|You're sitting on your couch watching a movie. You notice the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. You angrily wonder, "Why do they do this to me? I bought a 27-inch TV for a reason!" This, my friend, is a little technique called letterboxing: fitting a widescreen movie on a fullscreen TV.
Widescreen has an aspect ratio of 16:9, meaning that the length is 1.78 times the height. Fullscreen (or pan and scan) has an aspect ratio of 4:3, meaning the length is 1.33 times the height. Some movies have a notice at the beginning that says, "This movie has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your TV." This means that a widescreen movie has been cut up to fit on a fullscreen TV. It's good because there are no black bars, but it's bad because it takes away from the picture.
People who support 16:9 say that it's the true representation of what the director or cinematographer was trying to capture when filming the movie. I understand this. I even agree with this. So the solution must be to watch movies on a wide screen. The problem is that I'm the kind of person who only spends a couple hundred bucks on a TV; I refuse to pay thousands of dollars for a widescreen monstrosity. Geeky Stars Wars and Lord of the Rings fans don't like me for this reason. I don't like them either. They're annoying. So I'll continue to watch cut up movies that fit on my 4:3 TV, instead of watching "whole" movies that only take up a small fraction of the viewing space.
Where did widescreen come from? Good question. The answer is that widescreen was invented when movie attendance was dropping as a way to "immerse the viewer in a more realistic experience," as Wikipedia says. Plus, human eyesight has a larger field of view horizontally than it does vertically, so it can handle wider angles. So, basically it was a way to make more money. Hooray, Hollywood!
The good news is that "the 4:3 shape TV is expected to become obsolete over the next decade as TV moves to digital and HDTV formats, which are widescreen based" (Imdb). If that's the case, then this argument will disappear and we'll all be swimming in the big tub of Cool Whip that is widescreen. Mmm, Cool Whip. #entertainment