Censorship on MTV
|Part of a series on|
in the United States
|Programs on MTV|
|Censorship on MTV|
|Viacom Media Networks|
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.
- 1 Censorship in full-length programming
- 2 Censored music videos
- 3 Banned music videos
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
Censorship in full-length programming
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; 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. 
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. 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".
Censored music videos
MTV has frequently edited music videos to remove lyrical references to drugs, sex, nudity, violence, weapons, homophobia, suicide, or advertising, and completely edits out swear words. Usually, all racial slurs are censored on MTV music videos and programming, and MTV has emphasized racial tolerance for people of all races and creeds.
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".
- 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 later explained that the song used the words to describe prejudice and that it was poor judgment to select Jewish people as explanatory words.
- "This Love" by Maroon 5 had the words "coming" and "sinking" muted out due to possible sexual connotations.
- "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".
Videos moved to late-night or obscure rotation
In attempt to address criticism over risqué content, MTV has sometimes moved certain videos to late-night rotation in censored format.
- "If I Could Turn Back Time" by Cher was pushed to hours after 9 p.m. due to the singer's revealing clothing.
- "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot was aired only after 9 p.m., due to its depictions of women's bodies. (The station had recently instated a policy against showing female body parts with no reference to a face.)
- The song "Étienne" by Guesch Patti was moved to late-night rotation in MTV Europe in 1987 due to a striptease scene.
- In February 2004, following the controversial Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in which performer Justin Timberlake exposed the breast of co-performer Janet Jackson, MTV made several efforts to limit daytime rotation of music videos that could be perceived to have too much sexual content. Such videos included:
- "Smack My Bitch Up" by The Prodigy was initially given late-night rotation on MTV's 120 Minutes on December 7, 1997 due to a fistfight, sexual scenes and allegedly misogynistic language in the lyrics but was removed from rotation altogether after around two weeks, a decision supported by the feminist group National Organization for Women. In 2002, MTV2 showed this video in its special Most Controversial Videos.
- In 2002, only MTV2 would play the Public Enemy video "Gotta Give the Peeps What They Need", because it contained "free Mumia" in the lyrics.
- In 2004, the video for "Megalomaniac" by Incubus was moved to late-night because of depictions of German leader Adolf Hitler and people drinking oil.
- Also in 2004, alleged glorification of gun violence led MTV to play an edited version of the video "99 Problems" by Jay-Z between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m only.
Banned music videos
From MTV in the United States
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.
- "A Tout Le Monde" (Megadeth) – despite Dave Mustaine stating the song was not about suicide, the music video was banned nevertheless due to objectionable lyrics
- "American Life" (Madonna) – pulled by the artist and replaced with a second version
- "Arise" (Sepultura) – banned for apocalyptic religious imagery, including crucified figures wearing gas masks
- "Be Chrool to Your Scuel" (Twisted Sister) – banned for showing zombies in a school engaging in suggestive acts
- "Body Language" (Queen) – banned due to homoerotic content
- "Bombs" (Faithless) — banned over use of violent imagery to convey an anti-war message
- "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.) — banned due to allegations of encouraging dangerous driving behavior; as well as copyright complaints about the car used in the video
- "Hurricane" (Thirty Seconds to Mars) – banned for containing sexually explicit scenes and violent imagery
- "In My Darkest Hour" (Megadeth) – banned for alleged suicide references
- "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 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
- "Reckoning Day" (Megadeth) — allegedly banned due to management conflicts
- "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
- "Sunshowers" (M.I.A.) — banned for objectionable lyrics
- "The Price of Beauty" (Suicide Silence) — banned for gore
- "Tormented Mind" (Burning Human) — banned for violence
- "What It Feels Like for a Girl" (Madonna) — banned for violent content throughout
From MTV in the United Kingdom
- "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. The two least-violent endings were eventually selected for MTV UK rotation.
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- 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
- 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).
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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.
- Vick, Megan (November 30, 2010). "30 Seconds To Mars Video Banned By MTV". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 28, 2014.
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"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.
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