Censorship on MTV
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Censorship on MTV has been the subject of debate for years. MTV, the first and most popular music television network in the U.S., has come under criticism for being too politically correct and sensitive, censoring too much of their programming. MTV altered or removed shows from the channel's schedule and music videos were censored, moved to late-night rotation, or banned entirely from the channel.
MTV came under criticism for being too politically correct and sensitive when it came to censorship. This was most prevalent in the eventual decline of the hit show Jackass. The creators of Jackass often felt that MTV's producers did not let the show run its free course due to the excessive restraints placed on the Jackass team.
MTV's influence also affected its famous animated program, Beavis and Butt-head. In the wake of controversy that followed a child burning down his house after allegedly watching the show, "producers moved the show from its original 7 p.m. time slot to a late-night, 11 p.m. slot. Also, Beavis' tendency to flick a lighter and scream the word "fire" was removed from new episodes, and controversial scenes were removed from existing episodes before rebroadcast. Some of the edits were so extensive that when series creator Mike Judge compiled his Collection DVDs he found out that "some of those episodes may not even exist actually in their original form".
Religion and race
In the 1980s, parent-media watchdog groups such as the PMRC criticized MTV over certain music videos that were claimed to have explicit imagery of Satanism. MTV has developed a strict policy on refusal to air videos that may depict devil worship or anti-religious bigotry. This led MTV to ban the videos for "Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden and "Megalomaniac" by Incubus.
Censored music videos
MTV has also heavily edited a number of music videos to remove references in lyrics to drugs, sex, nudity, violence, weapons, racism, homophobia, or advertising, and completely edits out the swearwords. MTV will also censor any content that is a concern to copyright holders. Examples of such edits have included:
- The ending of Robbie Williams' song Rock DJ in 2000, had its last part heavily censored, which starts with a naked Robbie Williams stripping off his (prosthetic) skin while dancing until he becomes a skeleton because of gory content.
- In the song "Beautiful Girls" by Sean Kingston, the word "suicidal" was altered to "in denial".
- In Michael Jackson's single "They Don't Care About Us", MTV has replaced the words "Jew me" and "kike me" with "do me" and "strike me" in the line "Jew me, sue me... kick me, kike me; don't you black or white me". Jackson argued that the song used the words to describe prejudice and that it was poor judgment to select Jewish people as explanatory words.
- "Express Yourself" by N.W.A censored the words "I Have a Dream" (the words were not censored prior to 1993 when it aired on Yo! MTV Raps) when the group goes through the banner with the statement (this particular scene was based on the Shell Oil Company's Shell Answer Man commercials during the early 1980s, in which an automobile drives through the banner with the closing Come to Shell for Answers) while Dr. Dre began rhyming. It was N.W.A's second video ever released on MTV, its first being Straight Outta Compton, which also stirred up controversy as MTV refused to play the video due to the profanity and violent lyrics in the song. An edited version of the song was featured on the video.
- Hawthorne Heights' song "Ohio Is for Lovers" has the word "cut" edited out in the lyrics "Cut my wrists and black my eyes, so I can fall asleep tonight."
- "This Love" by Maroon 5 had the words "coming" and "sinking" edited out of the lyrics due to possible content.
- The song "Teenagers" by My Chemical Romance had the words "gun", "murder", "shirt", and "pay" censored because of the attack on Virginia Tech (in addition to the usual removal of profanities).
- When the music video for "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. was released on MTV, the word "weed" was removed from the second verse, and the gunshot sounds that are heard in the chorus were replaced with cash register sounds in order to remove references to murder. Also, the singer's vocals were edited to take away from the song's mature content. This angered M.I.A. greatly, and she publicly spoke out against the censorship of the song on her Myspace blog. In 2012, another M.I.A. video was censored and edited for MTV. In the "clean" version of the video for "Bad Girls", guns were not shown and the word "blow" was cut out of the line "don't go screaming if I blow you with a bang."
- "We Are All on Drugs" and "Hash Pipe" by Weezer have had censored versions in rotation on MTV. "We Are All on Drugs" had every lyric with the words 'on drugs' altered to 'in love'. This resulted in the lyrics not matching the words mouthed by the music video actors. Also, during part of the video, a newspaper was shown with the song title used as the headline. This was completely censored. Respectively, in "Hash Pipe", the word "hash" was removed. It became popularly alternatively known and introduced as "...pipe" or "Halfpipe" on TRL although the censorship remained the same.
- The song "Hip Hop Is Dead" by Nas was censored when the lines "I'll put an extended clip inside of my AK" were changed to "I'll put an extended ... and ... 'em all day". The lines "murder the DJ" were also changed to "wreck the DJ".
- "45" by Shinedown was heavily edited to remove the lyrics "the barrel of a .45" and "ashes of another life" from the chorus, forcing the title card of the video to refer to the song by the MTV-originated title "Staring Down..." Singer Brent Smith later stated that he felt the editing was not only hypocritical in light of other unedited videos MTV played but that the editing blurred the message of the song and that if they did not wish to play the song as it was written, they should have refrained from playing it at all. Though the edited version of the video was aired a few times without the artists' consent, the song was eventually pulled from the airwaves. This censorship of the Shinedown song is especially perplexing, because, over a half-decade earlier, Depeche Mode's 1997 music video for the song "Barrel of a Gun" was not censored on music video channels or radio; the similarly-worded chorus "I've been staring down the barrel of a gun" caused no concern or controversy for MTV (who frequently played the video in heavy rotation).
- "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot has the lyrics "dial 1-900" censored, along with a background sound effect preceding an image of a banana (which could be deemed as a reference to fellatio).
- "Who's Real" by Jadakiss has the word "eights" (referring to 28-inch tire rims) censored.
- "Cradle of Love" by Billy Idol - the first version aired on MTV had scenes from the Andrew Dice Clay film The Adventures of Ford Fairlane featured in the video - Clay's lifetime ban imposed by the network after his September 1989 appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards also prohibits airing all Clay-related media. The only exception to the rule is EMF's music video for the song Unbelievable where Clay's "oh!" exclamation was used throughout the song.
- "Guilty Conscience" by Eminem featuring Dr. Dre contains lyrics like "leave her on the front porch" and "slip this in her drink" that were censored out on MTV, as well as the murder at the end.
- "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" by Katy Perry has the words "ménage à trois" cut out completely without being replaced by other lyrics.
- Songs like "Your Love Is My Drug" by Kesha and "I Need a Doctor" by Dr. Dre have the words "crack" or "cracked" removed.
- "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People was edited to remove references to the song's subject daring people to "outrun my gun" and to run "faster than my bullet", which was misconstrued by some who had not heard the song previously as editing a profanity out rather than a weapons reference.
- In 2012, Rita Ora's "How We Do (Party)" was censored, having the words "Drunk sex", "shot of Jack", and "smoking" silenced from the audio, supplementing the removal of the usual profanities.
- The word "drank" in Kirko Bangz's "Drank in My Cup" is censored.
- "Last Resort" by Papa Roach was heavily censored. In addition to the usual removal of profanities, words cut out include "cut", "suffocation", "breathing", "arm", "bleeding", "take", and "suicide".
- In "Can't Remember to Forget You" by Shakira and Rihanna, MTV blurred out the cigarettes that the 2 artists were smokers.
- In "Rather Be" by Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne, MTV blurred out the cigarette that a man was smoking.
- In "G.U.Y." by Lady Gaga, MTV blurred out the face of Jesus Christ, who appeared briefly.
Videos moved to late-night or obscure rotation
To deal with criticism over risque content in certain videos, MTV moved certain videos to late-night rotation in censored format. Such videos included "If I Could Turn Back Time" by Cher and "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot.
In February 2004, following the controversial Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in which performer Justin Timberlake caused the exposure of a breast of co-performer Janet Jackson, MTV made several efforts to limit daytime rotation of music videos that it felt had too much sexual content to be shown following the controversy. Such videos included "This Love" by Maroon 5, "Splash Waterfalls" by Ludacris, "The Jump Off" by Lil' Kim, "Toxic" by Britney Spears, "I Miss You" by Blink-182, "Salt Shaker" by Ying Yang Twins, and "Hotel" by Cassidy. Additionally, the video for "Megalomaniac" by Incubus was pushed back not because of sexual content but because of depictions of German leader Adolf Hitler and people drinking oil. Madonna's "Erotica" was aired on MTV only after midnight because of its sexual and dark scenes. In an interview, Madonna said she agreed with MTV's attitude about the video: “I know that the themes I'm exploring in the video are not for children, so I understand that they can't play it earlier.” Also, the video for "Smack My Bitch Up" by The Prodigy was initially given late-night rotation on MTV's 120 Minutes due to a fistfight, sexual scenes and allegedly misogynistic language in the lyrics but was removed from rotation after one week, a decision supported by the feminist group National Organization for Women. The song "Étienne" by Guesch Patti was moved to late-night rotation in MTV Europe due to a striptease scene. The video "Prison Sex" by Tool was shown only on MTV's former rock-oriented digital cable channel MTVX due to sexual and violent content, but went on to be nominated for an MTV Video Music Award in 1995 for Best Special Effects. Alleged glorification of gun violence led MTV to show an edited version of the video "99 Problems" by Jay-Z only between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Only MTV2 would play the Public Enemy video "Gotta Give the Peeps What They Need" because it contained a line "free Mumia."
Banned music videos
From MTV in the United States
- "45" (Shinedown) – ban requested by the band itself.
- "A Tout Le Monde" (Megadeth) – despite Dave Mustaine stating the song was not about suicide, the music video was banned nevertheless due to the questionable lyrics.
- "Agenda Suicide" (The Faint)
- "Alejandro" (Lady Gaga) – aired on MTV Hits
- "American Life" (Madonna) – replaced with a second version
- "Amsterdam" (Van Halen) – although the lyrics of drug use was edited out for the video, MTV still refused to show it
- "Arise" (Sepultura) – banned for apocalyptic religious imagery, including crucified figures wearing gas masks.
- "Arma-Goddamn-Motherfuckin-Geddon" (Marilyn Manson)
- "Be Chrool to Your Scuel" (Twisted Sister) – banned for showing zombies in a school engaging in suggestive acts.
- "Body Language" (Queen) – due to its content
- "Born to Die" (Lana Del Rey) – the video contained a scene in which Del Rey is killed in a car crash
- "By The Time I Get To Arizona" (Public Enemy) – banned since January 1992 due to its reference of political assassination (the video featured a politician who dies of poisoning and where the Governor of Arizona is killed by a car bomb), in this case, the Governor of the State of Arizona for not recognizing Martin Luther King Day.
- "California" (Wax) – banned only during the daytime for depicting a man running in slow motion while engulfed in flames
- "Chris Benoit" (Insane Clown Posse) – banned since September 2012 due to the controversy of the Chris Benoit double murder and suicide. The Chris Benoit music video has not appeared on MTV.
- "Closer" (Nine Inch Nails) – banned for graphic content in the lyrics involving sex and for the music video containing nudity, a monkey tied to a cross, and other content; was shown on MTV2 (late at night) for a lineup of the most controversial music videos.
- "Cocoon" (Björk)
- "Coma White" (Marilyn Manson)
- "Constance" (Mr. J. Medeiros)
- "Erotica" (Madonna) – banned from the MTV music channel but later seen in the Beavis and Butt-head episode "Door to Door"
- "Ghost Ride It" (Mistah F.A.B.)
- "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" (Eamon) – no longer appearing on YouTube and MTV.
- "Fuck You" (Cee Lo Green) – never appearing on MTV videos due to strong lyrics. The clean version (Forget You) was banned from the air.
- "Girls, Girls, Girls" (Mötley Crüe) – replaced by a second version
- "Girls on Film" (Duran Duran) – original version banned for containing female nudity and sexual acts.
- "Happiness in Slavery" (Nine Inch Nails) – banned for showing a naked man being sexually aroused by a machine, which then tortures him to death via mutilations and stabbings.
- "Hey, Mister" (Custom)
- "Hot in the City" (Billy Idol)
- "Hurricane" (Thirty Seconds to Mars) – aired on MTV2, still heavily edited
- "I Want to Break Free" (Queen) – originally aired on MTV but banned due to cross dressing and the song hinting at homosexuality
- "I'll Save You All My Kisses" (Dead or Alive)
- "In My Darkest Hour" (Megadeth) – banned for alleged suicide references.
- "Janie's Got A Gun" (Aerosmith) – banned because it featured violent scenes and alleged incest sexual abuse.
- "Jesus Christ Pose" (Soundgarden) – banned for depicting a blindfolded girl and a mechanical skeleton on a cross, followed by several crosses that flashed repeatedly from upright to inverted positions.
- "Justify My Love" (Madonna) – banned for containing explicit imagery of sadomasochism, voyeurism, and bisexuality.
- "Lacquer Head" (Primus) – banned for lyrics describing minors using drugs; the music video also featured a kid watching TV while a devilish creature administers some gasoline to the kid, who then explodes into a frenzy (with the creature riding on him) and ultimately crashing in to a wall, burning to ashes.
- "Low" (Foo Fighters)
- "M+M's" (blink-182) – replaced with a second version
- "Madhouse" (Anthrax) – banned because it showed people smoking and people with mental illnesses
- "Nobody Knows Kelli" (Young Black Teenagers)
- "Pagan Poetry" (Björk) – eventually shown in unedited form on MTV2 in a presentation of the "20 Most Controversial Music Videos"
- "Prison Sex" (Tool) – banned from the MTV music channel but later seen in the Beavis and Butt-head episode "Career Day")
- "Quote Unquote" (Mr. Bungle) – banned for showing disturbing, scary content of clowns being hanged or the like (later shown on MTV Two's 120 Metal Minutes).
- "Reckoning Day" (Megadeth)
- "Refuse/Resist" (Sepultura) – banned for showing violence including riots and disorder.
- "S&M" (Rihanna) – banned due to strong sexually-oriented imagery and lyrics. The video was also restricted to adults only on YouTube for the same reason.
- "(s)AINT" (Marilyn Manson) – banned for showing graphic content including nudity, sex, drug use, and self-harm.
- "She" (Tyler the Creator)
- "She's a Bitch" (Missy Elliott) – banned since December 1999, never appearing on MTV.
- "Sinner" (Drowning Pool)
- "Six, Six, Six" (DeGarmo and Key)
- "Smack My Bitch Up" (The Prodigy) – banned for depicting violence, drugs, and extreme nudity including graphic sex
- "Spit It Out" (Slipknot)
- "Straight Outta Compton" (N.W.A.) – rejected due to excessive violence.
- "Sunshowers" (M.I.A.)
- "Swing, Swing" (The All-American Rejects) – aired with a censored version
- "The Final Solution: Slavery's Back in Effect" (Sister Souljah)—banned because of inflammatory imagery, which included overt depictions of guns and bullets
- "The Hate that Hate Produced" (Sister Souljah)—banned because of inflammatory imagery, which included overt depictions of guns, bullets, Klansmen, and racial unrest
- "The Impaler" (Winds of Plague)
- "The Price of Beauty" (Suicide Silence)
- "Tonight (I'm Fuckin' You)" (Enrique Iglesias) [Including "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)" - Clean Version of The Song]
- "Tormented Mind" (Burning Human)
- "Worlock" (Skinny Puppy) – banned for copyright infringement and graphic violence.
- "What It Feels Like for a Girl" (Madonna)
- "Wild Night Tonight" (Skafish)
- "Wish You Were Here" (Incubus) – replaced by a second version
- "War All the Time" (Thursday)
- "You're All I Need" (Mötley Crüe) – banned due to depiction of a graphic scene where a guy kills his wife. An edited version of the video aired, removing the graphic scene
- "You Are What You Is" (Frank Zappa) – banned for depicting the execution of a Ronald Reagan look-alike in an electric chair but later shown during an episode of Beavis and Butt-head
From MTV in Europe
- "Bombs" (Faithless)
- "Bück dich" (Rammstein)
- "My Favourite Game" (The Cardigans, later replaced by endings three and five)
- Censorship & Scandals: Beavis & Butt-head
- Mike Judge (2005). Beavis and Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection Volume 1 Taint to Greatness the Journey of Beavis and Butt-head (Part 1) (DVD).
- "I Want My Foul TV" (Press release). Parents Television Council. 2005-08-11. Retrieved 2006-04-16.
- Kuhn, Katherine (2007-09-07). "So You Think You Can Rate a TV Show? - "The Hills"". Parents Television Council. Archived from the original on 2007-10-03. Retrieved 2007-09-14.
- Prato, Greg. "Jesus Christ Pose" review. Allmusic
- Cave, Damien (February 23, 2004). "MTV Under Attack by FCC". Rolling Stone.
- Williams 2005, pp. 6, 8 The report mentioned that "nigga" was censored out of the videos "Freak-a-Leek" by Petey Pablo (p. 6) and "My Band" by D12. (p. 8).
- Making the Band 2 Episode Summaries
- MTV.com - think - Discrimination -> Racism
- Williams 2005, p. 8 In this case, a reference to crack cocaine was removed from the video for "My Band" by D12.
- Nuzum 2001, pp. 91–92
- Group, Vibe Media (November 2007). "20 Questions". Vibe 15 (11). p. 144
- Michael Jackson videography on JacksonAction.com
- "ADL Welcomes Michael Jackson's Decision to Remove Anti-Semitic Lyrics from Song" (Press release). Anti-Defamation League. 1995-06-22. Retrieved 2007-06-23.
- Hawthorne Heights - "Ohio Is for Lovers" | Music Video | Videos by Hawthorne Heights | MTV
- Williams 2005, p. 7
- - Hip Hop Is Dead ft. will.i.am Video on YouTube
- Jadakiss - Who's Real ft. Swizz Beatz, OJ Da Juiceman on YouTube
- Richard Huff (28 June 2011). "MTVU censors Foster the People's music video hit 'Pumped Up Kicks'". NY Daily News. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
- "Prodigy Video To Air On MTV As Controversy Continues". MTV News. 1997-12-04. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
- MTV Explains Decision To Pull Prodigy
- "La Discothèque du 20è siècle", 1988, Polygram Direct, p. 14
- The Tool Page: Prison Sex Video
- The Tool page: Circus magazine, January, 1997
- Rotter, Jeffrey (May 9, 2004). "Jay-Z Wants to Kill Himself". The New York Times. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
- Serpick, Evan (November 5, 2002). "Play It Again". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
- "Chuck D Speaks About MTV and Fighting the Power". September 27, 2002. Archived from the original on August 5, 2004.
- The Realms of Deth - Other Megadeth Music Videos
- "Youtube Comments: The Faint". Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- McLernon, Matt (2003-03-31). "MTV hurts war effort with censorship". DailyOrange.com. The Daily Orange. Retrieved 2007-05-28.
- Rivadavia, Eduardo. ""Arise" - Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-08-03.
- Prato, Greg. "Come Out and Play" review. Allmusic: 1999
- Nuzum 2001, p. 95
- Kulkarni, Dhananjay. Madonna - Controversies continued... Buzzle.com: May 14, 2004
- Liu, Marian (2007-05-14). "Mistah F.A.B. walks the walk". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2007-05-26. "MTV asked for edit after edit on the video, and eventually banned it. Columbia Pictures, which owns the "Ghostbusters" franchise, demanded the video be pulled because it still owned the rights to the likeness of the "Ghostbusters" car and logo, which were altered but used in the video."
- The Realms of Deth - Megadeth Videography - Rusted Pieces
- Chonin, Neva (2001-03-23). "Madonna's No 'Pussy Cat': MTV bans her latest video, again". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-05-26. ""What It Feels Like For a Girl" was rejected for heavy rotation by MTV and its affiliate VH1. Too violent, they say. This, from a corporation that makes a mint off marketing gangsta culture to the suburban masses."
- Gundersen, Edna (2003-08-07). "Primus exerts 'Animal' magnetism". USA Today.
- The Realms of Deth - Other Megadeth Music Videos
- Nuzum 2001, p. 92
- Bitch Banned From MTV
- M.I.A., No Loss For Words
- MetalSucks – Suicide Silence, "The Price of Beauty"
- "Cardigan's Crash video banned". NME. September 8, 1998. Retrieved February 27, 2011.