Hollywood movies and TV shows continue to assault the moral sensibilities of Americans by knocking down the boundaries that once existed regarding the sexual content, profanity, blasphemy, violence and gore they include. This has always been a concern of Christian parents who don’t want the minds of their children poisoned by these kinds of things, as well as their own minds! Back in the day, when my kids were young, my wife and I were happy to discover something called TV Guardian (TVG) which used the closed caption layer under most TV shows to identify and block out undesirable language. Through the years, we bought several TVG devices as well as several tape and DVD players with TVG built in. While TVG was a big help, it was far from perfect. Some programs, tapes and DVDs were not closed caption compliant, so for these, TVG did not help. Another down side was that TVG didn’t block out undesirable images or scenes. TVG is still in business, but I don’t think it’s the best option for parents or people concerned about the content of movies and TV in their homes.
Fast forward to 2016. Earlier this year, I saw an add in Focus On The Family’s Plugged In website (www.pluggedin.com) for a new service called VidAngel (www.vidangel.com) that takes the original TVG concept to a whole new level! So, I thought I’d check it out. It’s not a device, but rather a media streaming service that allows you to customize hundreds of TV shows and movies to your level of comfort. It does this through the use of “filters” you can choose to apply to any of the choices they offer. With these filters, you can literally delete every use of an undesired word or scene in a specific TV show or movie. You can also set up “Default Filters” that apply the same filters to any choice you make. This saves you time when it comes to customizing your choices. The default filters are automatically applied. You can still go in and customize each show or movie in addition to your default filters.
Let’s say you don’t want to hear the name of Jesus used in vain – ever! You can set this up as one of your default filters. Now you will never hear Jesus’ name used in vain while watching a movie or TV show. This filter will be applied automatically when you choose any show or movie that VidAngel offers. There are hundreds of filters that you can apply. It takes a little work before hand, but it is well worth it. If you apply a language filter for a specific word, whenever that word is used the audio track is muted. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t read the lips of those saying the words. But, in many cases you can’t and it’s still better than actually hearing the words. For any scenes that you do not want to see (like graphic violence or gore), when you choose these filters, the scene is actually cut out and skipped. You should be aware that this might disrupt the plot flow depending on how much you choose to cut out on a given show or movie. And, if you have to cut out more than about 5 mins. of a movie, it probably wasn’t worth watching in the first place.
You can watch your VidAngel selections on any high speed internet connected computer. They also have an app for watching on tablets or phones. You can also watch on your smart TV or DVD player as long as the VidAngel app can be added to your list of apps. It is also available on other plugin devices like Roku for “dumb” TVs or older DVD players.
VidAngel is not free. But, the way they handle to payment side is pretty creative and cost effective. They charge a certain fee (usually $18 – $20) for either a SD or HD quality show or movie. Once you pay, you have a certain period of time (usually 24 hours) to watch your filtered movie. If you watch the movie within the time limit, you can then “sell back” the movie to VidAngel and your account will be credited either $18 or $19 depending on whether you chose SD or HD quality. If you sell back your choice within the time limit, you end up being able to watch a filtered movie for either $1 or $2. You do have to pay close attention to the sell back deadline. If you fail to sell the show or movie back to VidAngel by the deadline, you end up buying it for the full price and you can watch the filtered movie whenever you want. It becomes part of your personal filtered library for as long as VidAngel is in business.
A lot more could be said about VidAngel. For instance, they are in the midst of a legal battle against TV and movie producers who are trying to shut them down. But, I hope they are able to survive and continue to give people greater control over the content of the TV shows and movies they allow to come into their homes. VidAngel is not a perfect solution and adults and parents should use caution when making their choices. Let’s face it, some TV shows and movies have so much garbage in them that they should be avoided no matter how many filters can be applied! VidAngel works best with those movies and TV shows that are solidly moral in their themes, and have only a very few minor infractions that need to be filtered out. Overall, I think VidAngel is worth a try. Check it out and let me know what you think!
Blessings, Pastor Larry