Censorship

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Censorship
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The United States of America 🇺🇸 is a North American country which primarily worships Christianity as a common religion. However, it has no state religion.

General censorship[]

The U.S. is home of some of the world's most stringent free speech protections thanks to The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; as such, the government basically can't ban anything on the basis of its content, (except for child pornography, and even then it's defined narrowly as being live-action porn with an underage actor. The PROTECT act of 2003 effectively banned some forms of simulated child pornography, but that section was struck down. The rationale here is that since underage actors necessarily cannot consent to being in a porn film, they are by definition exploited, and such works do not merit First Amendment protection). Nevertheless, the U.S. is still home to many "banned" works because of the influence of lobby groups on distributors and the Federal Communications Commission. A select few works are banned from commercial distribution because they contain multiple copyright violations.

This means that in spite of these protections, it is entirely possible for stores, theaters, and libraries to all refuse to sell or distribute a given work; a copyright holder might just choose not to bother and not release the work. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) technically "owns" the radio and TV airwaves and has a big say in what can be displayed on those channels. Its criteria for doing so are not made public, and it decides these things on a quasi-judicial basis — i.e. it has precedents and relies on those to make decisions. This setup means that the only way to know what the FCC doesn't like is to break its rules. Most networks will self-censor to avoid bans, viewer complaints, and possible FCC fines.

Historically, there were even more avenues to ban or restrict content, such as the Hays Code and the Comics Code. These were self-censorship bodies, though, and as more and more works started to push the limits of what was acceptable, such bodies have gone by the wayside.

  • Most of the pornographic works featuring Traci Lords are considered child pornography since they had been filmed while she was under 18. Lords had lied about her age when they were filmed. This led to two things: first, being in a way related to an important Supreme Court case regarding the First Amendment, and second, because one of those works was an issue of Penthouse magazine which was already infamous for a nude pictorial which resulted in Miss America winner Vanessa Williams being stripped of her title.
  • As pointed out by the late George Carlin during his The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television monologue, due to FCC guidelines, there are seven words which cannot be said in TV and in radio, which are "shit", "piss", "fuck", "cunt", "cocksucker", "motherfucker", and "tits". However, these guidelines do not apply to non-broadcast media such as cable television, satellite TV, or satellite radio, which have more lenient guidelines.

Book censorship[]

A number of books were banned in the city of Boston between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s. Naked Lunch was the last major work to get its ban removed.

  • Decameron - this work by Giovanni Boccaccio was banned from US mail under the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act (Comstock Law) of 1873, which banned the sending or receiving of works containing "obscene", "filthy", or "inappropriate" material.
  • The Canterbury Tales - this work by Geoffrey Chaucer was banned from US mail under the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act (Comstock Law) of 1873, which banned the sending or receiving of works containing "obscene", "filthy", or "inappropriate" material. U.S. obscenity laws were overturned in 1959 by the Supreme Court in Kingsley Pictures Corp. v. Regents.
  • The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption - this religous critique book written by William Pynchon, a prominent leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who founded the City of Springfield, Massachusetts in 1636, wrote this published in London in 1650, which explicitly criticises Puritanism, was the first book banned in the New World. In 1650, several copies made their way back to the New World. Pynchon, who resided in Springfield, was unaware that his book suffered the New World's first book burning, on the Boston Common. Accused of heresy by the Massachusetts General Court, Pynchon quietly transferred ownership of the Connecticut River Valley's largest land-holdings to his son, and then suffered indignities as he left the New World for England. It was also the first work banned in Boston
  • Moll Flanders - this novel by Daniel Defoe was banned from US mail under the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act (Comstock Law) of 1873, which banned the sending or receiving of works containing "obscene", "filthy", or "inappropriate" material. U.S. obscenity laws were overturned in 1959 by the Supreme Court in Kingsley Pictures Corp. v. Regents.
  • Fanny Hill - this erotic novel by John Cleland was banned in the US in 1821 for obscenity, then again in 1963. This was the last book ever banned by the US government. U.S. obscenity laws were overturned in 1959 by the Supreme Court in Kingsley Pictures Corp. v. Regents. However other books have been banned since by court orders.
  • Candide - this novel by Voltaire was seized by US Customs in 1930 for obscenity. U.S. obscenity laws were overturned in 1959 by the Supreme Court in Kingsley Pictures Corp. v. Regents.
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin - this novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe was banned in the Confederate States for its anti-slavery message.
  • Elmer Gantry - this novel by Sinclair Lewis was banned in Boston, Massachusetts, Kansas City, Missouri, Camden, New Jersey, and other US cities, this novel by Sinclair focused on religiosity and hypocrisy in the United States during the 1920s by depicting a preacher (the Reverend Dr. Elmer Gantry) as a protagonist who preferred easy money, alcohol, and "enticing young girls" to saving souls, while converting a traveling tent revival crusade into a profitable and permanent evangelical church and radio empire for his employers. Elmer Gantry also widely denounced from pulpits across the United States at the time of its initial publication. U.S. obscenity laws were overturned in 1959 by the Supreme Court in Kingsley Pictures Corp. v. Regents.
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover - this novel by D. H. Lawrence was temporarily banned in the United States for violation of obscenity laws. The ban was lifted in 1959.
  • Tropic of Cancer - this novel by Henry Miller was banned in the US in the 1930s until the early 1960s, seized by US Customs for sexually explicit content and vulgarity. The rest of Miller's work was also banned by the US.
  • The Grapes of Wrath - this novel by John Steinbeck was temporarily banned in many places in the US. In the state of California in which it was partially set, it was banned for its alleged unflattering portrayal of residents of the area.
  • Forever Amber - this novel by Kathleen Winsor was banned in fourteen states in the US. However, the ban was lifted by an appeals court judge.
  • Memoirs of Hecate County - this novel by Edmund Wilson was banned in the state of New York by the Supreme Court.
  • Howl - this novel by Allen Ginsberg had its copies of the first edition seized by San Francisco Customs for obscenity in March 1957; after trial, obscenity charges were dismissed.
  • Naked Lunch - this novel written by William S. Burroughs was banned by Boston courts in 1962 for obscenity, but that decision was reversed in 1966 by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed - this book by Paulo Freire was banned in Tucson, Arizona.
  • United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense - US President Richard Nison attempted to suspend publication of classified information, with this government study by Robert McNamara and the Department of Defense, known also as the Pentagon Papers being one of these. The restraint was however lifted by the US Supreme Court in a 6–3 decision. See also New York Times Co. v. United States.
  • The Federal Mafia - this book by Irwin Schiff was target of an injunction was issued by a US District Court in Nevada under 26 U.S.C. § 7408 against its author and associates Cynthia Neun and Lawrence Cohen against the sale of this book by those persons as the court found that the information it contains is fraudulent.
  • 60 Years Later: Coming through the Rye - this unauthorized sequel to J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye by John David California had its publication, advertising or distribution in the United States banned due to a court injunction by Salinger, though it has been published in other countries.
  • Operation Dark Heart - this memoir by Army Reserve Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer had the Army's January approval for its publication overriden by the Department of Defense in September 2010. The DoD then purchased and destroyed all 9,500 first edition copies, citing concerns that it contained classified information which could damage national security. The publisher, St. Martin's Press, in conjunction with the DoD created a second, redacted edition; which contains blacked out words, lines, paragraphs, and portions of the index. This book is as of currently out of press.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events - its author, Daniel Handler, was hoping this book was banned and was disappointed in how little it happened. One of his real "victories" was that the books were banned from a school in Georgia due to Olaf's plan to marry his distant relative Violet in book one, to which he responded "I'm at a loss as to how to write a villain who doesn't do villainous things."
  • Ulysses - this famous novel written by James Joyce was banned from 1921 to 1933 as one of its chapters contained a passage about a character masturbating. Like the rest of the book, the passage was written as a stream of consciousness and thus rather oblique. However, people thought it was the product of a diseased mind. In 1933, the Supreme Court ruled in the United States v. One Book Called Ulysses case that sexual content in literature is fine as long as it does not promote sexual activity. However, Judge John M. Woolsey's opinion regarding how absurd is censorship (which not many people agreed with at the time) is very well-known.
  • Blood and Chocolate - this book was banned from a few high schools in the US, mainly in Texas, mostly due to the sexual content. Annette Curtis Klause even had one mother call her to try and have the book removed from her daughter's school library. Klause recalled finding it strange that what the mother most objected to wasn't the graphic violence present in the story, but teens talking about and engaging in sexual behavior, even if the sexual content is pretty PG-13 and there isn't actually any sex scenes in the book.
  • The Second Coming - this a religious satirical comic about Jesus Christ coming back in a superhero universe was cancelled by Vertigo Comics at the last minute due to protests by censorious Christian groups, but the creators announced that Vertigo returned the rights and they still intended to publish it through a different company. It eventually was published by Ahoy Comics.
  • Gender Queer: A Memoir - this comic has been banned in different school districts of Florida and Virginia, while South Carolina governor Henry McMaster has urged the state Department of Education to do the same for having sexual and LGBT content. This is one part of a trend in banning LGBT books or other material from the public schools in more right-wing US states.
  • Maus - This mature animal graphic novel written by Art Spiegelman, about his father's life as a holocaust survivor, was banned by Tennessee's McMinn County school board in January 2022, citing nudity and strong language as reasons for the ban, but the decision led to many controversy and accusations of thinly-veiled antisemitism, especially given that it happened amidst a moral panic against literature with anti-racism morals. It also led to renewed interest in Maus, causing the graphic novel to become so popular that it sold out on Amazon. Spiegelman himself has stressed that Maus is not for children, but because (animal characters aside) it's a raw and completely unsanitized account of the Holocaust, not because of any nudity or language.

Internet censorship[]

Movie censorship[]

Between July 1, 1934 and November 1, 1968, the film industry was regulated by the Motion Picture Production Code (also known as the "Hays Code", named after its ideator, Will H. Hays, who was the president of the MPPDA between 1922 and 1945), which restricted certain sorts of contents present in movies.

There is no official government group that censors movie, but multiple TV stations do censor movies to align with network standards, and some movies are censored in order to get certain MPA ratings.

  • The Birth of a Nation - this film was banned in several American cities for its racist content and portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan, including Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, and the states of Ohio, Kansas, and West Virginia, as well as "dozens" of other jurisdictions. Unbanned in 1916 outside of Kansas.
  • Purity - this silent drama film was banned in the state of Kansas, and several other cities across America including Dallas, Kansas City, Jackson (MS) and Washington, D.C. among others due to the use of nudity.
  • Birth Control - this documentary film, which today is considered lost media, produced by and starring Margaret Sanger, was banned, with the New York Court of Appeals holding that a film on family planning work may be censored "in the interest of morality, decency, and public safety and welfare".
  • Häxan - this silent horror essay film was banned until 1929 due to the use of torture and nudity. Its themes of witchcraft and Satanism may also have had an effect.
  • Babe Comes Home - this silent sports comedy film was briefly banned in portions of the Chicago Metropolitan Area due to scenes of Babe Ruth chewing tobacco and spitting in the film. Mrs. Albert L. Stevenson, a film censor member, later recommended that "the censors do not believe that there is an inherent virtue in chewing tobacco and don't wish the children in Highland Park to believe that one must chew to achieve fame." The ban was later lifted.
  • Party Girl - this pre-Code crime film, although it was passed for theatrical screening, several cities banned it due to its depiction of prostitution, namely Birmingham, Alabama.
  • No Limit - this pre-Code comedy film was banned in Riverside, California by the city's censor boards due to "notoriety."
  • Scarface (1932) - this gangster film was banned in five states and five other cities due to "glorification of crime."
  • Ecstasy - this Czech erotic romantic drama film was banned in the US from 1933 to 1937 due to its erotic content.
  • G Men - this crime film, which was one of the top-grossing films of 1935 in Chicago, was banned by the State of Illinois Board of Censors due to warning signs depicting the trapping of John Dillinger made precautions that might've become "too excited" for children
  • Spain in Flames - this compilation film/newsreel was banned in a few states including Ohio and Pennsylvania, and multiple cities across the country including New Brunswick, New Jersey, Waterbury, Connecticut, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, due to the film's plot being reported as "harmful and tortured."
  • The Birth of a Baby - this educational film about childbearing was banned in New York City by the state's Motion Picture Censors, and in Cincinnati, Ohio by the city's manager Clarence Sherrill due to the film being reported as "non-educational" and as it lacked certification by the state's Board of Motion Pictures Censors. The Cincinnati Police Department's chief Eugene T. Weatherly later viewed the film and said that "there is no display on the screen of the customary certificate of approval by the state censors."
  • The Ramparts We Watch - this March Of Time documentary was briefly banned all across Pennsylvania due to portions of the film termed as "part of the fear propaganda being disseminated by Germany", which demonstrates scenes on the German invasion of Poland and clips from the German film "Baptism of Fire".
  • Two-Faced Woman - this romantic comedy film starring Greta Garbo was banned in New York City, among other places, due its plot theme being adultery.
  • Ossessione - this Italian film was banned for 33 years because the plot was based on James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice to which MGM owned the rights. It took until 1976 before copyright issues were resolved.
  • Brewster's Millions - this comedy film was banned in Memphis, Tennessee, because Brewster's African-American servant was treated too well.
  • Scarlet Street - this film noir was entirely banned on January 4, 1946 by the New York State Censor Board, relying on the statute that gave it power to censor films that were "obscene, indecent, immoral, inhuman, sacrilegious" or whose exhibition "would tend to corrupt morals or incite to crime." As if in a chain reaction, one week later the Motion Picture Commission for the city of Milwaukee also banned the film as part of a new policy encouraged by police for "stricter regulation of undesirable films." On February 3 Christina Smith, the city censor of Atlanta, argued that because of "the sordid life it portrayed, the treatment of illicit love, the failure of the characters to receive orthodox punishment from the police, and because the picture would tend to weaken a respect for the law," Scarlet Street was "licentious, profane, obscure and contrary to the good order of the community." ... Universal was discouraged from challenging the constitutionality of the censors by the protests of the national religious groups that arose as the Atlanta case went to court.
  • Bicycle Thieves - this Italian prize-winning film set in the post-war Rome was banned all over the United States by MPAA in March 1950 due to the use of urination from a little boy, and disturbing culture including scenes from inside of a bordello.
  • The Miracle - the second part of this Italian film, "L'Amore" (or "Love" in English) was banned all over the United States, as it was condemned by the National Legion of Decency, which termed the part as "anti-Catholic" and "sacrilegious". Shortly afterward in the middle of February 1951, the State of New York revoked the license to show the film from the state's Board of Regents. The ban led to the law's Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson which led it to a decision by Supreme Court in 1952 that the film was a form of artistic expression and was protected by the First Amendment.
  • Lost Boundaries - this film about Dr. Albert C. Johnson and his family passing as white while living in New England, was banned in Atlanta and Memphis as it was deemed liable to "create dissension and strife between members of the white and colored races, and would be likely to cause disorders, disturbances, and clashes between the races."
  • Bitter Rice - this Italian film was banned by the state of New York censors exactly 11 months after the ban of Bicycle Thieves and The Miracle, due to police crackdowns and bitter Catholic oppositions. This was the third Italian film to be banned by the state.
  • Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye - this film noir was banned in Ohio as "a sordid, sadistic presentation of brutality and an extreme presentation of crime with explicit steps in commission.
  • The Moon is Blue - this film was was the first mainstream film since the enactment of The Hays Code to use the words "virgin" "seduce", "mistress" (in a sexual context), and "pregnant", which were forbidden under the Code. However, it was less the language and more the characters' casual attitude toward sexual topics which roused the ire of Boston censors, which made it banned there.
  • The Vanishing Prairie - this Walt Disney documentary was banned in New York on August 10, 1954 due to a clip where it demonstrated a buffalo giving birth. The ban was lifted after a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union.
  • The Bamboo Prison - this Korean War drama film was banned in Memphis due to its "inimical" content.
  • The Man with the Golden Arm - this drama noir film was banned by the MPAA due to the film's plot dealing with drug addictions and containing its presentation as "illegal drug trafficking".
  • Baby Doll - this black comedy film was banned in Memphis, Nashville, and Atlanta due to the film plot's culture, which a member of the Memphis Board determines the film as "immoral." It was the first picture to be banned after the death of censor chief Lloyd Binford. The film would later demonstrate in Nashville (via the Tennessee Theatre) in January 1957.
  • Portland Exposé - this noir film was banned regionally in 1957 by local agencies in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Portland, Oregon—its setting—due to its depiction of crimes inspired by those committed by crime boss Jim Elkins.
  • The Immoral Mr. Teas - this nudist comedy film was banned in Baltimore (along with two other films) for a 12-month hiatus by Maryland's State Of Board Censors on November 8, 1962 due to its content (nudity).
  • Victim - this 1961 neo-noir suspense film was banned in many American cities due to language.
  • John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! - this Notre Dame-based comedy film (along with the book that was distributed by) was banned in New York by judge due to the main characters depicted as "drunken party boys" before the film premiered around Christmas 1964 in selected 200+ theaters. Supreme Court Justice Henry Clay Greenburg called the situation "ugly, vulgar, and tawdry."
  • Flaming Creatures - this experimental film was banned in New York City in 1964 because of sexual content.
  • Promises! Promises! - this 1963 sex comedy film banned in Cleveland by the Cleveland Division Of Police, Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh Police, and several other cities due to explicit nude scenes, though later the Cleveland court decided the nude scenes in the film were not lewd after all. The ban took place a few weeks prior to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
  • My Bare Lady - this 1963 64-minute British exploitation film (along with one other exploitation film) was banned in Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh Police due to its content shortly days after Pittsburgh's ban on Promises! Promises! The ban comes before the arrest of two Cameraphone Theatre (East Liberty) owners after complaints from showing the film three days prior to Kennedy's assassination.
  • Viva Maria! - this adventure comedy film starring Brigitte Bardot was banned in Dallas between 1966 and 1968 for sexual and anti-Catholic content, prior to the United States Supreme Court striking down the ban and limiting the ability of municipalities to ban films for adults in Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. City of Dallas.
  • Titicut Follies - this 1967 documentary about a mental ward, was banned from public release for several decades. Officially, the state of Massachusetts thought the film infringed on the privacy of the patients in the film; but, the real problem was that it showed how the state of Massachusetts treated the mentally ill in its care (enough to say, not well). It remains one of the most embarrassing moments for free speech in the US, but weirdly, the ban had a positive effect; the state of Massachusetts was forced to acknowledge people had a right to privacy on the state level. The ban was lifted in 1991 by the state due to the supposed privacy concerns becoming less important as most of the inmates featured in the film passed away in the intervening years, although it ordered that a disclaimer explaining that conditions had improved at the mental ward since 1967 be added.
  • I Am Curious (Yellow) - this film was banned in 1967 as "pornography". After three court cases, the ban was lifted when the anti-obscenity laws concerning films was overturned.
  • Pink Flamingos - this John Waters film was banned in Orange County, Florida for 25 years , courtesy of a broad obscenity sting which banned it among other films, because of explicit sexual content, animal cruelty, and depiction of its lead character, Divine, eating dog feces in the end.
  • The Thorn - this film was closed days after opening in New York City for misleading marketing exploiting the fame of one of its co-stars, Bette Midler. It was blocked from opening on re-release in 1980. The film was briefly distributed on home video under a new title before Midler threatened legal action.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian - this biblical comedy film was banned in several towns for showing controversial themes about Christianity.
  • Many films made before the Hays Code films were banned by the Catholic Legion of Decency and the Motion Picture Association of America between 1934 and 1968, including the first film adaptation of The Maltese Falcon. The ban on these was lifted only after the ratings system supported by then-MPAA leader Jack Valenti came into place, though it would be years before they ever got released Stateside again, mainly due to practicality issues.
  • Show Boat - Its 1936 version was banned for many years after star Paul Robeson landed on Red Channels and was issued a travel ban.
  • Under Idaho state law, establishments licensed to serve alcohol are prohibited from showing "acts or simulated acts of sexual intercourse" or "any person being touched, caressed or fondled" in their nether region. This law is ostensibly meant to prohibit alcohol at strip clubs, but authorities have threatened that they would enforce this law against cinemas serving alcohol if they receive complaints surrounding films containing such content, with even some R-rated films falling under this restriction. In January 2016, a theater was threatened with its liquor license being revoked for daring to let undercover investigators drink before watching Fifty Shades of Grey, so it decided to challenge the law under the First Amendment. Among other things, it was pointed out that despite the existence of other R-rated films containing sex scenes, the only other film they seemed cracking down on was The Wolf of Wall Street. This, along with cinema chains refusing to screen NC-17 films at all, prevented Blue Is the Warmest Color from being screened almost anywhere in Boise, Idaho.
  • Utah had a very similar law, among its many bizarre alcohol-related laws (such as one requiring alcoholic beverages at restaurants to be prepared out of sight, and only given to patrons with an "intent to dine"). This is not surprising, as the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, known also as Mormon Church, (which prohibits alcohol consumption by its members) has a high degree of influence in the state. A cinema that received similar threats to the Idaho theater after screening Deadpool also decided to fight the law, and won, striking it down as unconstitutional. The film's star Ryan Reynolds was a major backer of their crowdfunded legal action.
  • Until the early 1960s, most films in which white and black Americans shared screen time, or in which one black actor was seen, were subject to censorship in the Southern states (where the Jim Crow laws were still in force at the time). They were usually shown uncut in the rest of the country. Notable examples are:
    • The Little Colonel, which had cut the scene where Shirley Temple dances in the stairs with her black butler, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.
    • Stormy Weather, whose scene of Lena Horne singing the song Stormy Weather was cut from screenings in the South.
    • Sun Valley Serenade and Orchestra Wives featured a song and dance routine by the Nicholas Brothers (with Dorothy Dandridge joining them in the former), which were set up in order to be easily cut out of the films without affecting the continuity.
  • If You Love This Planet - this 1982 documentary short film made by the National Film Board of Canada about a lecture given at SUNY Plattsburgh by Australian anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott, was formally declared to be "foreign political propaganda" by the Reagan administration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The US government tried to ban the distribution of the film, requiring all venues to show the film to file paperwork with the Department of Justice. All the notoriety helped to make the film more popular, going on to win the 1982 Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject), with the director thanking the US government for the free advertising in her acceptance speech.
  • The Last Temptation of Christ - this Martin Scorsese film was banned in Savannah, Georgia when city leaders sent a petition to Universal Pictures requesting a ban. However, it opened in Savannah on September 23, 1988, six weeks after national and worldwide debut.
  • The Tin Drum - this movie was banned in 1997 for a briefly in Oklahoma County due to being deemed as obscene (as a scene depicted a child embracing a naked woman), which only increased interest in the film until the ban was lifted through an injunction.
  • The Profit - This film that borrows elements of the life of L. Ron Hubbard, it was prevented from release when the Church of Scientology claimed the film could taint the jury pool in the wrongful death trial of former member Lisa McPherson. While the injunction has since been lifted a few years after the suit was settled and the film is no longer banned per se, a legal dispute with investor Robert S. Minton continues to hold up the release. The Disinformation Book of Lists and The Times have characterized The Profit as a "banned film" in the United States.
  • Hillary: The Movie - this political documentary about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, it was prevented by the Federal Election Commission from being aired on video-on-demand on cable TV shortly before the 2008 Democratic primaries as an "electioneering communication" mentioning a candidate within 30 days of a primary, an apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (aka "McCain-Feingold"). The ban and much of the BCRA was then overturned by the Supreme Court in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
  • Between 2001 and 2004, ABC broadcasted Saving Private Ryan nearly uncut on Veterans Day with a TV-MA rating. However, in 2004, in the wake of Janet Jackson's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction incident and the FCC's shifting stance towards indecent content on broadcast TV, 65 individual ABC affiliates refused to air the film, fearing that the FCC could fine them over its content. Although ABC offered to cover any fines issued to affiliates on their behalf, the FCC ultimately received no complaints. The lobby groups praised ABC's decision to continue airing Saving Private Ryan, because after all, it is a patriotic film. In other words, ABC has never aired the film since and future airings have been relegated to cable where standards are more lenient compared to broadcast TV.
  • Showgirls had black bras and panties added to cover the female character's breasts and genitalia during its TV broadcasts, due to the large amounts of nudity present in the uncut film.
  • Battle Royale - this Japanese movie series, due to its status of not being released outside Japan, was rumored to be banned in the United States due to the Columbine massacre. While it is not officially banned (as America does not have a censorship board capable of banning films), the original novel and the manga adaptation were both translated and published stateside, squeamishness over the film's subject matter did cause many American distributors to back off from it, fearing a backlash. Reportedly, when Toei screened the film in 2005 for the lawyers of a prospective American distributor, they were warned that they would be jailed for releasing it, creating a series of conditions to dissuade potential distributors and avoid any headaches from American lobby groups (the film was already been controversial enough in its native Japan, with its lack of school shootings due to its years-old gun control laws). An American remake of the film was briefly discussed, but fell into development hell after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. In 2012, when the success of The Hunger Games demonstrated that one could sell a story about teenagers murdering each other following the aftermath of Columbine, Anchor Bay Entertainment got Toei to soften its stance by giving the film an American release.
  • missing. - this 1982 film and the book on which it was based went missing in the United States for a couple of decades due to a libel lawsuit over the portrayal of the State Department.
  • The Adventures of Mark Twain had its segment based on The Mysterious Stranger has garnered a reputation as a cartoon purportedly banned from TV. As it turns out, many networks that aired the movie simply chose to cut that scene out because they deemed it too creepy for young audiences (similar to what some networks did with the tunnel scene in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory).
  • Ingagi - this pre-Code mockumentary had its distribution suppressed by the Federal Trade Commission due to the misrepresentation of its subject matter. As a matter of fact, it was so greatly infamous that it didn't was released on home video until 2021.
  • Song of the South - the film has not been re-released in any form in the U.S. since 1986. Bob Iger stated in 2011 that this film would not receive future distribution in the United States to avoid controversy. In March 2020, Iger told people at a shareholders event that the film would never get a release on Disney+, not even with an added disclaimer at the beginning, as long as he was in charge.
  • The Care Bears: Adventure in Wonderland has the reputation of being banned, as American Greetings allegedly refused to allow a Region 1 DVD release over the bad reception of this and the previous film. It did not help that even Nelvana co-founder Michael Hirsh admitted after its release that "It was just one sequel too many."
  • Mission to Moscow - Until the 1970s, this film was refused release for television broadcast by United Artists due to of its sympathetic depiction of the USSR (for context, the film was made during World War II, when relations between the US and USSR were much warmer).

Television censorship[]

All of Conan O'Brien's work for the NBC was withheld from distribution for nearly a decade by the network after a messy screwjob involving the hosting position for The Tonight Show.

  • Utah's NBC affiliate, KSL-TV, is owned by Bonneville International, a company controlled by the Mormon Church. As such, the station has a history of being run by censors who pull or pre-empt programs that offend their sensibilities (in most cases, the pre-empted shows were picked up by the local The CW affiliate). Coincidentally, most of the programs KSL has censored ended up being short-runners, but there are exceptions:
    • Picket Fences - the series was pulled in 1993 (back when KSL was affiliated to CBS) after an episode involving a Mormon who still believed in polygamy, despite the mainline Latter-day Saints church disavowed the concept in 1890. Polygamy is still a very controversial issue in the Mormon faith. It returned that fall, but was pre-empted to 11:00 p.m. on Saturday nights.
    • Coupling: KSL objected to the show's sexual content. This show was ultimately cancelled after four episodes due to poor reception.
    • NBC's late-night poker programming was canceled following the U.S. government's indictment and shutdown of the online poker sites which sponsored them, due to the LDS Church being opposed to gambling; as such, there has never been any form of state-sanctioned gambling in Utah (including either lotteries or casinos).
    • The Playboy Club: this show was shunned by KSL, as the network did not want to associate itself with Playboy because they (along with other LDS-owned commercial media outlets) participate in an education campaign against porn addiction. It only lasted three episodes due to poor reviews and low viewership. As a result, NBC to dumped it in the hands of the local MyNetworkTV affiliate.
    • The New Normal: this show was banned by KSL as it featured two men in a relationship trying to care for a surrogate child and the Mormons, who own the affiliate, are against homosexuality. That said, there was some outcry over KSL's refusal to air it, with many accusing them of homophobia and signing a petition to get them to air it. It didn't last that long anyway.
    • Hannibal: This show was pulled after four episodes, "due to the extensive graphic nature of this show. Scott D. Pierce was not amused about this and he went as far as to compare KSL to Soviet propaganda newspaper Pravda. This one lasted for three seasons before getting being pulled, the longest of any KSL-censored primetime series.
    • Days of Our Lives: This show was punted to the middle of the night in 2011; some say that KSL objected to the show featuring a gay relationship involving the characters of Will Horton and Sonny Kiriakis, who previously became the first gay couple in daytime television to wed onscreen. The reason for KSL putting it in on 1:05am, rather than punt it to their usual dumping ground for shows deemed objectionable by LDS beliefs is unknown.
    • Saturday Night Live was not aired by KSL when it switched to NBC, but only because it did not want to pre-empt its popular Saturday night sportscast. SNL began airing on KSL in 2013 after said sportscast was canceled.
  • Two other stations known for censoring network programming are WRAL, an NBC affiliate covering the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina, and sister Fox station WRAZ. They're more or less run by ultra-religious zealots who are very hostile toward programming they consider to be "anti-family" (which isa side-effect of WRAZ's construction permit having been originally owned by Reverend James Layton, a Christian minster); when affiliated with CBS, they pre-empted one of the Victoria's Secret fashion show specials, and under NBC, also censoring the November 12, 2016 episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Dave Chappelle.
  • Reality shows like Temptation Island, Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?, Married In America, Osbournes Reloaded, and Who's Your Daddy? were either heavily pre-empted or not aired at all on WRAZ. Most of these shows (aside from Temptation Island) were quickly canceled.
  • An episode of Once and Again was pulled from broadcast by WSET in Virginia due to containing a lesbian kiss, replacing it with an infomercial. The station provided no official explanation, but a few critics reacted to the decision. Similar to KSL's curse, Once and Again was cancelled literally a month after the lesbian kiss episode aired.
  • Masterpiece Theatre - the serial "Private Schulz" was banned for trying to make light of Nazi extermination camps. (However, the only other work to try that, Life Is Beautiful, is not banned at all.)
  • The Reagans - this CBS documentary, critical of Ronald Reagan, was intensely criticised from right-wing groups who called it a hit piece. The network bowed to the pressure by deciding not to air it, airing it instead on cable on sister station Showtime.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series - the episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which the white Kirk kisses the black Uhura wasn't shown in several states.
  • Nightline - on April 2004, one episode of this show, in which Ted Koppel read the names of soldiers killed in the 2003 Iraq war, was censored by ABC affiliates owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, claiming that it was "motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq" (Sinclair is known for being heavily slanted towards the Republican party). Sinclair, however, did not censor the two later episodes of Nightline where Koppel did a reading of soldiers killed in Afghanistan (2004), and both Afghanistan and Iraq (2005).
  • The Prisoner - the Western-themed episode "Living in Harmony" was rejected for broadcast in the USA for reasons that remain unclear. Suggestions put forward include:
    • That it was an out-of-continuity episode and executives found it incomprehensible.
    • That said episode was about pacifism and was considered too controversial during the Vietnam War.
    • That the references to the Village's use of hallucinogenic drugs to help create Number Six's illusion of being in a Western setting were too explicit and were against Standards and Practices rules about depiction of drug use.
    • That the Western plot, in which Number Six's character kills the Kid in a gunfight, contravened Standards and Practices rules depictiing shootings by having both characters in shot when the gun was fired - supposedly rules at the time stated that such killings could only be depicted by cutting from the killer firing the gun to the victim falling
  • Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly - its July 18, 2017 episode was not aired by NBC's Connecticut station WVIT due to it featuring an interview with Alex Jones, who is extremely unpopular in the state for claiming that the Sandy Hook shootings were staged.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess - the episode "The Way" was edited after its initial airing due to the threat of a boycott in India. It turned out that the lobby group which protested was an American splinter group from the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, who objected to the depiction on-screen of the god Krishna, among other things, added to their perception of the two leads - Xena and Gabrielle - as lesbians (which was kept deliberately ambiguous by the producers). The only significant change was that a scene in which Xena attacks the monkey god Hanuman was shortened in order that Hanuman immediately restrains Xena instead of passively accepting several blows from her first; which was actually an improvement. A disclaimer was added to the beginning, and a nod to India's history and culture at the end. The splinter group was given a free advertisement during the first rebroadcast; they used it in part to say that they were not mollified. The edited version became now the official version. Meanwhile, in India, where the series also aired, there was no objection to either version as the most popular series in India at the time was a live-action telling of the Ramayana.
  • Sesame Street - this show was banned for a month in 1970 by Mississipi's PBS affiliate due to its multiracial cast.
  • Many Golden Age cartoons from Warner Bros., Disney, and MGM have been banned from broadcast due to stereotypical racist depictions of minority groups due to changing values. Cartoons of the time were not shy about insensitive portrayals of marginalized groups (particularly black people, Mexicans, Jews, and Asians) which could be incredibly sexist as well. Some of their wartime cartoons could be particularly nasty. Warner Bros. has a collection of cartoons called the Censored Eleven, which have been banned from airing on TV since 1968 mostly due to pervasive black stereotyping. However, most of them have were unofficially released on home video, particularly the ones whose copyright holders didn't bother renewing the copyright. You can also find them online, and some even have legitimate DVD releases.

Some examples of censorship on PBS kids are:

  • Arthur - the episode "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone/The Feud" was banned by the state PBS network in Alabama because of its first short focus on Mr. Ratburn's marriage with another man.
  • Postcards from Buster - the episode "Sugartime!", which featured a family which, in Buster's words, had "a lot of moms!", focused on producing maple syrup in Vermont (which was one of the first U.S. states to legalize same-sex marriage, or "civil unions" as they were called at the time). Apart from a short segment which focused on the fact that the children had a mom and stepmom, the couple was not the focus of the episode. However, PBS pulled the episode from the network schedule after the Secretary of Education threatened to pull the federal funding associated with the network, since "many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode". WGBH did distribute the episode to individual members who wanted to broadcast it, while some also aired it in primetime, accompanied by discussion of the controversy in a companion show.
  • Caillou had seven episodes which were not shown until Cartoonito bought the rights to it:
    • "Big Brother Caillou" was banned due to Caillou pinching Rosie. However, this scene was tame compared to the book that the episode was based on, where Caillou gets even more violent and bites Rosie.
    • "Caillou Walks Around the Block" was banned as Caillou's mom left him unattended, with Caillou wandering around the neighborhood by himself. In fact, due to the increasing reports of gun violence and child abductions, many neighborhoods in the US became more and more paranoid and discouraging or even outright barring free-range children, and in certain counties parents could be charged of neglect for allowing a child out of the house on his/her own.
    • "Caillou is Getting Older" was banned for the subject matter of death, fear of getting older, as well for a dead bird appearing on-screen, after just a couple of broadcasts on PBS early in its run.
    • "Caillou's Quarrel" was banned due to Clementine being bossy and Caillou fighting with her.
    • "Rosie Bothers Caillou" was banned for a while due to Caillou talking back to his mother, shoving Rosie out of his room and Rosie hitting repeatedly a book against a door (and contrary to what was posted on TV.com, Caillou did not actually hit Rosie with the book, otherwise the episode would not be aired in the first place, as this would be a depiction of domestic violence). The ban would be later rescinded episode was present on the PBS DVD release Caillou's Kitchen in 2018 under the title "Recipe for Fun."
    • "Caillou's Crossword" was banned due to the excessive use of the word "stupid", even though its usage was part of the episode's message. Strangely enough, some other preschool shows such as Peppa Pig, Stanley and Franklin got away with the word "stupid." However, those shows only use it once whereas Caillou uses it ten times in one episode, which would probably explain it. While "stupid" is obviously not a curse word, many preschool cartoons treat it as if it was one.
  • The Legend of Calamity Jane - this animated "kid's show" heavily hyped by its broadcaster, The WB, which was full of "family un-friendly" violence, such as guns, hangings, people being shot and explicit mentions of death, the Civil War, slavery, barely made to three episodes before the watchdogs made quick work of it. Nonetheless, it was entirely aired on Teletoon, north of the border, as Canada is considerably laxer in censorship guidelines which concern kid's shows than the US.
  • Some episodes of Pingu were not aired:
    • "Pingu's Lavatory Story", like in the UK, this episode was usually skipped due to depicting urination on-screen, though it is available on Amazon Video.
    • "Pingu's Dream" was banned as well, also like in the UK, due to the scary depiction of the walrus in the eponymous dream.
    • "Pingu Quarrels With His Mother" is sometimes skipped due to the scene of his mom slapping him. Like "Pingu's Lavatory Story", this episode also airs on Amazon Video.
    • "Pingu and the Doll" is banned because Pingu sticks a feather on his head and acts like a sterotypical Native American.

Video game censorship[]

Certain games have been censored by their developers or publisher in order to get a certain ESRB rating, or in order to make the game more family friendly and less controversial.

The ESRB's highest rating, "Adults Only", has been considered a total ban on the mainstream sale of certain games, as most retailers refuse to stock games carrying the rating, and they cannot be published on major video game consoles due to company policies. The release of Thrill Kill, an AO-rated fighting game with extreme violence and strong sexual themes, was outright cancelled by Electronic Arts (who had acquired its developer) due to objections over its content. Following the discovery of an incomplete sex minigame that was not included in the final game but was still present in the game's code and could be accessed using a modification or cheating device, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was re-rated Adults Only and recalled by Rockstar Games, in favor of a new revision of the game that omitted the offending content entirely and carried the original Mature rating.

  • Manhunt 2 - the PlayStation2 and Wii versions of this game were originally rated as "Adults Only" by the ESRB, which greatly limited the number of retailers who would carry it. Eventually, it was eventually censored enough for a "Mature" rating. The PC version however was released uncut.
  • As of 2018, Valve stated that it would only outright reject games that were blatantly illegal or "trolling" from being sold on Steam. However, in 2019, it rejected a game over "costs and risks" associated with its controversial subject matter. In a nutshell, Valve catches that if such game was allowed, Valve will have tremendously negative publicity. Said game was made by a troll who wanted to test how far Steam allowed sensitive subject matter to go (as hentai and school shooting games had previously been released on Steam due to Valve's notoriously lax policy).
  • For various reasons[Notes 1], Paseli, Konami's digital payment currency for its arcade games, is not used outside Japan and cannot be added to an e-Amusement account not registered as being in Japan, causing issues with Round1's official imports of Konami's BEMANI games in the United States, as they have increasingly included paywalls such as subscriptions and specific types of "premium" credits (intended to create additional revenue to make up for changes in Japanese tax laws) for specific in-game features. Also, it is pretty much standard for Japanese arcades to use cash (mostly via coin slots or contactless payments), while most North American arcades now tend to use tokens (physical, or stored on an arcade-specific card, not unlike Paseli). DanceDanceRevolution is exempted from this since A and A20, as the North American build remove said paywalls and makes the "Premium" mode accessible via coin mode. Round1 initially set their machines to have Premium require two credits worth of tokens, but this quickly changed[Notes 2].
  • Dance Rush in the U.S. was divided into "Light", "Standard" and "Premium" credits: light only consists of two songs, standards allows to unlock an Extra Stage, and premium allows users to play one song and record and/or edit a video of themselves playing it with the built-in camera and save it to their e-Amusement account for download. However, Standard is unavailable in the U.S. because of Paseli (even though the game is supported by multiple languages, it still uses the Japanese build as base, rather than the Asian builds, which allow Standard to be played via coin mode for two credits) and Premium is blocked in the U.S. due to concerns surrounding the Internet uploads and a U.S. law regarding online privacy of children (the same reason a lot of services just make it a bannable offense to even admit being under 13),
  • The Guy Game - this adult-oriented trivia, which featured women on the street during Spring Break having to remove their tops if they answer questions incorrectly, was pulled off the shelves after a 17-year-old girl in the game sued over the use of her likeness in promotion (the fact she was underage did not help matters). The remainder of the game's FMV footage was compiled into a DVD game titled The Guy Game: Game Over, which was sold exclusively on the developer's (now-defunct) website.
  • Too Human and X-Men: Destiny were banned after it was discovered by a court that Silicon Knights had plagiarized Epic Games' proprietary Unreal engine, using it in these games, along with other unreleased projects. The studio was ordered to recall and destroy all remaining copies, materials, and source code relating to the games.

Notes[]

  1. The U.S. arcade industry is vastly different from the Japanese industry. One major diffrence is that most games are rigidly networked via online platforms with profile card syst3ems and software updates, which are typically tied to revenue-sharing agreements. By contrast, most U.S. arcade games, besides certain titles such as Golden Tee, are not as rigidly networked, if at all, and mostly, arcade cabinets are typically bought or leased from a distributor, rather than as a service.  
  2. (Non-Japanese Asia-Pacific builds have similar changes, even if they still use either cash, U.S.-style tokens or card systems).

External links[]

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