Getting Crap Past the Radar refers to instances in which a writer, artist or other creator puts inappropriate content — stuff that directly violates the censorship standards they are working under — into their material with the deliberate intent to get past said censorship.
How this is accomplished may vary. The content submitted for ratings may be so offensive that the demands to cut it down end up missing things that would have otherwise been obvious (AKA the Censor Decoy). The creators may hide offensive content as Easter Eggs. Sometimes the Media Watchdogs are just asleep at the wheel. Such events can result in bad (or good) press for a work, or angry calls to a network or studio.
It is important to distinguish this trope from other tropes like Parental Bonus, Demographically Inappropriate Humour, Subtext, and Accidental Innuendo. In these cases, younger audience members are expected to miss the messages, but adults will read them loud and clear. Censors are usually fine with such things, so it's not a violation of media standards. Indeed, this is often a deliberate and widely accepted ploy to engage older audiences in what is nominally a family-friendly work. As such, it is not Getting Crap Past the Radar.
Compare Does This Remind You of Anything?. Contrast with Defying the Censors, in which the creators fight to have their controversial work shown to the masses; and Surprisingly Lenient Censor, in which the censors are more easy-going than the creators expect. See also Crosses the Line Twice, which can be the end result of gradually increasing the level of inappropriate content.
Important note for editors: To qualify for this trope, content must meet three criteria:
- The Radar: It must be in a medium and format where Media Watchdogs exist and actively censor content. Self-censorship does not count. Post-censorship, such as by advertisers on a webcomic, also does not count.
- The "Get Past" Part: The inclusion of the content must be intentional, and the creators of the work must be aware that it ought to be censored. Accidental Innuendo does not count.
- The Crap: It must be something that directly violates the criteria for the rating assigned. Innuendo and subtext do not count.
That last point means that, yes, examples will require citations. Citations can take any of the following forms:
- Citation, preferably with a link, of which rule was violated. Simply referring to the standard isn't enough — examples must state the exact clause. Note that standards change frequently, so make sure you're referring to the correct one.
- Cases where the creator describes how they circumvented the censors. Note that if a creator is merely surprised something got through, it belongs on Surprisingly Lenient Censor.
- Reports of censorship failure from investigative journalists working for reliable news outlets. Blogs, social media, and comment sections do not qualify.
- Works which get released, and are swiftly recalled for the specific purpose of either changing the age rating or removing objectionable content. Note that this does not apply in cases where the radar only gets involved if people complain after the fact, which is the case with most advertising as well as websites which host user-created content such as YouTube and Fanfiction.net.
American Broadcasting Company
- Mork & Mindy is the trope namer. As Robin Williams himself says in the documentary Pioneers of Television: Robin Williams Remembered, he would try to sneak all manner of things past the censors, frequently hiding dirty foreign jokes within Mork's gibberish alien languagenote .
American TV Parental Guidelines The TV Parental Guidelines were first implemented by Congress in 1996 and are enfored by the Federal Communication Commission. TV shows aimed at children and teenagers are required to display the appropriate age rating when broadcast in America. Official guidelines can be found here.
- Funimation's dub of the Dragon Ball Z Android 18 movie included the word "bitch", the kind of "infrequent coarse language" that warrants a TV-PG rating at minimum; somehow, it only got a TV-Y7 rating when aired on Nicktoons.
- The Transformers episode "Roll for It" includes some Japanese text from the production crew. Roughly translated, it reads "to "Gah, I need a woman. Ain't there any hot babes around? Let's call it a day, get home quick and hit the sack. Hey, Habara, did you pop your cherry yet?note Let's go hit a Turkish bathnote some time"." This is the sort of thing that warrants a TV-PG rating, rather than the TV-Y7 it got.
- Beast Wars managed to get away with a fair amount. Like G1, it was rated TV-Y7.
- In "Double Dinobot", there is ciphertext that reads "hey ian, go fuck yourself". The word "Fuck" alone is enough to warrant at least a TV-14 rating.
- After Silverbolt's illegal flirting with Blackarachnia:
Rattrap: So, uh, where ya' been, bird-dog?
Silverbolt: Uh, scout patrol...
Rattrap: Oh, yeah, yeah, scoutin' the enemy, yeah. Find any new positions?
- Genuine double entendres don't mandate anything higher than TV-PG, but this was still rated TV-Y7.
- Mainframe Entertainment also used codes to sneak dirty words into ReBoot. In Season Two, as a Take That! towards the network censors, the words "Fuck you, Broadcast Standards!" are written in Mainframe's skybox in binary; like Beast Wars, ReBoot is rated TV-Y7, which does not allow for saying "Fuck".
- The episode Painted Windows has Hexadecimal's mask scream "Damn you!" at Bob during her Villainous RRoD, something also not allowed in TV-Y7 shows.
- Road Rovers was rated TV-G, which means "no strong language". At one point, discussing Russian names, Blitz, Colleen, and Exile used the example of "Sonov". Add that to the patronymic suffix "-ovich" and you'll see why that song got cut for later airings, and is suspected by fans to be part of the reason it was cancelled. See the video here.
- Black Hole High got away with using the word "crappy"; it's rated TV-Y7, which does not allow cursing of any kind.
- Power Rangers Time Force was rated TV-Y7, so no cursing was allowed. In the original version of the finale The End of Time, we hear the Cyclobots talk for the first time. It sounds like nonsense robot talk...until you run it backwards. They say, "You are the size of a fucking condo."note to Ransik and "You bitch, that's too much money."note Disney took notice and in later airings, that backmasked speech was recorded with "You, sir, are the size of a condo."note and "That's too much money."note
- Despite Restaurant: Impossible's TV-G rating, "damn", and in rare cases "pissed" often are used.
- In the Little Witch Academia episode "Discipline", there's a picture of comments on a website with a design similar to Tumblr. One of the comments on the website is "Piece of shit game, piece of shit referee." Also, one of the comments Croix was looking at related to the Wild Hunt in "Stanship Take Off!" said, "Wow! people actually believe in this bullshit". This warrants at least a TV-PG rating, but Netflix gives it TV-Y7
- The animated film Saava: Heart of a Warrior features a song during the credits that contains the words "ass" and "motherfucker", the latter of which is spoken/sung in a way that's impossible to miss. Netflix, clearly taking no notice of this, gave the movie a TV-Y7 rating.
Allied occupation of Japan
- Yasujiro Ozu was generally thought to be a conservative who valued Japanese tradition and old-style values, which is why his films are so typically "Japanese", as opposed to Akira Kurosawa who made more West-friendly movies. Lars-Martin Sorensen in his book Censorship of Japanese Films During the U.S. Occupation of Japan: The Cases of Yasujirō Ozu and Akira Kurosawa observes that Late Spring, made in 1949 when the United States was occupying Japan and American censors were controlling Japanese films, seems to have a carefully hidden message decrying Western values. Note the scene where Noriko and a friend cross a bridge on bicycles, while a sign saying "Drink Coca-Cola" in English is prominent in the foreground. This is often cited as a dig at Western commercialism.
Australian Commercial Television Code of Practice The Australian Commercial Television Code of Practice is the standard by which Australian TV stations rate content. It is maintained by Free TV Australia, an industry body, with oversight from Australian Communications and Media Authority. The age ratings are designed to correspond closesly to those of the Australian Classification Board, which rates movies and video games. The full standard can be found here.
- FLCL somehow only got a G rating upon its initial video release despite being jam-packed with nudity and double entendres that go far beyond "brief" and "infrequent". It seems like someone actually bothered to watch the DVD, because that release was upped to PG.
- Beast Wars was rated a reasonable PG... but the episode "Double Dinobot" has the message "hey ian go fuck yourself" written in a substitution cipher. Having a "fuck" would normally garner an M rating.
- ReBoot had the exact same thing happen. Like Beast Wars, it was rated PG. In season 2, Mainframe's skybox has "Fuck you, Broadcast Standards!" written in binary.
- Black Hole High got away with using the word "crappy"; it's rated G, which does not allow cursing of any kind.
- Power Rangers Time Force was rated G, so no cursing was allowed. In the original version of the finale The End of Time, we hear the Cyclobots talk for the first time. It sounds like nonsense robot talk...until you run it backwards. They say, "You are the size of a fucking condo."note to Ransik and "You bitch, that's too much money."note Disney took notice and in later airings, that backmasked speech was recorded with "You, sir, are the size of a condo."note and "That's too much money."note
British Board of Film Classification The British Board of Film Classification (Censorship before 1984), founded in 1912, is responsible for assigning age ratings to films and TV shows released in the UK. They also rated video games and still have the authority to do so, but that responsibility has been delegated to PEGI since 2012. You can find their current criteria here. While nowadays they mostly just assign ratings, in the past, they were perfectly willing to order changes or ban films altogether, and for often ill-defined reasons; you can find some loose guidelines from the early days here.
- Black Narcissus is dripping with the kind of innuendo the BBFC was not OK with in 1947:
- The Old General mentions importing plenty of sausages for the nuns to eat.
- When the nuns first meet Mr Dean, Sister Clodagh says she wants to talk to him on business. He responds "I don't suppose you want to talk to me about anything else", prompting an offended look from Sister Briony.
- Mr Dean says of the Old General "he too is a superior being", again getting a scandalised look from the nuns.
- When Mr Dean asks Clodagh to take in Kanchi and the nun is studying the young woman, he watches the pair of them with barely disguised amusement and almost lasciviously asks "You're sure there's no question you're dying to ask me?" practically daring Clodagh to demand whether Kanchi is his lover. She refuses to ask, so the viewer never finds out either way.
- The Young General mistakenly says he'll study physics "with the physical sister".
- Sister Clodagh says of her former beau Conn "I had already shown that I loved him", which seems to imply that they had premarital sex. As she is Irish, it's possible Clodagh fled the Magdalene Laundries where she could have been sent as punishment.
- When National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was released in the UK, the middle word in "Danny FUCKIN' Kaye!" was changed to "DANCIN'" to get a PG rating. The Blu Ray is uncensored, but is still rated PG; while standards change, the guidelines at the time still only allowed "mild bad language" in a PG release.
Canadian TV Classification System The Canadian TV Classification System was introduced in 1997 to cover English-language Canadian TV shows (French-language TV has its own system). The age ratings are intended to parallel those of movies, but the TV ratings tend to be stricter than their film counterparts. The TV ratings lack the A rating and add C and C8 ratings for young children. The full rules can be found here.
- The Transformers is rated G, but a few episodes manage to subvert the restrictions.
- "Roll for It" includes some Japanese text from the production crew. Roughly translated, it reads "to "Gah, I need a woman. Ain't there any hot babes around? Let's call it a day, get home quick and hit the sack. Hey, Habara, did you pop your cherry yet?note Let's go hit a Turkish bathnote some time"." The G rating specifically does not allow any form of sex or nudity.
- "Kremzeek!" has a naked woman on the Hojoni billboard.
- Beast Wars managed to get away with a fair amount. It was rated C8+, an even more restrictive category than G.
- In "Double Dinobot", there is ciphertext that reads "hey ian, go fuck yourself". C8+ says "No profanity".
- After Silverbolt's illegal flirting with Blackarachnia:
Rattrap: So, uh, where ya' been, bird-dog?
Silverbolt: Uh, scout patrol...
Rattrap: Oh, yeah, yeah, scoutin' the enemy, yeah. Find any new positions?
- As with the G rating, C8+ does not allow any form of sexuality.
- ReBoot was rated PG in Nova Scotia and G in Manitoba. Evidently the ratings agencies couldn't read binary, or they'd have noticed that Mainframe's skybox says "Fuck you, Broadcast Standards!"
- The episode Painted Windows has Hexadecimal's mask scream "Damn you!" at Bob during her Villainous RRoD.
- Tony Cervone has stated that Velma in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated was written as a lesbian, which they made as clear as possible at the time but the showrunners were limited due to Executive Meddling, and the result was the best they could get away with at the time. She and Marcie do get together after the timeline reset.
- On 21 February 2017 episode of Jeopardy!, during the College Tournament, Stanford student Viraj Mehta displayed an extended middle finger for at least seven seconds, supposedly to illustrate his interview subject, the geometry of folded pizza slices. Mehta layer confirmed on Twitter that his gesture was deliberate.
Central Board of Film Classification (India) The Central Board of Film Classification was established in 1952 to regulate the content of movies released in India. Rather than set criteria, they use a list of guidelines and assign a rating based on overall impact; as such, ratings are rather subjective.
- The CBFC is known to have accepted bribes in exchange for awarding valuable U ratings to movies which warrant higher classifications.
Classification And Rating System (USA) The Classification And Rating System (CARA) is a board appointed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that has assigned age ratings to movies shown in America since 1968, following the demise of the Hays Code. CARA are stricter about sex and more lenient on violence than ratings agencies in other countries, though are generally more liberal on both counts than people think. By their own rules, the body is composed solely of parents living in the state of California. You can read their official guidelines here. Note that CARA assigns ratings based on whether (they estimate) American parents would find the movie objectionable rather than by (somewhat) measurable criteria, as is done by other bodies; this policy infamously leads to movies with LGBT content automatically garnering higher ratings than if everybody was heterosexual. As such, care must be taken when judging a movie's rating against the guidelines.
- In a 2002 interview with Empire magazine, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman say that the American censor was concerned about Pussy Galore's name in Goldfinger, but they persuaded him to let them leave it in by taking him out to dinner and claiming to be big supporters of the Republican Party.
- In the original airing of the South Park episode "Ike's Wee Wee", Mr. Mackey's "I don't need to take your right-wing authoritative bullshit!" was said unbleeped. It was caught immediately and bleeped on all subsequent reruns and even the Season 2 DVD release, only being restored in the HD remaster.
Comics Code Authority The Comics Code entered force in 1954 amid widespread (and unfounded) fears that comics were corrupting the youth of America. While not legally binding, American retailers would usually refuse to sell comics that didn't conform to the Code's strict regulations on morality, violence, and sex. You can view the original 1954 version here, the 1971 revision here, and the 1989 revision here. The Code was offically made defunct only in 2011, but by that time only Archie were still seeking approval.
- In 1974, Captain America first encountered the Comittee to Regain American's Principles, a villainous organisation whose acronym violated the ban on "[p]rofanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings" in the 1971 revision of the Code.
- Steve Gerber included a sentient space turnip named Phelch in Howard the Duck 1:2; felching is the practice of using a straw to retrieve one's own sperm from a partner's orifice. As such, Phelch's name violates both the profanity clause and the ban on "sex perversion or inference to same".
- Firestorm did the same thing as Captain America with the Coalition to Resist Atomic Power.
- There's a crazy amount of nude Storm appearances in 70s X-Men comics. The Code was on its second revision, which did not allow any form of nudity.
- According to inker John Totleben regarding Swamp Thing 2:22, Woodrue's dilated pupils, in the close-up panel after he tastes the Swamp Thing's tuber, are a deliberate if covert indication of drug use, still forbidden under the then-current version of the Comics Code unless depicted as a "vicious habit." (Totleben states further that Woodrue's subsequent use of an EEG device was a smokescreen for the real method by which he tapped into the Green.) When DC began releasing the title without the Code's seal of approval, it freed the creative team to make the tubers' psychedelic properties more explicit and give them a recurring role in the series.
- In Swamp Thing 2:37, when John declines Emma's offer to spend more time in bed with her, she asks whether she's ever told him what her father says about Englishmen; he responds "Yes, you did; "no, we're not; and if I ever meet your dad I'm going to chin him." The implied word after "not" is, of course, "gay," which in 1985 was the sort of "inference" to "sex perversion" which the Code forbade.
DC Comics editorial
- After many years of trying to write realistic language in comics, only to have the editors change words like "dick" to "dork" and to cut references to masturbation entirely, Neil Gaiman finally scored in The Books of Magic. Karen Berger wouldn't let him have John Constantine say "shit", so instead he says "felching heck!", which was apparently acceptable.
Department of Motor Vehicles (USA)
- The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles will reject applications for personalized license plates "with obscene or objectionable words ". One individual managed to get A55 RGY; this is already iffy, but because the license plate put an orange between the two parts, it ended up looking like ASS ORGY.
- Don Rosa has this to say in the "Making Of" section for Of Ducks, Dimes and Destinies:
"Often I put scenes in my stories that I know will not get past Egmont editor Bryon Erickson, just to give him a chuckle... or heart failure later on if he doesn't spot my mischief."
- In Disney's The Rescuers, during the scene where Bernard and Miss Bianca are flying aboard the back of Orville through the city, a small image of a topless woman is visible (for two nonconsecutive frames) pasted in the window of a building in the background. The 1999 Masterpiece Collection VHS tapes containing the image were recalled almost immediately, and all subsequent releases of the film have, of course, have been edited to exclude the image. There have been many urban legends surrounding Disney movies and purported hidden risqué content, but this remains the only incident to have been clearly deliberate and of an unquestionable nature.
- This is how the hidden Mickeys got started. Walt Disney intended Epcot to be an adult-oriented section of Walt Disney World, at which alcohol would be served. As such, he did not allow the company's classic characters to appear at Epcot, thinking it would be inappropriate. The engineers responded by sneaking Mickey Mouse icons in wherever they could. The restriction is no longer in place, but the workers continue the tradition.
Entertainment Software Ratings Board (USA and Canada) The ESRB is the industry body responsible for assigning age ratings to video games in America and Canada. Their current ratings criteria can be found here.
- Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled patched in microtransactions a few weeks after launch. This allowed them to sell a lot of copies without having to include the In-Game Purchases content warnings mandated by the ESRB.
- In order to ensure that D was published in the form he wished, Kenji Eno resorted to actual fraud. First, he developed the game with no story line, concealing the cutscenes from his own staff, then submitted a 'clean' version to the board for approval. He then deliberately submitted the master late, knowing that he would then have to deliver it by hand to the U.S. manufacturers. That gave him time to 'switch' the clean disc with the version he intended, bypassing the censors completely!note
- Lack of blood or subtitles meant that Team Buddies managed to get an E rating despite the Buddies saying "fuck" rather a lot.
When accidentally shooting your own buddies: "Are you fuckin' mental?!"When commanding buddies to build a weapon: "Where's yer fuckin' tool?"
- Jan's Heroic Suicide in Lufia: The Legend Returns has him bleeding out onscreen, making this one of the few (if not only) instances of blood in the series. The game also has a few mild instances of swearing, including one from Seena after Jan's death and Daos' subsequent fight. It's rated "E" for everyone.
- Voez was temporarily pulled from the Nintendo eShop in the US and rerated from E for Everyone to T for "Mild Blood, Partial Nudity" in regards to some previously overlooked content.
- Ben Folds' "Rockin' The Suburbs," includes multiple uses of the word "fuck", starting low, quiet, and garbled, but each subsequent line is higher, louder, and more clear. The music video version doesn't start bleeping the word "fuck" until the last couple of repeats, so some slightly-garbled-but-unmistakeable uses of "fuck" are left uncensored.
- The Eurovision Song Contest does not allow cursing. Naturally, the occasional one slips out (one of the hosts in 2001 had a notable one when it looked like he broke the trophy), but it's usually avoided. Most recently, one of the backing dancers for the Dutch entry in 2018 seemed to be clearly screaming "Fuck yeah!" to the camera when they finally qualified.
Federal Communications Commission (USA)
- Listen to any radio edit of "This Time Around", and you'll notice that Michael Jackson's curses are edited out, but The Notorious B.I.G.'s N-bombs are left intact.
- Chopped normally bleeps out cursing, but foreign words sometimes escape censorship:
- Chef Chris Sell, in the episode "Belly Up": "Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks!"
- In 2013's "Chopped Champions: Part 1", Chef Sylvain Harribey said "This is all shit!" But he said it in French
- There's a joke about a "Cleveland Steamer" in the Family Guy episode "Mr. Saturday Knight". What makes it even funnier is that the original joke used the less-vulgar term "half and half" which the censors wouldn't allow. In the DVD commentary, Seth said it was one of the most vile jokes they'd ever gotten away with, and that was mostly because the censors assumed that the writers had made the term "Cleveland steamer" up and didn't know it was an actual sexual term.
- In the Futurama episode "Bendin' in the Wind", w4hen Farnsworth asks Fry if the VW van has a device that can slow down and speed up time, Fry holds up a bong, prompting a shocked look from Hermes. According to DVD commentary, the reason the censors didn't object to the scene was because the script referred to the bong as a "strange bottle."
- At the end of The Simpsons episode "Fraudcast News", Willie notes that the new tractors are all "shite". They got away with this in the first airing, but that line was cut in all subsequent broadcasts.
- Batman: The Animated Series occasionally found ways against BS&P's absolute rule against killing. As story editor Michael Reeves said in Animato magazine regarding the episode "Mudslide", which ends with Clayface slipping through Batman's fingers as he melts::
Since Warner Brothers was paying for the series, Fox could give suggestions, but we didn't have to take them. The only people we had to listen to was Broadcast Standards and Practices and their only flat-out taboo was that we couldn't kill anybody, and we even got around that a couple of times. In this episode Clayface went off that cliff and melted. He's dead.
- France Gall apparently she had no idea that the Serge Gainsbourg-penned "Les Sucettes" was one big double entendre about oral sex.
Hays Code The Production Code of the Motion Picture Industry, commonly referred to as the Hays Code, was a set of guidelines to which the American movie industry was subject from 1934 to 1968; while not legally binding (indeed, it was adopted specifically to avoid legal restrictions on movie content), no movie could be shown in American cinemas without approval from the MPPDA (today known as the MPAA). You can read the entire thing, complete with the various revisions, here.
- Tex Avery's The Shooting of Dan McGoo has a town named Coldernell, which sounds almost exactly like "colder than Hell"; the Hays Code specifically forbade the word Hell.
- Avery did the same thing in the Chilly Willy short "I'm Cold", in which Chilly lives in a village called "Colder'nell"
- Almost everything Driftwood says to Mrs. Claypool in A Night at the Opera thumbs its nose at the Sex section of the Code. A few cracks are still on the outrageous side.
Driftwood: You're willing to pay him a thousand dollars a night just for singing? Why, you can get a phonograph record of 'Minnie the Moocher' for 75 cents. (Pause) For a buck and a quarter, you can get Minnie.
- A Thousand Clowns found ways around the restrictions on nudity in the Costume section: Nick's "favorite toy" is Bubbles, a battery-powered electric statue shaped like a topless hula dancer whose chest "lights up". Even Albert appears to have a "strange interest" in Bubbles...
- In A Woman's Face, Torsten ogles two women dancing with each other during a very drunk get together. Yes, the Code also forbids "[d]ances which emphasize indecent movements"
- Advise & Consent has a few moments due to Otto Preminger barely bothering to do his job.
- An attractive woman is seen leaving a senator's hotel room first thing in the morning, wearing the same Little Black Dress and mink stole she was presumably wearing the night before. The majority leader then enters, finds the senator still in his bathrobe, and gently suggests that perhaps a senator should project more stability by getting married.
- This is the first American movie with a scene inside what is obviously a gay bar; while the Code never specifically mentions homosexuality, it does forbid "sex perversion", under which homosexuality would have falled in 1962.
- In a mild Precision F-Strike, Dolly jokingly refers to herself as "an old bitch" in one scene.
- One of the professors in Ball of Fire devoted their work to sex education, and even refers to it by name. In a movie from 1941.
- Bedlam: When Nell is introducing herself to John Wilkes, he makes clear that he expects more than Compensated Dating with his companions; if she lives with him she'll have to put out. He isn't gross about it, though, and they shake hands and part as friends.
- A Reasonable Doubt:
- Tom says he "had to" marry Patty, implying it's because she claimed to be pregnant, something a film wouldn't openly say then.
- Susan also makes a just barely veiled request for sex.
Susan: But I feel like dancing now.
Tom: All right. Where?
Susan: I've never seen your apartment.
- The two lead characters in Breakfast at Tiffany's are more or less prostitutes, but the film never openly admits as much.
- At the very beginning of Bringing Up Baby, David says he's sure that the bone he's holding goes in the Brontosaurus's tail. His fiance gives a smile and says "we tried it in the tail last night. It didn't fit."
- In Detour, Vera suggestively lays a hand on Al's shoulder and says "I'm going to bed." When Al brushes the hand off, she stalks away in a snit.
- Buzzy in Having Wonderful Time makes a proposal of sex with Teddy that is surprisingly frank; "scenes of passion" were permitted only when essential to the plot.
Buzzy: When I like a girl, and a girl likes me, I think it's only fair to suggest we get together, if you know what I mean.
- In It's a Wonderful Life Harry, a white man, flirts with Annie, a black woman. While Played for Laughs, the Hays Code forbade mixed-race relationships until 1956.
- The Tramp in Modern Times gets high on cocaine while in prison. It's not referred to as cocaine, only as "nose powder", but there's no other way to interpret that scene! While the Code at the time only specifically forbade portrayal of the drug trade, using drugs in prison plausibly falls under that.
- Patrick McGilligan's biography Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light describes how the infamous kissing scene in Notorious ingeniously circumvented the rule against "excessive and lustful kissing". The censors defined "excessive" as "longer than three seconds", so Hitchcock had Alicia and Devlin embrace, kiss each other, nuzzle a little, chat softly about making arrangements for dinner, kiss again, nuzzle, kiss again...
- There were concerns that censors would object to Taylor's cry of "God damn you all to hell!" in Planet of the Apes. The problem was avoided when the producers and Heston explained that the phrase was not an expletive. Rather, Taylor was, literally, calling on God to damn the entire human race for destroying civilization.
- Towards the end of the shower scene in Psycho, when Marion reaches out and grabs the shower curtain, the naked breasts of body double Marli Renfro are visible in the background out of focus. (Picture here◊, possibly NSFW).
- Reap the Wild Wind: In Loxi's song, one of the lyrics is "son of a", and all the ladies gasp. But the next line is "shiny, briny blue". While there's no actual cursing, they Code did explicitly forbid the phrase "son-of-a".
- ''Reckless got in a joke about sexually-transmitted diseases despite coming out in 1935, just the year after the MPDA started enforcing the Code.
Ned: Did you catch anything?
Mona: We didn't fish!
Ned: Did you catch anything?
- The 1936 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet included much of William Shakespeare's signature dirty jokes and bawdy humour. We guess the fact that one does not mess with Shakespeare is the only reason the movie was able to get the line "for the bawdy hand of the [sun]dial is even now upon the prick of noon" past the censors, especially given the obvious joy with which John Barrymore hits the word "prick"; the Nurse even registers a wickedly delighted reaction, acknowledging it to be an obvious sex joke.
- The C-plot of Separate Tables involves Charles and Jean, a young dating couple who are staying at the hotel and, because they aren't married, have to deal with disapproving looks and gossip from the likes of mean Mrs. Railton-Bell. Charles for his part is a medical student who is cramming for an anatomy exam, while Jean keeps pestering him for sex.
Charles: How can I possibly mix anatomy with romance?Jean: Well, that shouldn't be too difficult.
- It's strongly implied, and among the production crew outright stated, that Norma in Sunset Boulevard has been using her pet monkey as a surrogate lover. Which means that the unfortunate Joe caught her on the rebound.
- When the title character of Suzy gives a broke showgirl some money, she says it's from her rich uncle. When the showgirl expresses surprise that Suzy has an uncle in London, she says "I haven't got any relatives anywhere, but I got a rich uncle." In other words, she has a sugar daddy.
- The Americanization of Emily got away with all sorts of things due to the Code being on its last legs in 1964
- While it actually show Charlie and Emily having sex, but later confirms that they did by having Emily fret over the possibility that she might become pregnant.
- The line "You're a bitch!"
- One of Bus's girls is rousted from bed naked when Charlie bursts in to complain to Bus. She's complaining and scrambling for a sheet when Bus tells her to stand at attention. So she does, standing at attention naked while Charlie complains about his orders.
- Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon makes a sly reference to Holmes' cocaine habit. Holmes, captured by Moriarty and stalling for time, suggests to Moriarty that instead of just shooting him, he should try something "more creative" —like inserting a needle into his vein and slowly drawing out all of his blood. In response to this suggestion, Moriarty snidely quips:
Moriarty: The needle to the last, eh, Holmes?
- Without coming out and saying so, The Bells of St. Mary's makes clear that Patsy Gallagher's mother has been supporting herself and her daughter by prostituting herself.
Father O'Malley: You've been supporting her all this time?
Mrs. Gallagher: Mm-hmm. I suppose you're wondering as to how. So is she. She's getting to be a big girl now. She's beginning to think I'm no good. I want to put her in your care...before she finds out she's right.
- The English version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame never says that Frollo is a priest, but he does live in a cathedral and wear robes that look like they could be priest's robes. He's identified onscreen as an alchemist, but he did practice alchemy on the side in the original novel. All in all, it seems like the filmmakers are trying to make it so that the audience will infer that he's a priest, but without tipping off the censors.
- Gloria, the girl at Nat's Bar who likes Don in The Lost Weekend, is strongly implied to be a prostitute. She keeps meeting total strangers at Nat's for dates, and she tells Don that she broke "a business date" to see him.
- The Maltese Falcon dodges dodges the rule against "sex perversion" by only subtly implying the homosexuality of Wilmer Cook and Joel Cairo. Cairo kisses his phallic cane lovingly at one point. Spade refers derogatorily to Wilmer as "the gunsel", both in the movie and in the book. "Gunsel" was Yiddish slang for a a male passive sexual partner, but not many people knew that. As the slang was all but forgotten, it was re-imagined as slang for a gunslinger or a gun-toting hitman.note
- The Voice of the Turtle has a lot of wink-and-nudge dialogue about how Olive Really Gets Around. When Sally offers her a drink right before Olive is about to go out with Ned, Olive says "Hard drinks make me weak. I'm saving my weaker moments."
- At the start of The Whole Town's Talking, Jones wakes up and tells his pet bird that he had a wonderful dream about Miss Clark, but tells the bird that its too young to know all the juicy details.
- In the DVD Commentary on To Catch a Thief, they talk about how they kept cutting to the fireworks so that they could draw out the kiss longer.
- You Nazty Spy! mentions the "Giva Dam", and has a whole lot of cursing in Yiddish.
- The title character of Young Cassidy innocently wonders how Daisy affords an apartment as an only sporadically-employed chorus girl. She lets him know that she is either a kept woman or a full-on call girl by saying "I have an uncle as well," and giving him a Meaningful Look.
- Melanie in Gone with the Wind has to strip naked so her nightgown can be used to mop up the blood of the dead soldier. While her nudity is covered by angles and objects, the Code still forbade any nudity whatsoever
- The song "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love" in the film version of Gentlemen Prefr Blondes has Jane Russell, in a low cut top, with a bunch of half-dressed guys at the gym who steadfastly ignore her. The Celluloid Closet presents this as a textbook case of subverting the Code, and offers an alternate reason why she's ignored.
- Victoria Smith in "[[https://muse.jhu.edu/article/202906 "Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" argues, with substantial evidence, that Orlando's sex change in Orlando: A Biography was done in order to insert a same-sex romance at a time when such a thing could never have been published; while lesbianism was not illegal in the UK at the time, it will wasn't socially acceptable.
Irish government restrictions
- During World War II, the Irish government censored new media severely in order to maintain an image of neutrality. When Germany fell to the Allies, the editor of the Irish Times arranged seven photos of Allied commanders in a rather unusual layout — specifically, they formed a giant V for Victory sign, celebrating the Allied victory.
Japanese government restrictions
- Army pays lip service to the idea of the patriotic duty of Japanese citizens, and the duty of Japanese parents to give their sons to the Emperor, but the ending sends a very different message. Maka's anxiety about her son going off to war has already been established by a shot of her silently weeping as Shintaro gives her a massage. In the last scene she is sweeping up the house as the sounds of the soldiers marching to the train station can be heard. Suddenly she crumples to the floor. Maka dully recites the five principles of the soldier. Then she snaps out of her fugue and goes on a desperate dash through the neighborhood to the parade route. A sobbing, grief-striken Maka manages to see her son one last time before he marches away. The film ends with her praying. It seems safe to presume this was not what the Japanese government had in mind when it commissioned this film.
Jockey Club (USA) The naming of Thoroughbred racehorses in the US is governed by Jockey Club Registry Section 6:E(x). Banned are "Names that are suggestive or have a vulgar or obscene meaning; names considered in poor taste; or names that may be offensive to religious, political or ethnic groups." Despite this, some horse owners manage to sneak in names like Peony's Envy
- Wizard 101 applies various rules to the text chat to filter out cursing, offensive language, and for some reason the word "Hell". Naturally, players figured out ways around this.
- Clever capitalisation (ex. HELLo), until this was fixed in a patch.
- In many cases it's as simple as changing a letter. There are quite a few players saying "crop".
- Players are not allowed to say "I hate you," yet "I hate ya" gets past the censor just fine.
LEGO Lego has an internal policy, made official in 2010 after many years of being the de facto rule, of avoid[ing] realistic weapons and military equipment that children may recognize from hot spots around the world and to refrain from showing violent or frightening situations when communicating about LEGO products. At the same time, the purpose is for the LEGO brand not to be associated with issues that glorify conflicts and unethical or harmful behavior. In short, sets depicting modern-day military weapons are not permitted. note However, a few kits manage to sneak through the cracks.
- This set is clearly meant to be a Lockheed F-35 Lightning II strike fighter, but since it's labelled simply as a "Blue Power Jet" instead, it technically doesn't violate the company's non-violence policy.
- The V-22 Osprey set was an interesting case. Although in real life the V-22 is strictly a military vehicle, the LEGO version is depicted in civilian markings and makes no mention of its use as a vehicle of war. However, a German protest group pointed out that, as a licensed model, it would still be providing money to weapons manufacturers regardless, and LEGO withdrew the set in response. It got past the company's "radar" just fine, but it couldn't get past the protests.
- This set can be built into a jet fighter resembling a Sukhoi Su-15 as well as a twin-engine prop plane based on a Douglas A-26 Invader. Once again, neither is explicitly named, giving the company a degree of plausible deniability. The same is true of this set, which can be built into a Northrop F-5 Tiger or a De Havilland Mosquito.
- One of the Toy Story sets depicts the plastic soldier characters along with an Army Jeep. Ordinarily this would be a clear violation of the "no modern weapons" policy, but since it's based on Toy Story, as opposed to representing a real-world vehicle, it gets a pass.
- There is an entire theme based around the Coast Guard, which is, legally speaking, a branch of the military. However, the Coast Guard's primary function is rescue and law enforcement, making it acceptable by the company's standards. That said, at least one of these sets contains a model that wouldn't be allowed in any other context— a rescue helicopter that is clearly meant to be a Sikorsky HH-53.
- In the Beavis and Butt-Head episode "Dream On", you can hear Beavis mumbling "Fire, fire". This was after Beavis' catchphrase was bowdlerised (to "fryer, fryer") because of "Comedians", aka the episode of actual pyromania it was falsely accused of in Real Life.
- Verwitterte Melodie, made in Germany in 1942, is regarded as containing a subtle anti-Nazi message.
- First, there's the record, a jazz tune. The Nazis, famously, hated jazz.
- Two of the bugs stumble across a broken garter strap, which is Getting Crap Past the Radar on one level—some vigorous sex was happening near that record player, apparently—and not very Nazi-friendly on another level, as bonking to jazz music in a meadow was hardly the thing that proper Nazi maidens were supposed to do.
- Two ladybugs dance and embrace. Lesbians?
- Then there's how all the various bugs and other small animals of the meadow—frogs, hedgehogs, etc—work together to play the music on the record. A multicultural group of people working together and living in harmony was not a Nazi-friendly message.
- One episode of Maya the Bee had to be pulled due to a rogue animator sneaking in a picture of a penis.
- Brian Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino decided to work a same-sex romance in The Legend of Korra; as Koneitzko explains here, the higher-ups at Nickelodeon wouldn't allow an explicitly lesbonic relationship, but they were able to work it in through lots of subtle signs and hints, culminating in a final shot of Korra and Asami holding hands and gazing into each other's eyes as romantic music plays.
- The Oggy and the Cockroaches episode "(Un)Happy Camper" had a picture of a topless woman with cartoonishly-oversized breasts in the background, and first aired in 1998. Nobody noticed until 2015, when TMZ caught it; this resulted in the show being cancelled American Nickelodeon despite improving ratings, and that particular episode being immediately removed from Nick's website.
- Vinny's Tomodachi Life streams feature an odd version of this: since his particular brand of comedy is usually blocked by the game's curse filters, he attempts to circumvent them in various ways (misspelling, phonetic pronunciation, etc.) Sometimes it works (i.e. getting the islanders to say "fuck" by spelling it "fuhck"), and sometimes it doesn't ("Honk honk fhuker" ends up pronounced as "Honk honk few-ker"). Not to mention the various dirty allusions that the filters don't catch...
- Steve L. Kent in The Ultimate History of Video Games discusses how Nintendo's censors went out of their way to censor things that could even be considered offensive from the NES port of Maniac Mansion (which Douglas Crockford corroborates here. They went through all of that trouble to have the creators remove even some innocent things... and completely missed the fact that you can put a hamster in a microwave and essentially nuke it, then give the exploded remains back to its previous owner! They fixed this only in the international release, when it was too late to revoke it from the original US port.
Pan European Game Information PEGI is the industry body that assigns age ratings to video games throughout Europe (except in Germany, who have their own system). Information on the age ratings is listed here; you can also view the internal questionnaire they use to assess games here, which is current as of May 2020.
- Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled patched in microtransactions a few weeks after launch. This allowed them to sell a lot of copies without having to include the In-Game Purchases content warnings mandated by the PEGI.
- Rabbids Go Home was rated 7 at launch, and swiftly withdrawn to be rated 12 due to "potentially offensive content".
Recording Industry Association of America The Recording Industry Association of America is a trade body representing the American music industry; approximately 85% of all music released in America is via an RIAA member. Since 1985, in response to complaints from parents, RIAA members have attached Parental Advisory labels to records, CDs, and digital files when the producers believe that parents might find the lyrics objectionable. You can read the standards here. Note that the decision to include the label or not is ultimately down to individual choice, producers have considerable discretion in determining what might be unsuitable for children, and the rules explicitly say that there is no need to slap the label on an album just because one song has a barely-audible curse in the background.
- Prince's Purple Rain (album), specifically the track "Darling Nikki", directly led to a US Senate committee forcing the RIAA and several major labels to put "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content" stickers on American albums to warn for explicit lyrics in 1985. Despite this, Purple Rain has never received the sticker.
- Kid 'N Play intentionally subvert the "Parental Advisory" stickers in their album Funhouse by creative use of interludes. The lyrics themselves are completely devoid of curses or suggestive lyrics, but the studio outtakes and conversations used as interludes are definitely not suitable for children. Despite this, Funhouse has never received a "Parental Advisory" sticker either; which was even lampshaded in one of the interludes when the duo and their producer Hurby Azor were going over the tapes:
- Hurby: Yo, what are y'all gonna do with this shit, man? I could get in trouble with these tapes man!
Kid: It goes on the damn record, in between the thing, man! The shit we tried to do on the last one!
Play: The only things you don't put on the tape is when Hurby comes into the room, 'cause whatever's on there is scandalous shit!
- Try saying the title of Britney Spears' "If U Seek Amy" fast. Not too bad? How about with context: "Love me, hate me, say what you want about me but all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy." The album it was on escaped the Parental Advisory label, and nobody noticed the pun until after it was released, forcing Britney to record a cleaned-up version for radio broadcast.
- Bruno Mars' 24K Magic also lacks a parental advisory warning, despite the Title Track containing a few utterances of "Shit"
- Pablo Honey to this day has no Parental Advisory sticker on it, despite being widely distributed AND bearing an incredibly famous and explicit lead single.
- Tori Amos' Boys for Pele includes the lyrics "slag shit", "starfucker just like my daddy", and "peace, love, and a hard cock" in just one song. And there's no Parental Advisory sticker.
- One episode of Maya the Bee had to be pulled from Netflix due to a rogue animator sneaking in a picture of a penis.
- Cursing is bleeped out in Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, but "shat" (as in the past tense of "shit") managed to slip past at least once.
United States Military
- Army brass suspected John Huston of making a covertly anti-war film in the form of The Battle of San Pietro. Huston replied that if he ever made a pro-war film, they could shoot him.
- When Skweek was ported to the Amstrad CPC, the programmers for their own amusement made a version where Skweek would tell the player to "Go fuck your mother" upon completing a level. Somehow, this version was released in the UK, and had to be quicky recalled when the publisher realised what they had done.
USSR State Committee for Cinematography (Goskino)
- Alexander Nevsky features a Russian Orthodox saint as a protagonist, presents medieval Russia in a positive light, and glorifies non-Communist Russian patriotism. All these things were looked down upon by Soviet authorities and intellectuals critical of what was termed Great Russian Chauvinism, yet Sergei Eisenstein got away with it.
- The Life of Émile Zola: Someone who wasn't familiar with the Dreyfus Affair might wonder why Captain Dreyfus was selected to be the fall guy based on apparently zero evidence. The reason, of course, was that he was Jewish. Warner Brothers head Jack Warner, himself a Jew, insisted that Dreyfus's religion not be discussed in the film. However, when the General Staff is trying to figure out who the traitor is, Dreyfus's personnel file shows "Religion: Jew". The Minister of War's finger is pointing to that line as someone offscreen says snootily "I wonder how he ever became a member of the General Staff." The Minister of War then says "That's our man."
- Even though Animal Jam has moderation, it didn't always catch players performing what resembled sexual acts (a male animal jumping on a sleeping female animal used to be a common sight) and arranging furniture to spell out profane words. This resulted in complaints from parents; see this news report for an example.note
- In A Face in the Crowd, part of the rebranding for Vitajex that Rhodes masterminds involves hinting as much as possible for TV in The '50s that it boosts the male sex drive.
- In A League of Their Own, the newsreel montage implies that Mae is able to get away with the nickname "All the Way Mae" thanks to the assumption that it's a reference to her base running skills.
- In Legally Blonde, Fran feels it's this that law professors say "sub-poena" all the time.
- Man of Iron: The opening scene shows a harried Winkel trying to figure out how to get news reports about the Gdansk strike past the censors.
- Morning for the Osone Family: Ichiro explains how he tried to couch his anti-war essay in general terms while letting the message come through subtly. It was good enough to get past the censors but not good enough to keep him from getting arrested.
- Addams Family Values: During the Thanksgiving play, Pugsley is dressed up as a turkey for a musical number. His lines in the song consist of saying "Eat Me" twice. Amanda's parents, who are in the front row, react slightly.
- Chappelle's Show: Dave comments after his first "A Moment in the Life of Lil' Jon" skit that Lil Jon does this when the song "Get Low" plays on the radio, since it contains the word "skeet".
Dave: And you know what the most dope thing about "skeet" is? White people don't know what it means yet. When they figure it out, they're going to be like, "My God, what have we done?"
- El Caso does this quite a bit, since this is a newspaper dealing with censorship. For instance, in episode 4, Jesús hands Aparicio an article and tells him to change the front page behind Cabrera's back... just minutes before the paper goes into the rotary.
- In Upper Middle Bogan, Edwina arranges for the school orchestra to play "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?", and she uses her bassoon to toot in time to "No way, get fucked, fuck off!" at the appropriate point.
- The Get Down: To show the graffiti writers that he hasn't sold out, Zeke incorporates different tags and pieces into his speech at Ed Koch's rally without letting the politicians or other adults realize what he's talking about. Even more impressive is that he's doing it on the fly.
- Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! does with the commercial for Dick Dousche's Cleaning Rag.
Dick Dousche: Thank you. I'm Dick Dousche. That's my real name... that's the only way we can get away with this.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Mushroom the Fool produced the unsanctioned narrative of the Dance of the Dragons, a war of succession between the Targaryen kings, with trash, sex, treason and murder included. It's a remarkable thing that with all their power, the Targaryens were not able to purge his book.
- Principal Humbugger's name is obvious to the real audience of Hatchetfield,, but apparently the makers of Santa Claus Is Goin' to High School are sneaking through the obscene word "bugger" to their tween audience.
- In Sword Art Online Abridged, to act out a particular scenario, the players have to resort to flicking mayonnaise as a substitute for... other fluids, since this is supposedly a kid's game.
- Peter, Paul and Mary have this to say in "I Dig Rock n' Roll Music"
But if I really say itUnless I lay in between the lines
- The Angry Video Game Nerd gives us a funny example::
AVGN: Whoever came up with this is an ass*BEEP*!!!...Ass....Hole?....Ass*BEEP*! Television makes a lot of sense.
- In Jinx High, the spring dance at the high school starts off with a Maypole dance, and Diana recognizes the specific form of the dance as the Sex Magick variant instead of the "standard" fertility rite (which would be bad enough in the Bible Belt). note
- In Fear Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail 72, under Rumsfeld, the film industry was highly censored, but some filmmakers were able to sneak in some anti-Rumsfeldian themes. Back to the Future featured an ending in which Marty discovers that his alteration of the past wrote him out of existence, which was an attempt by Spielberg at drawing a metaphor about Rumsfeld's Orwellian alteration of history. The movie It's a Wonderful Life'' is used to convey another anti-Rumsfeld message by drawing comparisons between Rumsfeld and Mr. Potter, but its history as a beloved American classic means that these themes were ignored by censors.
- In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Darcy and a silly girl have a discussion about how little she knows about balls. She, of course, is talking about a dance, and Elizabeth seems to be the only one who realizes that Darcy is "flirting with impropriety".
- In The War That Came Early, a campaigner for FDR compares the 1940 election, where Democrat FDR runs against Republican Willke and third-party candidate Landon, with the 1912 election, in which Democrat Wilson ran against, and defeated, Republican Taft and Bull-Moose (Teddy) Roosevelt. In so doing, he says that, once again, a Democrat is running against a Republican and a Bull-something. Peggy, who is attending the rally, reflects that the speaker is implying what cannot be said directly in a public forum, that Landon is bullshit.
- In an issue of Deadpoolby Daniel Way, the inner voices are very impressed with how they got him to say "dick" uncensored by reinterpreting it as slang for "detective".
- The writers of the (non-existent) cartoon that Punk Rock Saves the World is "based on" knew that censors would try to water down the subversive elements of the punk genre, so "they worked very hard to disguise the message in such a way that the message would go over the network censors' collective heads."
- Isadora in Erica Jong's How to Save Your Own Life has a license plate that says "Quim", which is an (obscene, comparable to "cunt") old English term for vagina.
- Lee Mack has a bit about his grandmother.
Lee: Did you ever do that thing when you were a kid where you try to swear in front of your nan, to try and impress your mates? We'd do that. How many swear words can you get in without Nan noticing? It'd be like "Anyone f'coffee now? Anyone fo' coffee? Is it half a cup? Haaaaalf a cup? Hm?"