Censorship is tricky: Without it, we as a society run the risk of irreparably scarring Little Jimmy with the sight of a single bare nipple amidst his usual afternoon TV fare of harmless, unending carnage. But if we go too far, we may just make the problem even worse. Like the time ...
When the Pokemon craze made its way to the U.S., some cultural adjustments were necessary to make it more accessible for the Western audience. A few names were changed, rice balls became donuts, blackface Pokemon became ... purpleface Pokemon?
And, strangest of all, Brock's mom came down with a sudden and terminal case of dead.
In the original version of the episode "Showdown In Pewter City," a creepy vagrant tells Ash that both of Brock's parents split on him, leaving him to support nine siblings with his state-sponsored animal abuse. For whatever reason, 4Kids Entertainment (the production company responsible for the English-language version of Pokemon) didn't think American children were emotionally capable of processing that kind of abandonment, so they decided it'd be better if his mom just died from grief and exhaustion instead.
There is a happy ending, however. The aforementioned creepy vagrant turns out to be Brock's absent father, Flint, who decides to be a dad again so Brock can leave behind his dependent siblings and travel the world with two preteens and their electric rat.
Now, here's the twist: The original creators of the show either didn't know or, far more likely, care what the American censors changed. So they eventually brought Brock's mother back. Rather than re-dub the character as a long-lost aunt or something, 4Kids just plowed ahead and hoped everyone had forgotten about Brock's dead mom. Something the twisted parallel universe American Brock probably wishes every single day.
Back in Nintendo's heyday, porting a game to the U.S. from the significantly less squeamish Japan meant scrubbing it of overly violent content, nudity, and vulgar language. For the most part, the changes didn't affect the gaming experience all that much -- this was the 8-bit to 16-bit era; no one was exactly pining for pixelated boobs -- but one policy in particular was just plain peculiar: Nintendo of America's blanket ban on religious symbols. It was most noticeable when it came to the Castlevania series, which, being a game about goddamned vampires, was rife with Christian imagery.
Most notably, the cross weapon became a boomerang (and a Krull lawsuit waiting to happen), and graveyards became strangely non-denominational.
So Nintendo's ridiculous religious censorship at once robbed Simon Belmont, vampire hunter, of the single most effective weapon for hunting vampires, while simultaneously demonstrating to impressionable children across America that everyone dies and God is a lie.
Gaumont International Television
Hannibal follows the carefree younger days of everyone's favorite cannibal psychopath, and it has all the violence and gore you'd expect from a show about a serial killer trying to catch other, slightly worse serial killers. One thing broadcast network NBC couldn't show alongside all the blood and guts and human butchery, though? Butts. Never butts.
Apparently, the partial nudity of horrifically slaughtered corpses had U.S. censors wringing their hands. For the most part, this kind of thing could be fixed by tossing in an extra shadow or two to edit out any errant boobies. But then we have Season 1, Episode 5, which revolves around a serial killer whose hobbies include jazz, long walks in the park, and flaying his victims' backs to transform them into headless, back-skin corpse-angels. The worst part of what we just described -- according to network censors, at least -- was that said victims were also nude and, as a result, had a little butt crack showing. Luckily, this was nothing even more blood couldn't fix.
Gaumont International Television
Take a close look at the two screenshots above. Really lean in there. Maybe ... maybe flick your tongue out and lick them a little, you weirdo.
Did you spot or possibly taste the difference?
If you said, "The second picture has the butts covered with even more gore," you're absolutely correct! You win a lifetime of psychological damage! Yep, at some point we as a nation collectively decided that "butt crack" ranked higher on our depravity meter than "skinned corpse."
Just like with Pokemon, Sailor Moon underwent a careful purge of anything remotely Japanese to make it America-ready: Anpan (a popular Japanese dessert roll that inexplicably involves beans) became hamburgers, some episodes were cut entirely, and one originally male villain now has a vagina.
Fish Eye, one of the villainous Amazon Trio, being gender-ambiguous is actually a pretty major plot point in the original anime. To be clear, the character is definitely packing a panty snake in Japan, but this was changed in the West because our children simply aren't capable of processing any sort of gender complexity. And, to be honest, the change really wouldn't have been all that noticeable ... if it weren't for the translation team's baffling choice to keep a single scene in which Fish Eye exposes himself to a room full of people in order to prove his dongedness.
In the original dialogue, this makes a modicum of sense -- Fish Eye is trying to prove that he just has very sparkly eyes and magnificent hair, but is otherwise properly equipped for the heteronormative world of fashion. However, this completely falls apart if the character is female. What we have now is the ostensibly much more family-friendly scene of a flat-chested woman exposing herself to a room full of people -- not to mention living rooms full of highly confused children -- well ... just because.
First appearing in 1940, The Spectre was a cop who, after being drowned in cement by gangsters, is resurrected as the physical embodiment of God's vengeance. The character didn't truly make his mark until the mid-'70s, when he came under the helm of editor Joe Orlando, who had previously been pushed out of a job at horror imprint EC Comics thanks to the Comics Code Authority's draconian rules against depicting violence and, to the surprise of nobody, apparently harbored some kind of grudge about that.
While helming Adventure Comics for DC, Orlando discovered a loophole in the Code: If the people being killed weren't actually human at the time, then it didn't count as depicting murder. Now he was working on The Spectre stories, so he tasked his team -- writer Michael Fleisher and artist Jim Aparo -- with dreaming up the most gruesome ways possible to murder bad guys. Luckily, The Spectre can bend reality to his will, so he can make it so none of his victims are technically human. Funny how that works.
Then there's the time he transforms a crook into a block of wood and hacks him apart with a buzz saw:
This Fleisher/Aparo insanity inspired future generations to get even more brutal with the character. In the early '90s, The Spectre introduces his own variation on the "Just Say No" campaign by turning a group of drug dealers into his own fingers and then shooting up with fire to charbroil them alive. Yes, that sentence is correct. Here, just look at it:
Since all the victims in these scenes aren't technically human when the Spectre butchers them, they didn't count. Every comic featuring these ghastly scenes proudly bears the Comics Code Authority seal of approval. So, kids, the lesson here is that it's totally fine to burn folks alive ...
... so long as you tell the cops they were actually plastic at the time.
Zoroastrianism used to be one of the biggest religions in the world, but their idea of heaven had a slight twist on it: To get there you'd have to cross a bridge, sometimes rickety, sometimes wide and sturdy. If you fell off, you'd go to the House of Lies for eternity. Fun! Not terrifying at all! This month, Jack, Dan, and Michael, along with comedians Casey Jane Ellison and Ramin Nazer discuss their favorite afterlife scenarios from movies, sci-fi, and lesser-known religions. Get your tickets here, and we'll see you on the other side of the bridge!
For more times we should've left the censors out of it, check out 5 Insane Examples Of Censorship Backfiring Hilariously and 4 Cases Of Censorship That Totally Changed The Message.
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