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.
The Radio Transforms Eminem from Murderous Rapist Psychopath to Silly Prankster
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.
"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."
"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.
American Bandstand Changes "Stagger Lee" from Cold-Blooded Killer to Whiny Crybaby
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.
"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.
Then Came the Censors:
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.
The Chinese Version of The Karate Kid Villainizes the Americans and Makes the Chinese Heroes
The 2010 remake of The Karate Kid inherited the original's genre-defining plotline: child is bullied, wise old Asian man teaches child karate, child defeats bullies, Will Smith receives producer credit. But in China, many people had a problem with the movie, which depicted them as villainous yet confident martial artists rather than poor, terrified citizens facing strict limits on childbirth.
So, drumroll please ...
Why attend movie premieres when you can easily be Photoshopped into them?
Then Came the Censors:
Demanding that The Karate Kid meet its lofty cinematic standards, the Chinese government edited the film so that any scene portraying Chinese kids as bullies was cut. However, all of the fight scenes were left intact, with Jaden Smith now appearing as if he'd started them without any provocation.
Jaden, I can't tell if you're great at Twitter or a complete asshole,
but I'll say this much: You sure as hell know how to capitalize words.
The evil Chinese kung fu master received a similar makeover. The brutal, morally dubious teacher was replaced with a strong, stoic, and proud one, like a father who could never tell his son he loved him. Having said that, the master is still shown teaching young children how to physically harm one another via ancient, time-proven killing techniques, so the jury's still out on this guy.
"The first rule of kung fu is you do not talk about kung fu."
Weirdly enough, the Chinese government kept the ending, meaning that Jaden, the wicked American born of a woman presumably out of wedlock, won the big tournament. I'm not sure what kind of message this sends the Chinese public, but at the end of the day, the Chinese censored-movie business is still a business. And God knows those were some cool action scenes.
Publishers Remove Final Chapter of A Clockwork Orange, Alex Never Redeems Himself
After raping a woman, murdering another, and ruining Beethoven for classical music enthusiasts everywhere, Alex, the main character/sociopath in Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, eventually transforms into a very good boy indeed. But not because of the infamous "force him to watch violence until he hates violence" experiment shown:
The real torture is being forced to sit in the front row, where the image looks wonky.
No, in this version, Alex renounces violence by -- wait for it -- growing up. Now mellowed out and mature, he pledges to settle down, start a family, and only kill people if they really, really deserve it. How's that for a character arc?
Then Came the Censors:
When Burgess tried to release his book in the U.S. in the mid-'60s, the publishers decided that optimism and hope weren't realistic enough. As they saw it, masochistic American audiences wouldn't "get" Alex's redemption. After all, villains don't magically evolve into pleasant, law-abiding citizens: They stay evil for all eternity and occasionally go into politics.
"I partake in all kinds of intolerance. Except, of course, lactose intolerance."
And just like that, American publishers simply deleted the chapter. No clever editing, no forced rewriting, nothing. For over 20 years, American editions of A Clockwork Orange ended the moment Alex realized he had much more violence and rape to commit, thereby emphasizing the novel's pessimistic tone (and increasing the chances for a possible sequel). And thanks to Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film based on it, the censored Clockwork Orange is far more famous than the original. So, you might have lost the battle, Burgess, but you also lost the war.
No eye clamps necessary. This guy just loves watching violence.