Saturday, June 03, 2006

The sunset slide

New viewers of Samoa's SBC One tv station rapidly become accustomed to the "sunset slide". It's a lovely image of the setting sun over the waters of Samoa. SBC uses the sunset slide to block out scenes in shows that are deemed inappropriate. Is the action movie hero about to bed the femme fatale? No problem, just produce a quick fade to the sunset slide. Joey and Rachel kissing in an episode of Friends? A quick fade to the sunset slide as they begin to embrace solves that issue.

A letter to the editor in today's Observer has a long rant about the (mis)use of the sunset slide:

As the bodies make contact, the two faces get close, the rousing orchestral music building, then ... you guessed it, cut to the sunset slide and silence. For about a minute. Then the movie comes back with the couple still embraced, fully clothed, discussing their real feelings then ... back to the sunset slide.

Other than the obvious censoring of material there are two things that really drive people mad about the sunset slide. First, the tape operators at SBC don't believe in fast forwarding the show past the inappropriate material to reduce the time that the sunset slide is displayed. Second, they have a tendency to skip significant scenes in the show. The above writer's complaint continued as when the show did return, the protagonist was in jail. Sadly the sunset slide blocked out the scene that explains why. Kind of kills the flow of the movie.

One point raised several times in the recent debate about the banning of the Da Vinci Code, was that of there being a double standard in the censors' work. The censors are unprepared to show scenes of people kissing and having sex, nor are they prepared to allow a movie that offers a fictional take on the story of Christ, but they are more than prepared to allow scenes of extreme violence reach the movie and television screens of Samoa. As today's letter asks:

More to the point, in this troubled post 9/11 world in which we live, I am confused as to why behaviour which leads to the very natural act that has put us all on this planet gets sunsetted SBC style, whereas behaviour which leads to our unnaturally forced removal from it does not. Whatever happened to "Make Love, Not War"?

The, hopefully unintended, irony of today's letter is that it appears directly underneath a reproduction of an editorial cartoon from Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper commenting on the recent Hurricanes vs Crusaders Super 14 final. A cursory glance at the cartoon shows that it too has been censored; one of the words in the cartoon obscured by a string of *!?*!?*?! characters.

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