The Censor Box is used to cover up an offending sight with something that obviously doesn't belong, less physically part of the scene than any sort of fig leaf. Most typically, this is a heavy black bar or box, but sometimes bizarre stickers are used.
It's more glaringly obvious than Censor Steam or Pixellation, and such a brutal way of keeping something hidden from audiences that it's often used for parodies of censorship. There are plenty of subversions where the characters acknowledge it as if it was a physical object in their world. (Bonus points if they simply step around it to reveal that it was covering nothing offensive whatsoever).
A variation is for the bar to appear over a person's eyes, rather than their "naughty bits". Rather than censoring nudity, it's used to censor identity. This may be used when the subject in question is fully clothed, and is often used to Draw Around Trademarks in order to show a famous person to whom the author doesn't have the rights while still maintaining Plausible Deniability. This was also commonly done while showing parts in vintage porn magazines and older medical books.
Another, more recent, trend is to briefly place censor decals (often the program's logo or some mocking caption) over people's mouths when they say something that is bleeped out. This may be for the "benefit" of lip readers, or purely for added humor.
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The late-night Girls Gone Wild commercials will usually cover up the parts of the aforementioned girls with either their logo or, ironically, a big bar labeled "UNCENSORED!"
An Australian animated ad for Red Bull was set in a nudist camp. There were black censor bars over everyone's genitals. One fellow had an exceptionally large censor box that rose as he drank his Red Bull.
While largely obsolete now thanks to the Internet, many found it odd that advertisements selling pornography in magazines censored the images in the ads - because, after all, it was already in a porno mag. This was for two reasons: first off, the magazine may be softcore (simple nudes) but the advertising images hardcore (involving explicit sex)note hardcore magazines aren't sold in places like convenience stores, and the presence of the images would make the magazine hardcore, and secondly to ensure that people who already owned the magazine didn't just use the free picture and thus not use the ad to buy the product.
Anime and Manga
Hayate the Combat Butler makes a running gag out of them, since it's a reference-heavy show in a early time slot. A genie holding up 'can't show this' and 'don't do this' signs is used to cover up everything from mild injuries to humans being sexually assaulted by a tiger.
Naughty bits in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei often are obscured by a photograph of the bald head of Maeda-kun, the original Manga author's assistant who is also responsible for the blackboard gags. His expression and line of sight change depending on what he is covering up. His head also often pops up at intermissions and in the school's clock. It's very disturbing.
Macademi Wasshoi has claymation versions of Tanarot appear to cover up the animated her whenever she does anything that might be considered too fanservicey. It ends up looking really weird.
Nazo Koumori in Rosario + Vampire is a bat of many talents. Combat Commentator, Morph Weapon and Panty Shot censor when he needs to be. This leads to odd scenes where he's in two places at once as Kokoa's familiar and part of the censorship. Spoofed when Kokoa sits down on him only to find he's become part of her panties somehow.
Later chapters of Hunter × Hunter involve certain scenes shaded out by big black spaces or boxes to cover up gruesome scenery.
Inukami! applies most of its Censor Boxes to the males (usually Keita) in the form of blue elephants on parade. Said elephants are usually right around the crotch. There's a lot of manservice in Inukami.
Parodied in Patlabor during the obligatory Hot Springs Episode. We see all the main male characters go into a communal shower, with black dots covering their modesty. Then, after they go behind a opaque wooden screen, they throw the dots over the top of the screen like towels!
After some unintentional Clothing Damage in Black Cat (or rather, immediately as it happens), two cats appear holding signs that prevent the reader from seeing anything.
Shown on the image links page is Black Lagoon's somewhat ironic use of this trope during the anime's OP. The show itself has no such censoring at all, and depicts acts much more brutal than simply firing a gun at something offscreen.
The identity-"concealing" version is used in Toradora! when classmates are "testifying" about the evidence suggesting that Ryuuji and Taiga are a couple — but the name of each witness appears below his or her image.
In keeping with Japanese law, all hentai manga is censored. Works that don't get creative with their censorship will often have thin black strip censor boxes over the minimum required area to be censored. On men this results in a small black strip over 'part' of the head of the penis, and the urethra. On women, this strip covers the actual opening of the vagina (leaving all the messy bits). One wonders why they even have it at all. Still, its enough that it kills the allure for some people.
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: It appears in If the Angels Wore Swimsuits to cover various naughty bits as the starfish Ghosts replace bits of clothing, as well as in HELP! We are Angels when Panty is singing about a delicious crotch.
Similar to the Patlabor example above, Urusei Yatsura had an episode set at a sento using black dots for censorship, where the black dots were suspended from crane-arms held by Kabuki stagehands.
The anime of Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls has ink splatter covering what needs to be censored. The same effect is also used throughout the series to show clashing powers, Scene Transitions, and other stuff, so it's far less intrusive than censoring often is.
Used in the U.S. version of the French comic book Sillage (Wake in English). In the first issue the heroine Nävis/Navee is living as a kind of Jungle Princess, wearing only a pair of briefs. Conveniently for the censors she has a set of white bars tattooed on various parts of her body, one of which just happens to be across her breast. So for the US edition all they had to do was paint her breast tattoo black, and presto!
A Richie Rich comic book cover has a big dollar bill on the shower door covering Richie's midsection when he shows himself taking a shower in a non-Fanservice-y way.
In the Fourth Wall Mail Slot associated with the Homestuck fic Cultstuck, Blade Dancer's uncovered eyes and (in a flashback image) symbol are covered up with censor boxes, because the members of the Cult of the Signless strive to hide all clues as to their blood colors (which include eye color and personal symbols).
The eye-covering black box was parodied in Spy Kids: The character actually grabbed the black bar, moved it around and finally put it down on a desk or table.
[adult swim] took this trope to its logical conclusion when they aired The Room. Ridiculously oversized black boxes were used to cover just about every inappropriate scene.
Parodied in Loaded Weapon 1. The protagonist cops run into the FBI arresting a suspect with a blue circle over his face. Then the view switches to him from the rear, where we can see the strap holding the blue circle mask on.
Used humorously in Borat during the naked wrestling scene. Borat has an extremely long censor bar that swings between his legs.
Used in the network television cut of the sci fi film Hideous. One scene features a topless woman, but is too integral to the plot to cut out entirely.
Subverted in Jackass 3D during naked baseball. A censor bar is used, but is in the wrong position to cover anything most of the time.
Censor bars are covering the exotic dancers' delicate parts in the peep show segment of Magical Mystery Tour.
There was a Bobcat Goldthwait special called Is He Like That All the Time? where he did stand-up comedy in a large communal shower explaining that his jokes are funnier in the shower just like people's singing is better in the shower. Everyone in the shot has the black rectangle. Bobcat's starts spinning like a propeller near the end and he flies off the screen.
Parodied in the MADtv sketch "Boys Gone Wild." Men, mostly overweight, flash their chests for the camera and their nipples are black-boxed.
The Middleman uses them to cover people's mouths while they're swearing.
Played for extra comic effect near the end of the show's run (in "The Clotharian Contamination Protocol"), when our heroes receive a staticky, blue-tinted video transmission from another planet. The speaker uses a naughty word (actually, he's quoting an Earth catchphrase), and naturally he gets a censor box... except, hilariously, the box is part of the transmission, complete with static and blue tint.
Subverted in a You Can't Do That on Television sketch where two boys are behind black boxes. Says one to the other, "I guess it's so no one can see our shorts." They then step to one side, revealing — shorts.
The Daily Show once referred to some sort of gory/sexual footage which couldn't be shown because "they don't make black bars that big".
X-Play has often censored violence, gore, and nudity in games they review with little kitten heads. Adorable mewing kitten heads.
Hey, at least they censor the violence, too, rather than just the nudity.
In a Welcome Freshmen (Hi There Is No Such Thing as Notability!) sketch, two boys got the censor box and discuss how creepy it is, then ran off stage, carefully covered themselves, leaving the censor boxes just hanging there. Then as if realizing what just happened, the boxes zoomed off after them.
In Weird Science, there is an early episode in which Gary orders Lisa to be naked for him. She does, and there are censor bars covering her "rude bits". It quickly becomes clear that Gary and Wyatt are seeing the censor bars, same as the audience: apparently this is a safety feature because actually seeing Lisa naked would ruin Gary and Wyatt for normal women....
Played with frequently in Japanese comedy shows, like Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende. Often, the censored part (usually a man's butt or genitals) is covered by their own face superimposed over their crotch.
Adam of MythBusters saved the show's editors the expense of pixellating people's mouths by constructing a physical "censor visor" that cursing participants in a myth-test ("Does swearing increase one's ability to tolerate pain?") could wear to obscure their mouths. Being Adam, he decorated the plastic strip with cuss-substitute wingdings.
In another episode, animal heads (and their respective bleats) were used to censor dangerous ingredients from an explosives recipe. Lampshaded when the narrator explained that you'd get a violent reaction if you "add Donkey to Rooster"
Adam once had a moment where he explained what happens when you mix "blur" with "blur".
The Late Late Show sometimes uses flags accompanied by a Sound Effect Bleep of Craig saying an expression from the corresponding flag, most frequently France ("Oooh-la-la!"), Spain ("Ay caramba!"), Australia ("Crikey Dingo!"), Italy "Wassacominago!"), and even a gay pride flag ("Uh oh~")
A Japanese "reality" show called Susunu! Denpa Shonen featured, for over a year, a man (nicknamed Nasubi) locked in an empty apartment and only living off of prizes won by entering sweepstakes. People did not believe the show was real, so the producers started streaming him live over the Internet, 24/7. The problem was, he had not won any clothes yet (except some women's underwear), so the producers hired a team of 50 people to make sure his naughty bits were always digitally covered with an eggplant graphic ("nasubi" means "eggplant").
Top Gear's trip into self-parody: To make this enormous firework, you will need: a plastic tube, a wooden stick, a box of smaller fireworks and a pair of pixelated hands. Clarkson is very clearly seen pouring the gunpowder from the smaller fireworks into the plastic tube. Later referred to as the cruise missile, it takes out the windows nearest building.
Full Frontal had a sketch about a pre-coital French couple that used a variation in which subtitles appeared as white text on a black bar. The bar covers the woman's breasts whenever either of them speaks and it becomes apparent that the man is aware of this on some level because he just keeps talking and talking. The woman calls him out on this, and he explains that he has to keep talking to cover up her naughty bits. "But we're on SBS!note An Australian free-to-air network that specialises in foreign content, including European and Asian films that doesn't shy away from "naughty bits"" she exclaims. "But, aren't you ever embarrassed by nudity?" the man asks. The woman replies, "Sometimes". At this point the bar is covering the man's penis, and it starts to stretch...
It used to be standard practice whenever atlases were imported to South Korea for the bookstore staff to take black markers and cross out the phrase "Sea of Japan" on all the maps before releasing the atlases for sale.
Medical journals use this method to conceal the identities (eyes and/or faces) of subjects whose illnesses or injuries are displayed in photos, thus preserving privacy.
Parodied in the music video for REM's "Pop Song 89", which features topless dancers of both sexes. Both have black boxes over their nipples.
Used creatively in the video for Brighton Port Authority's "Toe Jam."
In that they carefully arrange naked people to draw pictures with their censor boxes.
Used in the video for Lemon Demon's song "Geeks In Love" (animated by Andrew Kepple), a censor box appears to be covering the girl geek fellating the boy geek; the box goes away and we see they are just playing foosball.
The music video for Make the Girl Dance's "Baby Baby Baby" features nude models walking down a street in Paris with censor boxes covering up their "naughty bits". The lyrics to the song appear in the censor boxes, one or two words at a time, as they are sung.
The music video for Melody (skip to 1:01) on DJ Max Black Square/Technika has a cat blocking a Panty Shot of the baseball girl.
The video for David Lee Roth's "Yankee Rose" had CENSORED boxes appearing throughout when it was airing on Friday Night Videos...and at one point, one of the boxes read REALLY CENSORED.
Zero Punctuation features censor bars in order to depict nudity due to the minimalist art style.
The censored boxes are also often covered in witty text. When Yahtzee describes something as "being stretched wider than a catamite's rectum," the censor box covering nearly the entire screen reads "IMAGE VERY CENSORED". Similarly, the aftermath of trying juggle babies and chainsaws at the same time is covered up with, "THE BABY IS FINE THE BABY IS OKAY".
Similarly, when JesuOtaku reviews ecchi stuff, she'll use black censor bars with amusing blurbs on them like "Bombs away!" and "There's side-nipple under me!"
A piece of video art by performance artist Pina Bausch featured a shot of a topless woman sitting in a room with a censor box over her eyes.
Head Injury Theatre movie review site often shows scenes too graphic for the German Web site's editor-imposed UK-15 rating... censored with little white circles stating NO.
Brows Held High covers naked women with the torso of the Venus de Milo, in a fairly epic bit of mockery. Though one time he used the Hottentot Venus for a somewhat more Rubenesque woman.
The Exterminating Angels review featured lesbian sex censored with a The L Word poster, among other creative censor boxes.
He does this for pretty much everything racy. Tits get the bird (though he apologized once for using a swallow in its place), ass gets a donkey's head, pussy gets a cat's, ejaculate gets either mayo or milk, etc. At one point, he struggled to find something for "foot job" before finally throwing on a foot with glasses, tie and suitcase.
And then there was the time he reviewed Up With Dead People and could only do a red censor box with "FUCKING A STOMACH WOUND" on it.
In Space Quest III, if Roger fails to get off the Conveyor Belt-O-Doom and falls into the meat grinder, a box labeled "NOT A PRETTY SIGHT" pops up as he is "shredded like an Iran-Contra document".
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a large "Censored" box will cover Indy when he changes his clothes. It also shows up if he gets killed in some violent way, usually accompanied by a pool of blood appearing at the bottom.
The Guy Game uses it as a gameplay mechanic: do poorly and the in-game breasts are covered by boxes. Do slightly better and it's switched to pixellation. Do nigh-perfect and there's no censorship. (It's not worth it.)(Yes it is, go get 'em!)
In the Police 911 series, the eyes of criminals in their portraits are censored out, not unlike in Japanese television broadcasts. When you fight them, their faces are pixellated.
In Revolution X, when a player runs out of life, a big "CENSORED" bar appears over their part of the screen.
In the Blernsball episode of Futurama there is a machine that censor-boxes reality in a men's changing room. It gets accidentally knocked off and all the bars disappear, which means the men have to cover themselves up manually except the one guy with his back towards the camera, who proudly proclaims, "I win." One of the recurring background characters include a naked couple with black bars over their genitals, who presumably use the same technology.
In another episode, Heffer and Philburt make a home movie of Rocko (which includes a scene of him naked) and it becomes an international sensation. Rocko gets sent a box of censor bars for autographs, and Hef and Philburt have a ball putting them on each other like stickers.
The Venture Bros. tends to use black bars instead of pixellation for censorship. Used rather cleverly when a man's penis morphs into Henry Killinger, the censor bar seamlessly transforming into his black coat.
Also used to hilarious effect in a strip club. The dancers hadn't finished stripping and weren't actually showing their parts, but the censors still thought they were showing too much. Rather than redesign the costumes, the animators just slapped some black bars on them, which turned out to be funnier anyway.
In "Home Is Where The Hate Is" The Monarch, Sgt. Hatred, and Dr. Venture all have censor bars covering their genitals as they hang out in the hot tub (Not that there's really that much to see in the uncensored version). Dr. Venture's bar inexplicably (and hilariously) shrinks right before he gets in.
Played with in the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Falling Hare", in which the front gate sign of an unnamed Air Force base is censored to keep classified information from being discovered by the enemy ("Number of planes: Censored. Number of men: Censored.") The last line was censored for more traditional reasons ("Men's opinion of Top Sergeant: CENSORED!!!").
The TV edit of The Simpsons Movie had a Censor Box that read "European Version Only" digitally laid over the bare hedge during the "Bart's naked skateboard ride" sequence note which is actually a fallacy, as many European countries do consider images of nude children to be pornographic.
One episode of the series parodied this with a newscast about "nudist camps for animals", which showed a horse and other animals with black bars over their privates.
Parodied in Family Guy when the FCC begin to censor real life after shutting down Peter's tasteless cable channel. FCC G-men are poised to cover naked people with black cardboard cut-outs (with one G-man asking if he should censor Peter's chin since it looks like a pair of testicles).
South Park encountered some in episode 201 to obscure all appearances of Mohammed.
Adventure Time had logs to cover the privates of characters who end up naked (as seen in the episode "Wizards"). Originally, they were going to be beavers.
Some instances of censorship in Superjail! utilize these. Most of the time, there is actually some type of content drawn underneath that the censors objected to (whether actually rather explicit or not), although at least two instances ( Alice's genitalia in "Vacation", as well as the inmates first glimpsing Alice and the Mistress having sex in "Stingstress") were always meant to be censored as a gag, and nothing was actually meant to be drawn or animated beneath them.
"Hot Chick", in a first for the show, had the Warden going about with full-frontal nudity. To try to make the censored version look funnier, the Warden's censor box is a bit long and even spins about in one scene. It's uncensored in the DVD, although it's not all that impressive. The episode also included a censor box at the end to obscure Hunter's breasts, although all other scenes let her undetailed body remain exposed (this may have been for the sake of a gag, or the shot may have looked suggestive). It too is uncensored on the DVD, although nothing is really under it.
"Gay Wedding" underwent a bunch of censor boxes for its broadcast airing, as well as some pixellation employed. Alice grinding against Jean was edited , Paul with his face against a stripper's crotch was covered up with a large censor box (making it look dirtier than it was), and a shot of Paul's mouth seen through a glory hole was also covered up with a box.
Season 3 had some last-minute censorship employed when the Standards and Practices department got cold feet on some of the shots in episodes just before they were broadcast. An inmate being torn apart and devoured by dogs in "Superfail" had a HUGE censor box (even reading "Censored" in bold red letters) stamped over the scene to obscure the violence, while Alice's bulge received the same treatment during her wrestling scene. An inmate snorting cocaine in "Sticky Discharge" had the same treatment done to obscure the act. Unlike the season 2 DVD, the season 3 DVD used the edited copies of the episodes (complete with the censors and bleeped cursing) even though its label claimed all episodes were uncensored.