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FIRST-PERSON: A new solution for an old problem

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–If you are familiar with my efforts as a film reviewer, you know how I feel about the use and abuse of language in the media. That makes TVGuardian and Phil Boatwright a perfect fit.

Both from artistic and spiritual perspectives, crude, obscene and profane dialogue in movies and on television has devalued the prose, poetry and power of language.

TVGuardian is patented technology that automatically mutes foul language while you’re watching TV and movies. I’ve found countless films over the years that entertained and presented worthy themes, only to be annoyed by their verbal content, which in my opinion changed the tone of those productions. Well, here’s a machine that aids those of us who have taken a stand against foul language in our homes.


Rick Bray invented TVGuardian back in 1997, and the company went on to produce more than 400,000 units. Since then updates and alterations have been made in order to make the family-friendly tool more effective. These boxes allow viewers to choose the level of language they want to allow into their homes — from strict to moderate to tolerant to off. Offensive phrases are then automatically muted and suitable replacements displayed via closed captioning.

TVGuardian now works on HDTV with HDMI support, it has expanded user selectable filter levels, improved accuracy, and it is now available for rent as well as purchase.


TVGuardian reads the closed captioning embedded in most forms of TV entertainment. When it encounters a word that’s in our dictionary of offensive language, it provides a suitable replacement. So, for instance, if someone says, “Move your a–!” TVG mutes that phrase and replaces it with closed captioning that reads, “Move your tail!”

It doesn’t filter out scenes of sex, nudity or violence; it is best suited for TV programs and movies whose main offense is objectionable language.

Our public behavior and speech should indicate to others what we stand for. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). So why is it that we tolerate profanity and obscenity while being entertained? Well, because it’s been a part of the media every since the MPAA rating system replaced the more restrictive Motion Picture Code over four decades ago. We’ve all grown up with coarse and profane language in movies. We’re used to it. We’ve become desensitized by its frequency.

For whatever reason, people now writing movies (generally) can’t express frustration without the f-bomb or anger without profaning God’s name. And the s-word has become their new “darn it.” And we Christians accept it by saying, “Oh, I don’t pay any attention to those words.” What we’re really saying is, “I want to see this movie so I’ll put up with the objectionable language.”

Let’s look at this whole profanity thing from another perspective — an artistic one. In 1990 the PG-rated “The Freshman,” starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick, was peppered with obscenity and profanity. Not a lot, but enough to change the tone of an otherwise lightweight farce. I remember not liking the film, but a year later I saw the film on a family geared TV network (I think it was Disney). The offending words had been removed. Sure enough, with the absence of the filmmakers’ harsh rhetoric, the film’s tone took on a more lighthearted resonance.

A couple of years later, I remember exiting a screening of “Groundhog Day,” a funny comedy starring Bill Murray. For whatever reason, the film had hardly any profane or harsh words. There was a giddy feeling as the folks left the cineplex. They had enjoyed the humor, it being a film that relied on wit rather than vulgarity to entertain. And as they left, no one said, “Where were the cuss words?” They weren’t missed, not by the storyline or the screening audience.

Today, films without characters cursing are few and far between, so I come back to TVGuardian as an aid against this reprehensible practice.
Learn more about TVGuardian at TVGuardian.com. Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective for Baptist Press and is the author of “Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad.” He also writes about Hollywood for previewonline.org. Visit moviereporter.com and read three past articles he wrote concerning the use and abuse of language in movies: “Words Are What Men Live By,” “Profanity in the Movies — What’s the Big Deal?” and “When Dialogue Was the Special Effect” (click on “articles”).

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  • Phil Boatwright