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. Throughout the decades, MTV has altered or removed shows from the channel's schedule to address complaints; and music videos have been censored, moved to late-night rotation, or banned from the channel's rotation for various types of controversial content.

Censorship in full-length programming[edit]

The hit show Jackass was subject to frequent censorship in the early 2000s. The popularity of the show, combined with the propensity of young viewers to attempt to imitate the show's risky stunts, led to substantial controversy. Although the show featured prominent warning messages at its start, end, and upon return from all commercial breaks urging viewers not to re-create any stunts seen on the program, the show was nonetheless blamed for many injuries. In 2001, then-Senator Joe Lieberman urged Viacom to take more responsibility for the program's content;[1] which led MTV to only air the show after 10 p.m. The creators of Jackass expressed frustration over the restraints that MTV's producers imposed on stunts after Lieberman's statement. These limitations eventually led to the departure of several cast members, and to the conclusion of the show. [2]

MTV's influence also affected its famous animated program, Beavis and Butt-Head. In the wake of a 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. 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.[3] Some of the edits were so extensive that when series creator Mike Judge compiled his Collection DVDs he commented that "some of those episodes may not even exist actually in their original form".[4]

The Parents Television Council has argued that much of the censored material on MTV is easily discernible because of the context in which it is presented.[5][6]

Censored music videos[edit]

MTV has frequently edited music videos to remove lyrical references to drugs,[7] sex, nudity, violence, weapons, homophobia, suicide, religion or advertising, and completely edits out swear words.[8] Usually, all racial slurs are censored on MTV music videos[9] and programming,[10] and MTV has emphasized racial tolerance for people of all races and creeds.[11]

Examples of lyric edits have included:

  • In the song "Beautiful Girls" by Sean Kingston, the word "suicidal" in the chorus was altered to "in denial".[12]
  • 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".[13] Jackson later explained that the song used the words to describe prejudice and that it was poor judgment to select Jewish people as explanatory words.[14]
  • "This Love" by Maroon 5 had the words "coming" and "sinking" muted out due to possible sexual connotations.[15]
  • "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".[16]

Videos moved to late-night or obscure rotation[edit]

In attempt to address criticism over risqué content, MTV has sometimes moved certain videos to late-night rotation in censored format.

Sexual content[edit]


Political content[edit]

Banned music videos[edit]

From MTV in the United States[edit]

Several videos have been perceived as too controversial to play on MTV even in censored form, for varying reasons. 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 refusing to air videos that may depict devil worship or anti-religious bigotry.[17]

  • "American Life" (Madonna) – pulled by the artist and replaced with a second version[28]
  • "Arise" (Sepultura) – banned for apocalyptic religious imagery, including crucified figures wearing gas masks[29]
  • "Be Chrool to Your Scuel" (Twisted Sister) – banned for showing zombies in a school engaging in suggestive acts[30]
  • "Body Language" (Queen) – banned due to homoerotic content[31]
  • "Bombs" (Faithless) — banned over use of violent imagery to convey an anti-war message[32]
  • "Erotica" (Madonna) – banned from the MTV music channel but later seen in the Beavis and Butt-head episode "Door to Door"[33]
  • "Ghost Ride It" (Mistah F.A.B.) — banned due to allegations of encouraging dangerous driving behavior; as well as copyright complaints about the car used in the video[34]
  • "Hurricane" (Thirty Seconds to Mars) – banned for containing sexually explicit scenes and violent imagery[35]
  • "In My Darkest Hour" (Megadeth) – banned for alleged suicide references[36]
  • "I Want to Break Free" (Queen) – banned for depicting men wearing women clothes.
  • "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[37]
  • "Justify My Love" (Madonna) – banned for containing explicit imagery of sadomasochism, voyeurism, and bisexuality[38]
  • "Lacquer Head" (Primus) – banned for lyrics describing minors using drugs; the music video also featured a child watching TV while a devilish creature administers gasoline to the child, who then explodes into a frenzy (with the creature riding on him) and ultimately crashing into a wall, burning to ashes[39]
  • "Reckoning Day" (Megadeth) — allegedly banned due to management conflicts[40]
  • "Six, Six, Six" (DeGarmo and Key) — pulled due to images of an Anti-Christ engulfed in flames; later re-added to rotation in an edited form[41][42]
  • "Sunshowers" (M.I.A.) — banned for objectionable lyrics[43]
  • "The Price of Beauty" (Suicide Silence) — banned for gore[44]
  • "Tormented Mind" (Burning Human) — banned for violence[45]
  • "What It Feels Like for a Girl" (Madonna) — banned for violent content throughout[38]

From MTV in the United Kingdom[edit]

  • "My Favourite Game" by The Cardigans — filmed with five different endings; most of which were banned on MTV UK due to fears that the video could encourage joyriding and cause car accidents.[46] The two least-violent endings were eventually selected for MTV UK rotation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Senator Joe Lieberman: News Release". 2009-01-12. Archived from the original on 2009-01-12. Retrieved 2017-07-31.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. ^ "Jackass: An Oral History". Maxim. Retrieved 2017-07-31.
  3. ^ Censorship & Scandals: Beavis & Butt-head Archived 2012-11-19 at Archive-It
  4. ^ 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).
  5. ^ "I Want My Foul TV" (Press release). Parents Television Council. 2005-08-11. Archived from the original on June 14, 2006.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Williams 2005, p. 8 In this case, a reference to crack cocaine was removed from the video for "My Band" by D12.
  8. ^ Nuzum 2001, pp. 91–92
  9. ^ 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).
  10. ^ Making the Band 2 Episode Summaries Archived February 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ MTV.com - think - Discrimination -> Racism Archived September 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Group, Vibe Media (November 2007). "20 Questions". Vibe. p. 144
  13. ^ Michael Jackson videography on JacksonAction.com
  14. ^ "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.
  15. ^ Williams 2005, p. 7
  16. ^ Richard Huff (28 June 2011). "MTVU censors Foster the People's music video hit 'Pumped Up Kicks'". NY Daily News. Archived from the original on June 14, 2012.
  17. ^ a b c MTV
  18. ^ "'And I Cannot Lie': The Oral History of Sir Mix-a-Lot's 'Baby Got Back' Video". Vulture. 2013-12-19. Retrieved 2017-07-31.
  19. ^ "La Discothèque du 20è siècle", 1988, Polygram Direct, p. 14
  20. ^ "Prodigy Video To Air On MTV As Controversy Continues". MTV News. 1997-12-04. Archived from the original on August 22, 2001. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  21. ^ "MTV Explains Decision To Pull Prodigy". MTV News. December 22, 1997. Archived from the original on September 20, 2003. Retrieved September 1, 2008.
  22. ^ "'Bitch' banned from MTV". Yahoo Music. December 23, 1997. Archived from the original on August 29, 2012.
  23. ^ "MTV's Most Controversial Videos". MTV. Archived from the original on August 14, 2003.
  24. ^ Serpick, Evan (November 5, 2002). "Play It Again; Is MTV getting too gross?". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on December 2, 2002. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
  25. ^ "Chuck D Speaks About MTV and Fighting the Power". September 27, 2002. Archived from the original on August 5, 2004.
  26. ^ Cave, Damien (February 23, 2004). "MTV Under Attack by FCC". Rolling Stone.
  27. ^ Rotter, Jeffrey (May 9, 2004). "Jay-Z Wants to Kill Himself". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 13, 2014.
  28. ^ McLernon, Matt (2003-03-31). "MTV hurts war effort with censorship". DailyOrange.com. The Daily Orange. Archived from the original on 2007-07-16. Retrieved 2007-05-28.
  29. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo. ""Arise" - Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-08-03.
  30. ^ Prato, Greg. "Come Out and Play" review. Allmusic: 1999
  31. ^ Nuzum 2001, p. 95
  32. ^ Corporate censorship: Excluded from MTV
  33. ^ Kulkarni, Dhananjay. Madonna - Controversies continued... Buzzle.com: May 14, 2004
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ Vick, Megan (November 30, 2010). "30 Seconds To Mars Video Banned By MTV". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 28, 2014.
  36. ^ The Realms of Deth - Megadeth Videography - Rusted Pieces
  37. ^ Prato, Greg. "Jesus Christ Pose" review. Allmusic
  38. ^ a b Chonin, Neva (2001-03-23). "Madonna's No 'Pussy Cat': MTV bans her latest video, again". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on January 26, 2004. 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.
  39. ^ Gundersen, Edna (2003-08-07). "Primus exerts 'Animal' magnetism". USA Today.
  40. ^ The Realms of Deth - Other Megadeth Music Videos
  41. ^ Nuzum 2001, p. 92
  42. ^ "The Unofficial DeGarmo & Key Homepage". The Unofficial DeGarmo & Key Homepage. Retrieved 2017-07-31.
  43. ^ M.I.A., No Loss For Words
  44. ^ MetalSucks – Suicide Silence, "The Price of Beauty"
  45. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2009-09-07.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  46. ^ "Cardigan's Crash video banned". NME. September 8, 1998. Retrieved February 27, 2011.

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