they self-promote) and come back with your “Play” option cheerfully flashing because SOME DVDs (not all, oh no, no consistency here) just start playing on their own, so you show up into the opening scenes. Nor does just skipping back from this point always work, either; I’ve had at least two different movies counter this simple move by skipping me ALL the way back, to the very beginning (“March of the Penguins”, I’m looking at you!). What the heck, guys?
In the old days (yes, the glorious ancient times of the 80s), you put a video into your VHS machine and could freely fast forward through all the crud you didn’t want to see. I was never, not once, forbidden from pressing Fast Forward and having that option work. This just seems like a petty, sad way to force a captive audience to watch things they don’t want to see. How far from this, I wonder, until we’re all Winston Smiths being subjected to 1984-esque “can’t-shut-em-off” telescreens?
I suppose the easiest thing to do is just avoid legally purchased DVDs and Blu-rays, acquiring my entertainment in the shady alleys of the internet like everyone else seems all too happy to do. Time to buy an eye-patch and a parrot. If you don't water the tree of liberty with the gigabytes of users and servers every so often, the whole thing just withers right up.
To take a page from the United States Government, we won’t call it “piracy” anymore. Instead we’ll be accessing and sharing “freedom files.” It even uses alliteration, so it’ll be sure to catch on.
One man’s rebel is another’s freedom fighter. (See? Alliteration. It really works.)