Created By: GamerAmI on September 26, 2010 Last Edited By: GamerAmI on September 7, 2011

Utility Censorship (formerly Utility Bleep)

Name Space:
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Trope
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.


Examples

General
  • 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.

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

Films
  • 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.
Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • July 31, 2010
    SeanMurrayI
    • 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.
  • July 31, 2010
    CodeMan38
    • 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. (I know I read about this somewhere online, but I can't remember where-- anyone else able to find more details about this?)
    • Often coincides with Clumsy Copyright Censorship. I've seen several situations where a trademark had 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.
    • I've also seen this 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.
    • As mentioned in Clumsy Copyright Censorship, airings of "Pimp My Ride" on non-MTV networks do this to that network's name.
    • Same thing for the "F" in "WWF" in reruns of older wrestling matches.
    • Would South Park's "Muhammad" bleep count under this, since it wasn't so much in response to Moral Guardians as it was to one particularly incendiary protester?
  • July 31, 2010
    BNS
    Used on Mythbusters when Kari is making something particularly dangerous. Not that it's censorship, since it's part of the making of the show, right down to the "narrator" joking about it.
  • July 31, 2010
    SeanMurrayI
    The F in WWF is a pretty bizarre example. 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.
  • August 1, 2010
    Arivne
    Reality Television shows with sponsors will cover up the names of products or companies that aren't sponsoring the show. They'll also cover up the faces of people who haven't signed waivers allowing the show to use their images.
  • August 1, 2010
    randomsurfer
    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.
  • August 1, 2010
    STUART
    YKTTW Plug: See Bleep Bleep Bleep for other censorship tropes.
  • August 1, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Music video channels also censor brands that aren't advertising on the channel. If a band's video includes contributions by fans jumping about in their bedrooms (such as (IIRC) "Monkey Wrench" by Foo Fighters?), they'll blur out any posters on the walls.

    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 tradmarked characters blanked out, though the design was recognisably, say, Kellogg's Corn Flakes.
  • August 10, 2010
    PAL25E
    The anime Lucky Star bleeps out the names of copyrighted works that its characters mention in passing, unless they have the rights to say the name.
  • August 20, 2010
    CactusWren
    Considering the frequency with which this trope is seen on Mythbusters, I suggest the name Never Mix Blur With Blur.
  • August 28, 2010
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • Adam from Myth Busters made swear-censoring headgear that obscures the mouth for the episode in which they tested whether swearing helps a person deal with pain. Their editors blur their lips when they curse; and for testing this myth, swearing at length was necessary.
  • August 28, 2010
    AM_NK
    The WWF example must be explained as of why: it's the same reason "Federation" has to be changed to "Entertainment".
  • September 21, 2010
    IncoG5nito
    One example can be found on Estate Of Panic, with its ridiculous amount of Manipulative Editing: One episode 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.
  • September 21, 2010
    Gringodingo
    • Every trademark on a T-shirt or other copyrighted logo is video-distorted out of fear of lawsuits, which makes it very annoying.
    • In the series Sex in the City, Carrie originally censors the name of "Big" when introducing him by spilling coffee on him.
    • On That 70's Show, Fes's says his real name, but the bell rings at the same time.
    • On Fairly Odd Parents, a truck-horn covers up the name of Timmy's mom and dad.
    • On Leave it to Beaver, Beaver says "a bad word" just as the bell rings; but the teacher hears it and sends him home with a note.

  • April 9, 2011
    AaronHong
    There's a Gurren Lagann Abridged Series that uses a particularly appropriate power-drill sound and a somewhat random sound of Colin Mochrie saying "meow" instead of bleeps.
  • April 9, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Related to the Reality Television censoring, personally identifying information like car license plates, names or phone numbers of real life persons may also be blurred out.
  • April 10, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Generally, when showing a Real person's ID certain identifying marks (like license number and address) will be blacked/fuzzed out.

    When Barack Obama posted his birth certificate [[hottip:*:Let's not get into whether or not it's a real birth certificate here, shall we?]] they blacked out the certificate number because they weren't sure if that was a sensitive number or not. They asked the Hawaii Secretary of State's office about it but didn't get a response before the deadline to post it. It turned out not to be sensitive, and other versions posted have the number clearly.
  • September 7, 2011
    Matthew6248
    WWF had to resort to utility censorship as part of one of their storylines when Ric Flair showed up with the NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt claiming to be the "The Real World Heavyweight Champion." Flair held the belt at the time WCW fired him but kept it as NWA never bothered to pay him. When the NWA ordered him to surrender the belt, the angle went on with Flair holding a heavily fuzzed WWF tag title belt. (a lampshade was hung on this by then WWF president Jack Tunney, who claimed he had ordered the video distortion because the WWF did not recognize Flair's belt as an actual championship, and thus would no longer be shown TV).
  • September 7, 2011
    azul120
    • Haruhi Suzumiya: Anytime Mikuru would say anything sensitive, she says "classified information" instead.
  • September 7, 2011
    TonyG
    In the music video of Beck's "Loser" starts with Beck wearing a Stormtrooper mask, which was blurred out because he didn't have permission.
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