6 Sneaky Ways Movies and TV Shows Outsmarted the Censors

We all assume that, to some degree, movies and TV shows are being held back by the tyrannical hand of censorship, and most of the time we're right. But some creatives aren't so easy to push around -- they have a message, dammit, and they'll do anything they can to get it to the people, even if it means lies, deception, or hot interracial make-out sessions. They'll take that bullet ... for art.

#6. William Shatner Forced NBC to Air the First Interracial Kiss

NBC

In 1968, the Star Trek cast and ocrew were filming the episode "Plato's Stepchildren," which featured aliens using mind control to force Captain Kirk (William Shatner) to make out with Communications Officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). You know: standard classic Star Trek stuff. Star Trek just wasn't Star Trek if Kirk wasn't being goaded by an alien god into some sort of sexual harassment. But when it came time to shoot that scene, the director and some NBC suits got uncomfortable -- not because of the weird consent issues (this was the '60s, after all; slapping a woman was considered foreplay), but because Nichols is black. Up until that point, scripted interracial kisses on television just weren't done. The actors wanted to shoot the scene as it was, but since they weren't in charge, there was only one thing they could do: sabotage.

NBC
No, not by blowing up the studio. They didn't have the budget.

Show creator Gene Roddenberry had suggested a compromise: they'd shoot two versions of the scene, one with the kiss, and one with a hug, and use whichever worked better. Everyone knew which version NBC was going to want to use, but luckily Shatner had a plan. See, a director can't see exactly what the camera is picking up -- only the camera operator can. So while they were shooting the versions of the scene that would preserve the purity of the white race, Shatner positioned himself so that the director couldn't see his face, stared right into the camera, and made a bunch of stupid faces.

NBC
Stupider than usual, which is really saying something.

The director, thinking he'd won, immediately called a wrap and sent everyone home. It wasn't until they were going over the dailies that they realized what had happened. They were forced to run the scene as originally scripted, resigning themselves to having to face an explosion of controversy that (twist!) never happened.

Truly, it was a leap forward for human rights, although whether Shatner was fighting for the progression of society or just couldn't stand to miss an opportunity to get busy on national television is anybody's guess.

#5. The MPAA Accidentally Made South Park More Disgusting

Paramount Pictures

Given the track record of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's show South Park, it's no surprise that the MPAA changed their movie a lot -- but no one expected those changes to make the movie dirtier. According to Stone and Parker, every time the MPAA told them a scene was too raunchy for an R-rating, they'd submit what they thought was even worse, and, to their surprise, the more disgusting example was always given the green light.

via Letters of Note
"Cum-sucking ass"? Out. "Donkey-raping shiteater"? In!

For example, there's a scene in the movie where the kids discover a porn flick starring Cartman's mother. Originally the video was of a woman having sex with a horse, but after the MPAA shot it down, they resubmitted a longer version where she ate human feces. They meant it as a big fat "fuck you for trying to tell us what to do," but the censors thought it was fine.

The same thing supposedly happened with the title: The original name was South Park: All Hell Breaks Loose, but since movies aren't allowed to have "hell" in the title (a rule the MPAA has steadfastly defended forever without compromise), they resubmitted it as South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut -- which was accepted. The MPAA denies this, of course, because otherwise they'd have to admit that they let a boner joke slip past them unchanged, and we all know the MPAA never lets a boner slip by untouched.

Paramount Pictures
That thing in the bed isn't a boner either. It's a toy.

Stone goes so far as to say that this trend is the main reason we've never seen a director's cut of their movie -- all the nastiest stuff they thought up actually made it into the theaters. The actual "uncut" version would be, if anything, tamer.

#4. The Maltese Falcon Used Secret Gay Slang to Gay Up the Whole Genre

Warner Bros.

The Maltese Falcon set the gold standard for the film noir genre. Take the foppish villain character, Joel Cairo, for example: Vaguely homosexual villains are sadly all too common in modern cinema, but it was unusual for the time. The difference here is that Cairo, played with marvelous sliminess by Peter Lorre, was not "vaguely homosexual" or otherwise ambiguous at all -- he was, for the time, flamboyant, at one point even openly fellating a cane until Humphrey Bogart, plainly uncomfortable with the natural love between a man and a walking stick, looks away in disgust.

Warner Bros.
That's why he was billed as the mysterious "Marmite miner."

It might not seem outlandish now, but at the time the film was released, any reference to homosexuality was explicitly banned by a strict doctrine of censorship rules known as the Hays Code. And that's not all The Maltese Falcon got away with: Toward the unraveling climax of the film, Sam Spade looks directly at one of the more weaselly henchmen and calls him a hobo's gay sex slave. Did you miss that classic line? Can't picture Bogart casually slurring "You like it from the bum in more ways than one, fella"? That's understandable, considering that the line in question only made it into the film because no one involved in censoring at the time understood gay slang.

Here's Sam Spade referring to Wilmer Cook as a "gunsel" (an old hobo term for a submissive young gay man): "Let's give him the gunsel. He actually did shoot Thursby and Jacoby, didn't he?" Notice the careful way that's worded -- the unfamiliar term, in context, seems to imply that "gunsel" means something like "gunslinger." And to be fair, it kinda did -- just not the type of "guns" the censors were thinking of. None of them bothered to take the time to whip out the Big Gay Dictionary of Hobo Sex Slang to confirm.

Merriam-Webster
Today, not even the dictionary remembers the pre-Falcon usage.

It turns out the mistake had precedent: The exact same trick had worked for author Dashiell Hammett years earlier when he was writing the hard-boiled detective novel The Maltese Falcon was based on. His editor left "gunsel" in because he, like the Hays Code guys, didn't recognize the word.

Even more ridiculous, the word "gunsel" started catching on in other detective thrillers ... as a reference to a hired gun. And that's why all of our modern thugs are flamboyant homosexuals. It's true -- just ask the next time you see one. They'll be happy to confirm.

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