When Censorship Gets Ridiculous

November 21, 2013
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Things can get pretty serious over here at CBLDF. Whether it’s fighting to keep literature accessible in schools and libraries, or cartoonists literally fearing for their lives, censorship can have powerful negative implications.

Which is why, sometimes, it’s nice to take a step back to fathom just how ridiculous censorship can be. Luckily, humor-site Cracked.com has collected a list of the “The 5 Most Ridiculous Attempts to Censor Popular Cartoons.”

Did you know that not a single punch was thrown in the 1990s cartoon Spider-Man: The Animated Series? Apparently, over the course of five seasons, the only way Spider-Man could fight bad-guys was to wrestle them and tie them up. (And I never even noticed!) The producers set rules that stated characters “couldn’t throw punches, toss anyone through glass, put children in jeopardy, have anyone threatened by fire” (directives that uncomfortably parallel the Comics Code Authority guidelines of the 1950s). Character said “destroy” instead of “kill,” and rather than dying, Uncle Ben only moved to Canada. Other important restrictions included, “You may have a villain sent to jail, but you may NOT give him a bus ticket and send him to Florida.” Spare the children.

Apparently, in the 1980s, the U.K. was having a serious ninja crisis — to the point where mutant teenage turtles wielding nunchaku were simply far too inappropriate to air on TV. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was renamed Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, and Michelangelo got a “turtle line” instead of two sticks tied connected by a rope. Thankfully, ninjas are no longer a severe political threat to Queen and country, so more recent versions of the Ninja Turtles in the U.K. retain the original name.

Probably the most infuriating instance of censorship in this list is the case of “Judgement Day”, in the 1950s sci-fi anthology comic Weird Fantasy. In the story, an astronaut lands on an alien planet. He begins to explore, marveling at the segregation between the orange and blue robots — and the extreme unfair treatment of the latter, who are corralled into ghettos and forced to sit in the back of the bus. (Hmm, sounds poignant.) As the human astronaut flies away, hoping for this civilization to learn to live and work together, he takes off his helmet… revealing that he’s black.

And in a spectacular show of clearly missing the point, Judge Charles Murphy, the censor at the dreaded Comics Code Authority, insisted that the character’s skin color be changed to white. Thankfully, the editor and artist refused to listen to that nonsense and published the story anyway, completely untouched — though, tellingly, it was the last thing the company (EC Comics) ever published. Even today, our science fiction landscape is remarkably devoid of people of color, so huge props to EC for sticking to their guns and publishing the story anyway.

Click here for more examples from the Cracked.com article. Be sure to watch out for dangerous animated cow-udders — only slightly more fetishistic than an anthropomorphic cow in a dress. Also, swearing.

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Becca Hoekstra is a recent graduate working part-time at a community funded-radio station. Luckily, this gives her plenty of time to read, but isn’t helping her pay off any student loans.