“Won’t somebody please think of the children?” It’s the catchphrase of Helen Lovejoy, a character from The Simpsons. It also seems to be the rallying cry of the Russian Federation. Recent legislation intended to protect children from harmful information is now affecting programming on a national television channel. The Simpsons is one of the shows slated for censorship.
Russian television channel 2×2 plans to censor The Simpsons in accordance with the Protection of Children from Harmful Information Act. The law places a ban “on information that might cause fear, anger, or panic; justify violence and unlawful behavior; or cause a desire to use drugs, alcohol, or otherwise harm one’s health.” Networks cannot broadcast programming containing violence, profanity, sexual content, drinking or smoking between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m. local time. Rather than air The Simpsons at a different time, 2×2 plans to remove all scenes that feature The Itchy & Scratchy Show, a violent spoof cartoon watched by Bart and Lisa Simpson. Lev Makarov, general director at 2×2, says that they plan to retouch shows that contain scenes prohibited by the new law. Also targeted is the cartoon South Park, which will no longer air before 11 p.m.
Anime News Network reports that 2×2 came under fire in the past for some of the programming in its lineup. In 2008, a Protestant group wanted the station’s broadcast license revoked because they felt the content of shows like South Park and Ikkitousen, an anime series, promoted violence and child pornography. A Russian censorship board also investigated showings of the anime series GTO. The National Expert Commission for Protecting Public Morality made a similar move in the Ukraine. They have targeted SpongeBob Squarepants, Teletubbies, Shrek, and South Park for censorship, and previously set their sights on The Simpsons.
Censorship for the sake of the children is not new, but from Russia and the Ukraine to Japan heavier restrictions are placed on content targeted toward children. Lost in this fervor is the fact that not all of the targeted material is meant for children. What starts out as an effort to protect one segment of society ends in suppression that affects the whole of society.
Soyini A. Hamit is a comic fan, a writer, and a 2015 J.D. candidate at Phoenix School of Law. You can follow her fascination with language and music at soyinianika.com.