Anyone who doesn't live under a rock knows that every country isn't as tolerant as the United States. Certain nations take pride in upholding different standards and following stricter moral codes, which is probably why you'll never see steamy sex scenes or violent fights playing on their airwaves. As a result, most TV shows undergo tons of edits and revisions before they're be released abroad. And if certain episodes are too controversial to be scrubbed clean, they're simply banned altogether. However, it seems like wiping out inappropriate or explicit content isn't always enough, because some nations have resorted to banning entire shows instead.
To be fair, a few of them had legitimate reasons for their decision (like how India banned Cow and Chicken for mocking an animal that they view as sacred). But then there are others that blocked the most innocent shows for the craziest reasons. A lot of these will definitely leave you scratching your head in confusion.
There's actually a laundry-list of things that China deems inappropriate when it comes to entertainment. Among these are jokes about Chinese culture, homosexuality, and too much cleavage, but the most surprising one would have to be time-travel. In 2011, Chinese authorities actually announced that producers and writers are "treating serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore." By this time, time-travel films and shows had grown very popular in the country, but apparently, authorities were not happy about the growing trend. Aside from Doctor Who, literally ALL shows and movies that deal with time travel (like Doctor Strange and Back to the Future) are banned.
Well, internet trolls and the president's ego, to be exact. When hilarious side-by-sides of President Xi Jinping and Winnie the Pooh started circulating online in 2013, people figured that they'd found a clever way to get around China's censorship. It seemed harmless enough, but the leader seemed to take it very personally when he caught wind of it. The adorable cartoon bear got banned in 2017 and has been censored on social media ever since. Also, not surprisingly, Disney's upcoming film Christopher Robin is banned from being released in the country because of Winnie's character.
...And then they proceeded to substitute the series with Baywatch (we kid you not). The country's former president, Hugi Chavez, deemed The Simpsons too inappropriate for kids and decided to pull it off the air in 2008. One spokesman from Venezuela’s broadcasting regulator Conatel explained that the show was "infringing many things in the television and radio social responsibility law." It apparently also promoted "messages that go against the whole education of boys, girls and adolescents." But hey, at least they've got re-runs of the wholesome and educational Baywatch to make up for it.
Surprisingly, it wasn't the violence or intense fighting scenes that got this popular show banned. It was all because of its title, which contained a word that sounded a little too much like a drug. The term "morphin," which is just cool slang for "morphing," sounds very similar to "morphine." That alone made the title confusing and too inappropriate for kids, so they banned the entire show. One can't help but wonder why they couldn't just alter the title to something more kid-friendly. Especially since they do this with movie titles all the time.
Well, to clarify, Peppa Pig's character become a symbol of resistance for "people of society" or "shehuiren," a group in China that consists of gangsters who have "anti-establishment views." Haiqing Yu, a Chinese digital media expert, explained: "Peppa Pig is supposed to teach kids about the importance of family which is quite acceptable to the Chinese culture, but the fact that young people have turned it into something associated with a thug or a gangster, that’s totally the opposite of what Xi Jinping has wanted China to be." So technically, the show isn't even at fault here. But the president just couldn't risk keeping the show if it helped "promote" gangster culture.
It's actually one of six cartoons that they banned and labeled as "pro-gay." They include Loud House, The Legend of the Korra, Clarance, Steven Universe, and Adventure Time. The change was made as a result of complaints received from the public, so the Kenya Film Classification Board (or KFCB) released a statement saying that these cartoons "were laced with subtle messages normalizing, glamorising or even glorifying homosexual behaviour contrary to the law and the KFCB Classification Guidelines." They also mentioned that these shows targeted kids and sought to "impair their moral judgement on the institution of family." Pffft, this makes us like Arnold even more.
If a popular TV show suddenly got pulled off the air, we'd at least expect to hear a valid reason why. But unfortunately, those who live in China had no such luck when The Big Bang Theory got banned. It was actually one of the most popular shows in the nation and it wasn't super inappropriate, so it seems rather odd that it would be banned out of the blue. However, it's rumored that it may have been because the show was getting way too popular compared to China's domestic shows. Fortunately, as of now, the show is back on the airwaves, so we're guessing they just don't want to see foreign shows outperform their own.
The anime series is a worldwide success, but in 2015, the country banned Attack on Titan from print and digital distribution. As for why, the Chinese Ministry of Culture claimed that it had "severely improper content," and one official mentioned that they sought to "protect the healthy development of youth." Perhaps they were referring to all the violence and blood, but some suspect that it may also be because of the show's political undertones, which seem to encourage fighting against authority. We're guessing they didn't want the people of China to get any crazy ideas.
In 2000, Turkey decided to ban the show because two children who believed they had powers jumped from high balconies and injured themselves. Although the show does feature magical creatures who can leap far distances, there's actually no proof that these kids were directly inspired by what they saw on the show. Still, the country's health minister blamed the anime series for both isolated incidents. Zuhtu Sezer, the program director of ATV (which used to air the series), said: "I think this is a very unfortunate case as Turkey tries to take its place in the European Union. Where is the freedom of expression?"
We all know that South Park pulls no punches when it comes to sensitive or controversial topics. Its also featured its fair share of mature content, which is probably why Russia deemed it "pornographic, extremist and immoral." According to their statement, the satire is "of low moral and ethical content and has an extremely negative effect on children, it perverts their moral orientation and increases the danger of panic and neurotic ailments." But it seems like Russia isn't the only nation that feels this way. India has also banned the show for its vulgarity.
Only two days after the popular Netflix series debuted on one of China's streaming services, the show abruptly got pulled. The video streaming service, known as iQiyi, claimed that "adjustments need to be made" to the series before it could return, but no specifics were given for why those adjustments were needed. One could easily guess that censors weren't fond of show's more serious themes, which included addiction, depression, trauma, and self-destructive behavior. After all, they've banned way more innocent shows that are acceptable for toddlers.
In a sense, we can understand why South Koreans would be so uncomfortable with their country being portrayed in such a negative light. But at the same time, M*A*S*H did take place during the Korean War, so it's not like the creators chose to make South Korea an impoverished nation for fun. Still, the actual Korean War was barely covered by the media in the U.S., which meant that the most popular representation of the nation was shown through this hit series. We can see why the South Korea would feel pretty salty about this.
On the series, the character Brocken Jr. is a German Nazi who fights evil... while sporting a giant swastika symbol. He never appears to support Nazi beliefs on the show, so one can't help but wonder why he proudly wore a symbol of hate or one that carried such dark history. In France, portraying a Nazi as moral went against their hate speech laws, so the manga was completely banned while only a few episodes of the show were aired.
China figured that the only way to give domestic cartoons a fair shot at gaining popularity was to ban random foreign cartoons for no good reason. And sadly, in 2008, Scooby-Doo was among the few chosen to get nixed. Other shows that got banned were Spongebob, Pokemon, The Flinstones, and Bugs Bunny. These are literally the most innocent shows ever... Talk about unfair.
Happy Tree Friends was a rather dark but fairly popular cartoon about Woodland creatures that used to air on Russia's adult animation channel, 2X2. All seemed well until Russia's Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media sent an official complaint about the cartoons being too violent. And the fact that Russia's protestant church wanted the entire station shut down didn't exactly help matters either. The channel's general manager, Roman Sarkisov, explained: "Rather than argue we took [Happy Tree Friends] off air, although any television criminal drama in Russia is a hundred times more violent than these cartoons."
The show was banned for having "scenes of violence, pornography, terrorism, and crimes against public morality." But what's even more disturbing is the fact that it started the most cringe-worthy trend among Chinese youths. They were reportedly inspired to sew colorful threads into their skin because Tokyo Ghoul characters have appeared with stitch patterns on their faces and bodies. In this case, we can totally understand why the show got banned.