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4 Cases of Censorship That Totally Changed the Message

Pop culture censorship is generally harmless: a series of bleeps, awkward silences, and amusing word alterations in the name of preventing Junior and Juniorette from hearing "fatherfucking cumsucking shitgobbler" until they're old enough to understand its subtle, poignant message.

But sometimes censorship crosses a line. Not because it "threatens freedom" or "oppresses thought," whatever that means. No, censorship commits a greater sin: It completely alters the story's message and, more often than not, makes life a little more boring.

#4. The Radio Transforms Eminem from Murderous Rapist Psychopath to Silly Prankster

Frank Micelotta/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The Original:

Before Eminem courageously told the world "I'm the real Slim Shady," he was a white dude with frosted hair two coordinated dance routines away from dreamy boy band status.

RCA, Kevin Winter/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"Sorry, we already have a 'bad boy.'"

The problem is that "My Name Is," Em's hit song, conjured up such delightful images as stapling a pedophile teacher's nuts to a stack of papers and inserting one's cock into a gentlemen's club's tip cup.

Then Came the Censors:

If Eminem were to become the poster child that years of criminal activity had undoubtedly prepared him to be, he needed to clean up his act. Thus, his label forced him to record an almost completely new song. And voila! Unlike the rape-obsessed psychopath his lyrics once evoked, the new Slim had turned into someone who was simply annoying, a meddling juvenile delinquent.

For instance, the lyrics "I don't give a fuck, God sent me to piss the world off" became "I don't give a damn, Dre sent me to tick the world off." While the former is scarily reminiscent of an angry school shooter, the latter seems to instead suggest "I, a God-fearing individual that believes 'tick off' is totally legitimate slang, am upset."

Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images
"Dear world, prepare to be ticked off.
Sincerely, Marshall Mathers, age (2)7"

In addition, where he previously rapped about his desire to murder his father, the new Eminem wonders if Mr. Mathers "bought a porno mag and seen my ad," evoking both a less violent and a far more sexually communicative relationship with his dad. And if you're wondering, dear reader, his old man did buy that magazine, and he did see his ad. And he felt very proud.

#3. American Bandstand Changes "Stagger Lee" from Cold-Blooded Killer to Whiny Crybaby

Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Original:

Based on the gruesome 1895 shooting of a dock worker, the murder ballad "Stagger Lee" describes a sinister fellow who kills a man over a gambling debt and a stolen Stetson hat. Surely this seems a strange motivation for homicide in our day, but to be fair, this was during the Great Derby Panic of '95, which tragically destroyed the precious headpieces of most Americans.

Dmitry_Tsvetkov/iStock/Getty Images
"Mommy, when I grow up, I want to be a homicidal badass."

The song immediately went viral 19th century style, with over 400 variations recorded. And in 1959, rock and roll singer Lloyd Price scored a mainstream hit with his version of the song, eventually performing it on American Bandstand.

Kind of.

Then Came the Censors:

Gary Wagner/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The lowest dance ability-to-person ratio ever photographed.

Into the blinding whiteness pictured above came Price, a black man singing about a black man killing a white man over a hat. As you might have guessed, there was a slight conflict of interest: Bandstand guru Dick Clark told Price his song was "too dark and scary" for his audience. If he wanted airtime, Price would have to do so on their terms. Their created-by-white-people-in-1957 terms.

The result was the first murder ballad in history to feature absolutely no murders. No longer were "two men gambling in the dark." Nope, now they were "arguing in the dark" because Billy stole Stag's girlfriend. But instead of grabbing his gun and hunting him some Billy, Lee "went home and he fell down on the floor/He said Billy did me wrong and I don't wanna see him no more." Yes, you read that correctly: He ran home to curl up on the floor and weep, as 30-something gun-wielding lunatics are wont to do. Luckily, Billy quickly came to his senses and gave Stag his girlfriend back, like the pre-feminism object she is. White America wept for joy.

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Jason Iannone

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