Yes, I Would Steal a Handbag!
By: Craig Villinger on September 19, 2008  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Recently, as I sat down to watch a violence and gore filled DVD released by a major motion picture studio a disturbing series of thoughts entered my mind, and for just a few moments I found myself setting in motion plans for a reckless spree of wanton criminality. I'm not proud of it, but as I sat there, in my armchair, with a cold beer in hand and a freshly opened packet of chips by my side, I contemplated doing something terrible - I contemplated stealing a car! And that was merely the beginning. After snatching said automobile the next step in my spree would have been to swipe an old lady's handbag. After that atrocious act I intended to steal myself a nice television set. And then, for the pies da résistance, I had planned to commit the most heinous crime of them all – the theft of a movie. Yikes! Don't go blaming the violence and gore filled feature presentation for placing these nefarious thoughts in my head however - I hadn't even reached the disc's main menu before my plans for a diabolical bender were in full swing. No, forget the days where movies apparently made us anti-social – now the seeds of misanthropy are being planted long before we've even reached the opening credits. And I place the blame for this squarely at the feet of movie piracy.

Or, to be more precise, the crusade against movie piracy.

You wouldn't bombard a person with repetitive messages. But they would!

Now don't get me wrong, I am not opposing the fight against movie piracy in any way. In fact, the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is a practice I'm not particularly fond of. I'm not fond of it because I can't for the life of me figure out why someone who claims to take their movies seriously would waste an hour and a half of their lives watching an inferior, overly compressed DVD rip when they could be enjoying the movie in gorgeous 16:9 enhanced glory while the DTS 6.1 audio track tickles their testes, and I'm not fond of it because I'm sure my DVDs would be at least 35 cents cheaper if the studios weren't attempting to make up for all the money lost to illegal downloads by passing the costs on to the paying consumer, but mostly I'm not particularly fond of the unauthorized distribution of movies because it means I have to endure that fucking anti-piracy announcement each and every time I sit down to watch a DVD that I have paid cash money for. You know the one I'm talking about: You wouldn't steal a car. You wouldn't steal a handbag. You wouldn't steal a television. Blah Blah. The young girl sits at the computer in her bedroom… the guy in the business suit snatches a handbag… that shady looking lad casually slips a DVD inside his brown jacket… ring any bells? Sure it does. Hum that techno-esque tune along with me. We've heard it a million times already.

And you know what? We'll probably hear it a million times more.

Yes, I know downloading pirated films is stealing, and I know stealing is against the law. Honestly, you've made your point. Enough is enough already! It's even worse when the studios won't let us skip through these ads, so we have no choice but to let them play through in their entirety. You can bash the frame advance and chapter skip buttons all you want - it will do you no good. It's bad enough that these ads exist in the first place, but why are we forced to endure every millisecond of them? At least the primitive VHS technology didn't allow studios to lock up our video players during the good old "Have – you – got – what – you –paid – for" announcement. To put it simply, the constant exposure to this "piracy is bad" propaganda is annoying as hell, and perhaps the most depressing thing about it is the fact that the intended target audience – people who are actually watching illegally downloaded movies – rarely even see it! Do you think the DVD rippers and compressors of this world attach anti-piracy announcements to the beginning of their 699 MB .avi files before uploading a torrent for all the world to download? Fuck no! In fact, it's quite possible that those who watch nothing but illegally downloaded DVD rips are blissfully unaware of the fact that this moralistic announcement even exists. Meanwhile, those of us who pay for our movies have to endure a forty-seven second sermon each and every time we pop a DVD into our player! It's not really "preaching to the converted" – more like "annoying the shit out of the converted!" Sure, this anti-piracy trailer does make a good point, but maybe the geniuses who dreamed up the campaign could figure out a way of aiming that message at the people who actually need to hear it instead of cramming it down the throats of legitimate, paying customers. And is it doing any good? Seriously, has even one person who does happen to watch illegally downloaded movies ever sat through the ad and realized the folly of their ways? "Gosh darn it, I see it all now - this illegal downloading is just plain wrong. It's time to start paying for my movies dammit!" I doubt it. I really do. If pictures of gangrenous toes and tar stained lungs on the front of a winnie red packet can't convince a large percentage of smokers to give up the habit, then I can't see the final shot of a young girl clicking the cancel button and walking away from her computer to a brighter world doing a damn thing to change the minds of those who believe downloading movies from the internet is their god given right.

Ever noticed how fast the progress bar is moving? This young lass must have the speediest connection in the world!

So anyway, at this point you may be wondering how my intense loathing of the anti-piracy announcement that plays at the beginning of almost every single DVD you've ever purchased (in Australia at least) can be connected to the plans for a crime spree of Grand Theft Auto-esque proportions that I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this rant, and believe it or not, my reasoning was quite logical. You see, I decided that my hatred of this trailer was strong, so damn strong in fact, that I needed to send a clear message to the studios letting them know that enough was enough, and I found myself wondering what the best way of going about this would be. Could I phone the studios personally to voice my discontent? Organize an online petition perhaps? Write a lengthy and profanity-ridden blog style posting for a horror/cult website? No, that just didn't seem like enough. I needed something else. Something with a little more... impact. And then, in a moment of potentially dangerous inspiration, it came to me: the very best way for me to get the point across would be to prove them wrong. I would negate the very message they have been ramming down our throats each and every time we insert a digital versatile disc into our players by doing the things they keep telling us we wouldn't do. Yes, I would steal a car. Yes, I would steal a handbag. Yes, I would steal a television. And yes, I would steal a movie. That'd show 'em. In my mind, after the dirty deeds were done I saw myself driving up to the local offices of each and every movie studio in town, honking the horn wildly in my stolen automobile, with my stolen handbag dangling from the rear view mirror and my stolen TV sitting on the passenger seat displaying a stolen copy of the latest Hollywood blockbuster, and as the suited executives wandered outside to see what all the fuss was about I would lean out the window and scream wildly "What's that you say? I wouldn't steal a handbag? Well get a load of this you lousy message cramming dogs! It's time to start singing a new tune!" Then, I saw myself cranking up the volume on my stolen TV and doing a few donuts before making my escape, and as they stood there, smoke swirling about their befuddled faces, the execs would know their crusade against movie piracy had become a farce. They would know they had got it all wrong. They would know they had driven an innocent man to commit the acts they most despise by continually pummeling him with the same message.

And maybe, just maybe they would know that we, the legitimate and honest DVD buying public, have received the message loud and clear already.

Of course, by the time the disc's main menu appeared and I was wowed by the plethora of clickable options available to me I realized a crime spree would be an overreaction. After all, in prison I wouldn't have access to the wonders of "Scene Selection" and "Extra Features" and my life just wouldn't be the same. Perhaps I could beat the wrap by claiming temporary insanity due to over-exposure to the ad, and if the jury was stacked with DVD fanatics a not-guilty verdict might actually be possible, but no, it wasn't worth the risk. Why should I ruin my life for the sake of principle? I'm no martyr! And then, as the feature presentation began and the taste of ice-cold beer caressed my taste buds, I quickly assessed my options again and decided that perhaps writing a lengthy and profanity-ridden blog style posting for a horror/cult website might be the right way to go after all. It may not make the studios sit up and take notice in the same way that doing circle work out front of their offices in a stolen car might, but a few thousand casually typed words would at least keep me out of the big house. Then, finally, with my mind at rest, I settled back and enjoyed the feature presentation with all images of the "You Wouldn't Do This and That" announcement momentarily forgotten.

Well, until the next time I slipped a DVD into my player that is …

Indeed it is. And so is buggering a puppy, but you don't see pet shops forcing that message upon us every time we buy a miniature schnauzer...
Finally, as I bring this rant to an end, it would seem as though most local distributors have phased in a new campaign which has something to do with people burning the future of the Australian film industry, so we might actually be seeing a little less of the dreaded "You wouldn't [Insert Crime here]" announcement in the future. However, with thousands of DVDs on local shelves carrying the message already and a good percentage of Australian releases being sourced from European discs that still feature it, its legacy will live on for years to come. Even with a new spin on the same old message though my basic gripe remains – it's being crammed down the gobs of people who are doing the right thing! Come on studio folks, give us a break. Your message is an important one, but currently you're saying it to the wrong people. Tell it to the downloader's - not your paying customers.

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