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Defying the Censors

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"Even Theresa's crazy hell-on-earth training was better than this... and Aunt Himeko getting into my bed naked... Wait, wasn't that line supposed to be censored?"
Kiana Kaslana, Honkai Impact 3rd, "Tundra Reunion"

There is a time when an artist chooses to be subtle and work at Getting Crap Past the Radar to avoid trouble. Sometimes however, there are times when the artist walks up to the Censorship Bureau's face to deliver a metaphorical "fuck you" and present his work regardless.

When the work in question is worth the effort, especially if it is hailed as an artistic masterpiece, or the larger society has changed enough in its values to agree with the artist, then this can be a Moment of Awesome as taboos are shattered and freedom of expression has a victory. Of course, it can also backfire and get the author in a lot of trouble.

Compare with Getting Crap Past the Radar (in which the creators still defy the censors, but do it on an underhanded level).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • To Love Ru Darkness seems to be written with this goal in mind, upping the Fanservice in response to Moral Guardians protesting such works. It's telling that the recap chapter was six color pages of Fanservice from the previous series. Among the most well-known examples is a spread wherein a vagina is obscured by a faucet, but in another panel is clearly visible in the reflections of said faucet.
  • Ghastly Prince Enma: Burning Up was pushed for by Go Nagai specifically in response to the new draconian anti-Anime laws in Tokyo. Go Nagai being, of course, the "Father of Ecchi", and his legendary fighting back against Japan's version of The Comics Code created the entire Ecchi genre in Japanese manga and anime. The animated version retains the original's high fetish and nudity content, and swaps out the main male lead for a female version just so they can add additional fanservice.
  • The 2016 anime of Occultic;Nine, made by the same person who made Steins;Gate, pushes boundaries by making a girl with truly abnormally large boobs a main character in a non-ecchi, non-hentai, non-comedy sci-fi mystery adventure.

     Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 
  • Stan Lee created a Spider-Man anti-drug story at the recommendation of the United States Department of Health, but The Comics Code refused to allow it, since the code forbade any and all depictions of drugs. He defied the code by publishing the story without the approval seal, and undermined the code's credibility when the story got a lot of critical and public acclaim. The Code's creators attempted to pull an Author's Saving Throw after the story's reception by allowing negative depictions of drugs.
  • Swamp Thing under Alan Moore also had an issue published without The Comics Code seal, the one where Abby finds out that she had been having sex with her uncle in her husband's body.
  • Exploited Trope for Marv Wolfman and George Perez in Teen Titans' "The Terror of Trigon". The Comics Code did not approve of their on-panel scene of Dick and Kory sharing a bed, but losing the approval meant they could get away with a lot more horror elements than they normally would.
  • The EC Comics story Judgement Day was a sci-fi Fantastic Racism story which was clearly intended to parallel real racial issues of the time, culminating with The Reveal that the human astronaut protagonist, who until the final panel had a face that couldn't be seen through his suit's helmet, was a black man. The Comics Code Authority tried to get the creators to change the astronaut's race, but the creators argued that doing so would have undermined the entire point of the story. This objection also had no basis in the wording of the Code; nothing in the Code said a protagonist couldn't be black. The final response from writer Bill Gaines was "Fuck you," and the comic was printed exactly as written without the seal of approval. It was the last comic EC Comics ever published, mind, but they regard it as Worth It.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot: Bill Amend says that words like "sucks" are a big no-no for newspapers, so it's fun to occasionally make them central to a strip's joke so that they can't be easily edited out.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The producers of the classic films The Pawnbroker and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? did this when they successfully appealed to The Hays Code board of governors and made them bend to the inclusion of artistically necessary nudity and harsh language respectively, with the excuse of them being "special exceptions".
  • MGM when it outright defied the Hays Code and released Blowup despite the censors' attempts to stop it, to great critical and box office success.
  • Otto Preminger famously released The Moon is Blue in 1953 without Hays Office approval, and had to do the same with The Man with the Golden Arm. (Both films received belated Code approval in 1961.) Preminger had to pressure the censors to pass Anatomy of a Murder, whose dialogue on the subject of rape was fairly explicit for its time. He leaned on the censors to allow lines such as "fight like hell" in Carmen Jones and "screw the captain" in In Harm's Way.
  • Producer David O. Selznick insisted that the famous line "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" had to be included in the final cut of Gone with the Wind. This directly led to the MPA board amending their policies to allow the use of mild expletives in quotes from history or literature, and may have eventually resulted in the deregulation of motion pictures as a whole.
  • The Ascent (1977) was very nearly banned for its religious symbolism. It only got released because the director's husband happened to know Pyotr Masherov, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Belarus, and arranged for him to attend a special preview. Masherov was astonished at the quality, and raved at how amazing it is. Naturally, the censorship board had to accept it without comment. (Source in Russian).

  • Dave Barry had lots of fun in his columns at the censor's expense. When he arrived at the subject of breastfeeding, he had this to say:
    I checked with an editor, and he said I could say "breast" as long as I used it scientifically, rather than to arouse prurient interest. For example, I could say "two breasts plus two breasts equals four breasts," but I could not say: "Hey, get a load of that breast."
  • In Penn Jillette's column from PC/Computing Magazine in the 1980s he suggest that, to avoid the censors, simply write your article the way you want it but then accept all the processing program's spellcheck suggestions to replace the swears; everyone will still know what you're talking about but the censors won't have any complaints - because "they don't know Shiite."
  • Pretty much the raison d'etre of maverick publishing house Grove Press that in the 1950s and 1960s took on publication of hyper-controversial works such as Naked Lunch and Lady Chatterley's Lover despite legal threat. Grove's response to legal threats regarding the publication of Naked Lunch: add a section to the next paperback edition detailing the trial and the subsequent Supreme Court decision.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One of the first times (if not the first) the word "ass" was used on US TV was by Jimmy Stewart, in a poem he read on The Tonight Show.
    Lake Barengo is a body of water whose surface is smooth as glass
    But getting to Lake Barengo is a genuine pain in the ass.
After the taping, the NBC Censor called up the producer.
Censor: I heard that someone said "ass" on the show. You know, that's not allowed.
Producer: Before you say "that's not allowed," let me tell you who said it: Jimmy Stewart.
Censor: Oh, Jimmy Stewart said it? That's OK then.
  • When The Doors were on The Ed Sullivan Show, they were told they couldn't sing the line "Girl, we couldn't get much higher". Jim Morrison did anyway, getting them banned from the show from then on. The incident appears in the Biopic as a Moment of Awesome. Allegedly, this was actually because Morrison was extremely nervous and forgot to change the lyric, not because of any rebellious intent.
  • Elvis Costello was famously banned for many years from Saturday Night Live after he defied the express demand of Lorne Michaels that he not play "Radio Radio", which NBC felt to be a satirical attack against the media.
  • When Nirvana played at the infamous 92 MTV VMAs, Kurt played the first bars of "Rape Me" as Writer Revolt before changing to "Lithium".
  • In MTV Awards Europe 1996, Metallica was told not to swear in the show. Cue "Last Caress" by The Mistfits and "So What" by Anti-Nowhere League. Indeed so fucking what?!
  • Disney+ strictly forbid any R-rated or TV-MA content content on its service in the US (prior to the addition of the Defenders franchise in 2022), and attempted to censor The Beatles: Get Back for its multiple uses of the word "fuck". Disney was rebuffed on this front not only by director Peter Jackson, but the surviving Beatles (Paul and Ringo) and the deceased Beatles' widows (Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison), and were forced to release it uncensored with Content Warnings.

  • In 2003, the Rascal Flatts got into some controversy for their music video "I Melt" due to some nudity and sensuality. Rather than edit the video in order to fit the sensibilities of the country music channels, they kept their video as it was, saying they were satisfied with it.
  • In 1933, Richard Strauss was unwillingly made director of the Reichsmusikkammer, the Nazis' official music bureau, despite the fact that he was no friend of the Nazis. In this position, Strauss helped promote and preserve the very music which the Nazis banned as "degenerate", much to their chagrin. Additionally, Strauss maintained a friendship with his Jewish librettist Stefan Zweig, and requested that his name appear on the billing for a comic opera he wrote. (Hitler and Goebbels declined to attend the opera, and it was later banned.) Eventually, Strauss was kicked out after the Nazis intercepted a letter to Zweig criticizing their racism.
  • Wilhelm Furtwängler, another famous composer and conductor, was made the vice-president of the Reichsmusikkammer. Like Strauss, Furtwängler was critical of the Nazis, promoted music and musicians banned by the Nazis, and gained the position solely by his fame. He even met personally with Hitler to try to convince him of the value of Jewish composers to music, but Hitler ignored him and turned the discussion into a shouting match. The Nazis' dislike of Furtwängler came to a head when he wrote a letter in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung in support of composer Paul Hindemith (considered a Jew by marriage), and also conducted a banned piece of his in an immensely acclaimed concert. This audacious act was the impetus for the Nazis to build a conspiracy against Furtwängler, and he resigned from the vice-presidency and was forced to resign from other artistic positions.
  • Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols was, obviously, banned from display on the grounds of obscenity. The Sex Pistols managed to get this overturned by proving in court that the word "bollocks" is an authentic English word that has been in the dictionary for over centuries and, in the context of the album, referred to "nonsense".

  • The Howard Stern Show blatantly baited the FCC, costing radio stations that carried it millions of dollars in fines.
  • On January 15, 2009, the Los Angeles indie-rock station Indie 103.1 went off the air in favor of a Latino music format (actually a return to form, as before Indie 101.3, it had been a Latino station before). Almost as a last hurrah, 103.1 ran a continuous loop on the air of five songs for the two-day interregnum before the new format took over. One of those songs was Sid Vicious' cover of Sinatra's "My Way" from The Great Rock N Roll Swindle. The entire song, Cluster F-Bomb and all. They must have been thinking "we're out the door, how can the FCC fine us now?"

  • Michael Jordan began wearing his Air Jordan brand of shoes during games at a time when the NBA forbade players from doing such a thing, and fined Jordan every time he wore them on the court. The trouble for the NBA was Jordan had both the clout with the public and the cash from the deal with Nike to more-or-less ignore the fines and keep wearing them anyway. Doing so made Jordan's brand far more well known than if the NBA had said nothing and gave him free advertising with a Colbert Bump, so it was a punishment that was actually helping Jordan. When it became clear that the fines weren't going to work, the NBA stopped punishing Jordan for wearing the shoes.

    Video Games 
  • In-Universe example: In Fallen London (where you have Victorian-era ideals of decency), a couple of mid-level Persuasive storylets involve this, especially notable if you have or want Bohemian connections; you can help a poet friend get his banned work republished and organize readings of banned poetry. If you fail, it raises your Scandal meter.
  • Not for Broadcast: When the rapper J-Zuss is about to perform, he tells Jeremy Donaldson at the last minute that he'll be performing a different song, that's not government approved. Cue a very swear-filled song that heavily criticizes the Advance government and its leaders, to put it mildly.

    Visual Novels 
  • The title "Daughter for Dessert" is a defiance of the Patreon rules against incest material on its website.

    Web Video 
  • When the Game Grumps are playing House Party (2017), they discover the "censor nudity" option and Dan wants to not click it, thus forcing Matt their editor to go in and manually censor any nudity that happens to appear. Matt actually spliced in footage of himself, at his workstation, reacting to this decision with disbelief and ultimately Face Palming at Dan's flippant decision to give him extra work.
    Arin: I should probably click the "Censor Nudity" option...
    Dan: No! NO! I wanna see it! Fucking Matt and Ryan can do that shit! No! It might cut out scenes though!
    Arin: "Thank you" says them! [turns it on]
    Dan: NO! Fuck you, Matt and Ryan!
    Matt's Handwritten Text Overlay: Fuck you, Danny.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Invoked by Bart when his boy band has a gig at Springfield Elementary.
    Bart: Hello, Springfield! Now, here's a song that your principal Skinner doesn't want us to play.
    [audience boos]
    Skinner: That's not true! This assembly was my idea. I like your brand of inoffensive pop-rock.
  • Rebecca Sugar, creator of Steven Universe eventually came to something resembling this position after years of network censorship attempts of the shows LGBTQ elements.
    Rebecca Sugar:Ultimately, I said, "If this is going to cost me my show that's fine because this is a huge injustice and I need to be able to represent myself and my team through this show and anything less would be unfair to my audience.
  • Alex Hirsch, creator of Gravity Falls, compares working at a censored place like Disney to "trying to paint a picture while a chimp constantly hits you in the head with a wiffle bat". In this metaphor, the "chimp" is a "network censor" and the "bat" is "arbitrary concerns which justify their job position". Let's face it, it's not easy to get things like eating children and summoning demons past Disney.
  • Mainframe Entertainment eventually stopped caring what ABC's censors thought after they learned Reboot was going to be cancelled and added in cursing (both in dialogue and in code), violence, and on-screen deaths to the latter half of what they believed would be their final season. They were also blatant about why their show was going away, adding in dialogue that obviously put the blame on ABC for "turning on them" and calling them "treacherous dogs". Thankfully, though ABC did drop the show, it was picked up by another network and allowed to keep the dark tone the show had taken on.