So you're writing a popular series, and occasionally butt heads with the censors. You've been pushing the envelope of what's acceptable for a while, and while the higher-ups are wary about annoying the moral guardians, your fans love your edgy style. OK, but surely this time you're going too far. You know that this joke is going too far, that you'll have to remove it and find some way to sneak it in. But screw it, you have to try! You submit it to the censor, and the reply comes back...
You've just run into the surprisingly lenient censor. As it turns out, censors and rating boards aren't (always) the fanatical puritans we tend to imagine them as. Rating boards understand what the age ratings actually mean, and tend not to see hardcore sex in every innocuous frame. Even company censors are capable of considering context, target audience, and whether children will actually see the work.
To avoid this page looking like it was written by Lady Whiteadder, examples are restricted to creator reactions.
- The famous Portuguese drink Licor Beirão ("Liquor from the Beira region"). Its slogan? O Beirão de que todos gostam ("The one from Beira which everybody loves"). Who was "The one from Beira which not everybody loves"? António de Oliveira Salazar, Portugal's then dictator! Yes, they basically pulled a joke on a dictator and the best of all is that he knew about it, didn't try to censor it and complimented on the liquor makers audacity!
Anime and Manga
- The late Carl Macek, who was known for "editing" anime when it's licensed for the U.S., expressed his shock and amazement in a podcast with Anime News Network concerning his work done when editing Captain Harlock for U.S. television. Mainly, the Mazon-aliens in said show were always naked, and there was even a live childbirth on the show (which Macek left intact), and nobody ever said anything. Even people who watched the show never minded it!
- The creators of Baby Blues had thought of a joke in which dad Daryl asks for milk in his coffee and mom Wanda provides it (offscreen) by squirting her breast milk directly into the cup, accompanied with a shout of "Bullseye!", prompting Daryl to remark he was really going to miss it when she stopped breastfeeding. The comic's creators knew this wouldn't be allowed, but sent it to their editor anyway to give her a laugh. What they didn't realize until it was too late was that their editor wasn't in the office that week and her substitute merely waved the strip on through. Rather predictably, it's one of the most popular strips from the comic.
- The Dilbert strip in which Alice gets a bonus. "It's Not Funny If I Have To Explain It" includes the commentary of "I was surprised that this one got published."
Alice: Tonight I find out how big my bonus will be. After all the work I did on that project, I'm thinking four digits, maybe five.[Later...]Dilbert: How many digits?Alice: (visibly upset) I used one on each hand.
- Jim Davis submitted a strip where Garfield takes catnip and wakes up the next morning in Atlantic City with a Barbie doll and his editor approved it. However, most readers apparently missed the marijuana/prostitution gag as well, which was probably why Davis felt he had to explain it in his twentieth-anniversary retrospective book in 1998.
- In Animal House, the age of the girl that Pinto seduces was given as 13, as a Censor Decoy so they could revise the age upwards after the inevitable objection and keep the entire scene. There was no objection.
- This Is the End: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have stated that they included explicit Censor Decoy material in the film which they could then cut to get the rating they wanted; they were amazed when the explicit version was approved as-is.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush", in which everybody loses their voices, Buffy makes a gesture to indicate staking the demons responsible, which Xander mistakes for a masturbation gesture. Later, after Xander beats up Spike for mistakenly believing he had attacked Anya, Anya makes the classic gesture of making a circle with the fingers of one hand and thrusting a finger of the other hand through it. They exit quickly, stage right. To this day, Joss Whedon is unsure how that got past the censors.
- Michael Moore was surprised that his show TV Nation was never censored during its run on NBC. Despite criticizing corporate corruption in a manner that did not exclude General Electric, NBC's corporate owner at the time, he actually had a pretty good relationship with the network.
- The creators of The Young Ones were surprised that the censors allowed a scene at a party of Rick going through a girl's handbag, finding a tampon, and having no idea what it is. It's not that the BBC censors weren't paying attention - they did try to cut Vyvyan showing the girls how many pushups he can do, because they thought it looked like he was having sex with the floor so they wanted to cut it.
- The creators of Animaniacs said in an interview with The Nostalgia Critic that they were surprised the infamous "finger prints" joke was left in.
Tom Ruegger: I mean, we've obviously put that in, and we just said, "Oh, let the censor have a laugh and call us." [laughs] And I guess the censor was away that week, because that's still in there. It's amazing.
- In Gargoyles, Fang says "Kinky" when watching Demona change from gargoyle to human. Greg Weisman himself admitted he wasn't sure how they got that one past the censors.
- Word of God from Maxwell Atoms, the creator of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, is that the rampant Black Comedy on the show generally got past unopposed. He attributes this to the censors not really being used to dealing with that style of humor, and instead they focused more on clamping down on crude sex jokes and language.
- South Park:
- When Trey Parker and Matt Stone were told they couldn't subtitle the movie All Hell Breaks Loose because "hell" is a curse in America, they sarcastically suggested calling it Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, and were surprised that the ratings board had no issue with the phallic Double Entendre.
- Likewise, the episode "Raisins" features a joke where one character tells another they're a "continued source of inspiration", only due to a stutter he ends up repeating only the first syllable, "cont" (think about it). Again, Parker and Stone were pretty surprised Comedy Central didn't cut it.