Utility Censorship (formerly Utility Bleep) YKTTW Discussion

Utility Censorship (formerly Utility Bleep)
(permanent link) added: 2010-09-26 09:47:38 sponsor: GamerAmI (last reply: 2011-09-07 16:35:39)

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I changed the title to Utility Censorship since we now have examples involving blurring, in addition to bleeping.

Needs a Better Title (maybe; I'm open to suggestions), Needs More Examples, Rolling Updates
Bleeps and blurs are often used during television to block languages and images the Moral Guardians would consider objectionable. That isn't all they are used for, however. Sure, sometimes they are used intentionally to censor perfectly innocent words or images in order to get a laugh out of the audience, which is what This Trope is [BLEEP] is for.

This trope, however, is a different case altogether. This trope is when something other than profanity is bleeped out or something other than a nude body part is blurred, and it isn't done for humor. Maybe it's done because the studio can't let something air, but couldn't edit it out in time, or the scene is all one long take, so to take it out would mess up the flow of the scene; thus, rather than cutting out the offending part, they censor it. Basically, if something was censored that wasn't profane, but the censorship wasn't done for humor, it's Utility Censorship.

Product Displacement is subtrope where Reality Television shows with sponsors will cover up the names of products or companies that aren't sponsoring the show. Can lead to Clumsy Copyright Censorship when done poorly.


  • Reality Television will cover up the faces of people who haven't signed waivers allowing the show to use their images.
  • Often coincides with Clumsy Copyright Censorship; several times, a trademark has to be bleeped out in a stand-up routine aired on TV because the trademark owner sponsored the network and didn't like the joke.
  • Also done with phone numbers and URLs that could be real-- e.g., a stand-up routine involving a fictional 900 number, in which the "900" part is bleeped out. Also done when real phone numbers are said on a show to prevent people from calling those numbers and potentially harassing the person in question.
  • The BBC doesn't have adverts, so they avoid mentioning products by brand, even if the brand name has become a generic term. Fictional shows generally avoid it, but sometimes you'd see a cereal box with the names and any trademarked characters blanked out, though the design was recognizably, say, Kellogg's Corn Flakes.

  • Lucky Star bleeps out the names of copyrighted works that its characters mention in passing, unless they have the rights to say the name.

  • In Kill Bill Volume 1, the name of the bride is bleeped out whenever anyone else says it. You can hear a bit of a "B" sound at the beginning, though, which makes finding out that her first name is Beatrix actually satisfying.

Live Action TV
  • This happens twice in Tosh.0: once after Daniel shows a video of a person pouring gasoline on a fire and accidentally lighting his friend's porch on fire, after which he says, "name unknown throws the best barbecues." It was probably done to avoid angering the person in question. It was also used on another episode, in which a whole sentence was censored. The only hint we have to its content is that the audience groaned after hearing it.
  • Chris Morris' named references to Michael Portillo and Michael Howard as well direct allegations Morris was making about their sexuality had to be bleeped from an interview on Brass Eye. Overall, this is subverted by using humorous noises to cover the questionable content and can be viewed here.
  • One time on The Late Show With David Letterman, Dave made a joke about Gatorade tasting like gator urine. The punch line had to be bleeped out because Gatorade was a CBS sponsor. Problem is, the edit was done after the closed captioning had been added, so deaf folks still got the full joke-- and this very event is why the Late Show is now captioned in real time.
  • As mentioned in Clumsy Copyright Censorship, airings of "Pimp My Ride" on non-MTV networks do this to that network's name.
  • Used frequently on Mythbusters when they are using dangerous ingredients in their experiments, to prevent people from using the chemicals themselves and injuring themselves.
  • One time when Harvey Pekar was on Late Night with David Letterman he was wearing a shirt with a logo on it, which they put a big black box over.
  • Estate of Panic, with its ridiculous amount of Manipulative Editing, had one episode that used a sound bite of a contestant saying "I'm freaking the flip out" twice, and one of the two occurrences had the word "flip" bleeped out.
  • In Sex and the City, Carrie originally censors the name of "Big" when introducing him by spilling coffee on him, a non-curse example of Curse Cut Short.
  • On That 70's Show, Fez says his real name, but the bell rings at the same time, another non-curse example of Curse Cut Short.

Professional Wrestling
  • The "F" in "WWF" is censored in reruns of older wrestling matches for the same reason "Federation" has to be changed to "Entertainment". They're able to show the F clearly when showing anything with the logo they used up until the mid-1990s, but signs in the audience that say "WWF" anywhere on them will be blurred no matter what, and anyone who says "F" or "Federation" in archive footage will definitely be bleeped.

Western Animation

Will be put on the Censorship Tropes index.
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