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aka: Bowdlerization
The overly blatant portrayal of sexual symbols on this statue's underwear really goes against the grain!

"It's been a week, dude. You came back from the [hurt] after I [destroyed] you and sent you to [Hades]. That stuff was cut. For, uh... time."
Joel, to the no-longer-dead Phil, after retooling Bonus Stage as a kids' show

To BowdlerizePronunciation  means to alter existing programs, plays, etc. so they are less rude and/or offensive. Commonly, this takes the form of swapping "curse" words for less effective euphemisms. The term is used in a negative sense, by those who think the alterations are often done with a ridiculously high fear of lawsuits and/or need for political correctness.

While some changes may seem reasonable for broadcast (editing out blood splatter, a character being riddled by bullet holes or a Cluster F-Bomb ), some are less forgivable (changing beer to water, editing out a cigarette even from a bad guy's hand, changing a six-round revolver to a water gun or slingshot, or whenever a situation presents itself where death should be a given, it's always avoided or explained away).

Extreme cases involve editing out emotions like sadness (even when it makes perfect sense for emotions to be shown), removing entire episodes or seasons or causing a plot hole to develop.

Named after Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), who first did it on The Bible and William Shakespeare's plays; for instance, changing Ophelia's drowning from suicide to accident. It's worth noting that Bowdler himself created his "Family Shakespeare" versions as a way to introduce Shakespeare's plays to audiences who would otherwise be barred from experiencing them at all, and actively encouraged people to seek out the originals. Sadly, this cannot be said of most modern Bowdlerisers. Before him, the French Duke of Montausier published "ad usum Delphini" versions of works for the Dauphin (heir apparent) of France. "Ad usum Delphini" is now a synonym of this trope.

Cultural Translation can often contain elements of Bowdlerization. See T-Word Euphemism for a mild form of bowdlerization. See also Cut-and-Paste Translation (which specifically refers to Bowdlerization in translated works and refers more to the final product than the process) and Disneyfication (which generally goes further, in not only removing content, but adding new, "kid-friendly" content). See Bluenose Bowdlerizer for when it happens here on the wiki.

The inverse of this trope is American Kirby Is Hardcore. Yet another related trope is Bleached Underpants, where a creator self-censors his work to appeal to a broader audience. There is also a Censored Title, for when a work seems to be Bowdlerized, but only the title is for marketing purposes.

Tropes which often or always arise from Bowdlerisation include:

  • Bikini Bar: Depictions of strip clubs and other sex establishments which somehow manage not to show any nudity.
  • Black Blood and Made Of Bologna: Covering up extreme gore and blood
  • Digital Bikini: Altering images to make characters' dress less revealing or cover up nudity.
  • Edited for Syndication: Most of the bowdlerization does occur after a TV show is put into syndication or makes its rounds on the international market.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: Replacing realistic weapons with more fantastic or less lethal (often ridiculous) ones.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Replacing alcohol with non-alcoholic drinks (usually juice, soda, or water) and hand-waving the drunken behavior as "acting crazy" or "being a jerk"
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Replacing sensitive words with their "safer" variants.
  • Never Say "Die": Characters can't mention anything about death and the afterlife because it may be too upsetting.
  • No Smoking: Characters can't enjoy a cigarette (be it tobacco or marijuana), lest more impressionable viewers imitate what they see.
  • No Swastikas: Removing racist imagery (usually swastikas or anything having to do with Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime).
  • She's a Man in Japan, Get Back in the Closet, and Hide Your Lesbians: Changing a gay, lesbian, or transgender character into a heterosexual character (and turning their gay, lesbian, or transsexual relationships into heterosexual ones) for less tolerant audiences.
  • Too Soon: Editing, delaying, or banning something (mostly TV shows and movies) due to the plot being similar to a real-life current event that may be considered "in bad taste." "Funny Aneurysm" Moment is similar, but only applies to past media that somehow "predicts" future bad events.


Blunt Metaphors TraumaTranslation TropesComical Translation
Adjustable CensorshipCensorship TropesEdited for Syndication
Blue and Orange MoralitySturgeon's TropesCard-Carrying Villain

alternative title(s): Bowdlerize; Bowdlerized; Bowdlerization; Bowdlerised; Bowdlerisation; Bowdlerisations
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