Miscellaneous Miscellany: To Flix or Not to Flix?

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So, this week’s big news was that Netflix rolled out worldwide. Now, it’s finally available in Malaysia. A lot of my friends subscribed almost immediately. But for me, as always, I like to adopt a wait-and-see approach. With every digital thing that’s new, there are always kinks and bugs to iron out. I normally let others be the guinea pigs.

The pressing questions were what would likely happen with iFlix, HyppTV and Astro, now that a really affordable and highly praised service was in direct competition, offering much, much more in terms of movies. I won’t get into that, because I’m not an expert in that field. I don’t even have any subscription to any of those platforms. (Not even Mubi, the service almost no one talks about.) Which is why I didn’t blog about Netflix earlier. I wanted to wait for all the why-I-should/should not-subscribe-to-Netflix posts to get out of the way.

What I’m really interested in, and what came immediately to mind, was the question of censorship.

And what everyone learned rather quickly was that not all Netflix accounts are created equal. Netflix Malaysia won’t provide the same shows as Netflix US or even Netflix Singapore. And here’s why. Netflix has said it will censor where necessary. It’s a business after all, and to stay competitive – and even stay alive – in a certain country, it would have to abide by the censorship rules.

But one also wonders if Netflix is just humouring the authorities, because it knows subscribers can still bypass blocks and get the full Netflix treatment, so it won’t lose subscribers anyway.

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Whatever it is, the backlash has already started in Malaysia. A religious group has urged the government to “filter Netflix’s content.” But then Netflix says it won’t censor, negating its earlier statement in the Verge report.

So, what is what now? Who should we listen to?

Whatever it is, we all know the government won’t let any content go uncensored, even though there’s YouTube and Mubi which are still providing absolutely uninhibited content. In fact, we’ll never get past the censors unless and until we are a better educated and truly mature society where people don’t call for bans or censorship but are open to dialogue. Recently, a group called for violent scenes in Tamil movies to be cut so that the youth won’t be influenced.

Anyone knows that it’s human nature that if you’re told not to look at something, you’ll surely go check it out. Pillar of salt, anyone?

How many of us have gone for a screening at a so-called “film festival” here and had the projector blocked by a piece of cardboard during sex or violent scenes? Yes, you can still hear the grunting and moaning but God forbid you see what’s causing those sounds.

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Some years ago, I spoke with the chairman of the Censorship Board, and he was all for relaxing the rules. But even he was cautious about it, saying he would take it one step at a time because society might not be ready for censorship to be removed completely. I take it that what he meant was he didn’t want to rile up those over-enthusiastic groups like the ones mentioned above.

At one time we had F-words freely flying around in the cinemas, as well as some bare buttocks. But it would seem in recent times, we went backwards a little, and nothing seems to have changed.

Oh, well.

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