A lot of the content that is popular on television is made in the United States. Not all of it, of course, but a big majority of the stuff the world is most interested in originates in the good ol’ USA. But not every country is on board. China, for one, likes to be hands on in deciding what TV shows make it onto their airwaves. Sometimes, that means pretty harmless shows getting banned.
They aren’t the only country to ban TV shows, of course. Even the United States has banned episodes of shows, even one very surprising cartoon. Let’s take a look at 15 well-known shows that have been banned in countries around the world.
1. The Simpsons
Although it’s pretty tame by today’s standards, which features such brutal and raunchy cartoons as Family Guy and South Park, The Simpsons was once considered edgy and controversial. The show has run afoul of several countries during its nearly 30-year run, including issues with Australia and Brazil. But it wasn’t until 2008 that Venezuela, of all places, decided to place a ban on The Simpsons.
Determining that it was unfit for children to watch, The Simpsons was pulled from the airwaves in Venezuela and replaced with old Baywatch reruns.
Next: A popular nerdy sitcom
2. The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory is just one of many shows that you’ll find have been banned by the Chinese government. Although it’s not immediately clear what, exactly, Big Bang has done to lose favor in China, there are several theories as to why the show was pulled from the country’s No. 1 streaming service back in 2014.
Some say that the government doesn’t want “losers” to be trendy, while series producer Chuck Lorre believes the move to be a communist strike against individualism.
Next: An old comedy with racist depictions
This one is pretty easy to understand. M*A*S*H was extremely popular in the 1970s and ’80s in the United States as a show about military hospital during the Korean War. The show’s popularity picked up steam again with reruns in the 1990s, but not so much in South Korea.
After just two months, M*A*S*H was pulled from the air in 1991 due to generally negative depictions of Korean people and a lack of understanding of their culture. It’s unclear whether South Korea is still sensitive about M*A*S*H today.
Next: Kenya bans this Nickelodeon cartoon
4. Hey Arnold!
The country of Kenya hasn’t been shy about banning TV shows, even children’s cartoons. Among the shows that they have banned includes 1990s Nickelodeon favorite Hey Arnold!. The ultra-conservative Kenya’s Film Classification Board (KFCB) gave the following reasons for banning the football-shaped head of Arnold from their television airwaves.
Arnold is taught the wonders of sexual stamina and given stories about sex. Arnolds grandpa had a dick for a head — head is in the shape of a penis and somewhere in the scene there is a poster written “try my sausage”.
Next: The all-time raunchy cartoon
5. South Park
There are plenty of countries that have banned individual episodes of South Park, but most notable is that in 2008 Russia banned the Trey Parker and Matt Stone hit in its entirety. If you’re wondering why Russia has banned South Park, you’ve likely never seen or heard of the show (or paid attention to much news in regards to how Russia operates). Here is the official reason:
This media product 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.
In its place, Russia wanted a series of cartoons that would teach children important lessons — like patriotism.
Next: Another popular nerdy TV show
6. Doctor Who
This one is another head-scratcher, courtesy of China’s weird, TV-banning laws. Back in 2011, China made the decision that time travel would be one topic that could not be explored on TV, leaving some prominent shows — such as Doctor Who — to be slapped with a ban.
Here is the government’s reasoning on the topic: “Producers and writers are treating serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore.”
Among the other notable shows to get banned under the “no time travel” edict are the X-Files and Star Trek, as well as movies like Terminator, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and the Back to the Future trilogy.
Next: A harmless kids cartoon
7. Winnie the Pooh
OK, so time travel is relatively easy to get our heads around, even if it’s a really weird idea to ban it from TV. But Winnie the Pooh? What are you doing, China? This, apparently, comes down to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s fragile ego. Bloggers and internet trolls began creating images to compare Jinping’s appearance with that of the plump little bear, leading to China’s sensors to take action.
After all, they can’t allow their leader to be ridiculed, right? Winnie the Pooh must go! It’s the only reasonable response.
Next: A cartoon that India refused to show
8. Cow and Chicken
You might recall Cow and Chicken as a Ren and Stimpy-esque children’s cartoon that was controversial enough in America, due to its borderline inappropriate style of humor. But that wasn’t really what got Cow and Chicken banned by the country of India.
No, it’s actually the treatment of the cow — which is a sacred animal to Hindus — that led to this cartoon being forced off the air. India apparently viewed Cow and Chicken as a form of mockery.
Next: China bans another popular cartoon
9. BoJack Horseman
BoJack Horseman has built a major cult following in the United States. The Netflix cartoon, featuring a talking horse voice by Will Arnett, has a fun mix of tongue in cheek social commentary and general quirkiness to it. But just two days after debuting online in China, the show was removed for only vague reasons.
It was said at the time that “adjustments needed to be made” before BoJack Horseman could return, but it’s unclear what that means. Chalk this one up to China being overzealous with the ban-hammer.
Next: Singapore couldn’t get on board
10. Sex and the City
When Sex and the City first aired in the United States, it was groundbreaking for the kinds of discussions deemed appropriate for women to be having on television. Fast forward 20 or so years, and all of that seems kind of silly in retrospect.
But one country that wasn’t having it was ultra-conservative Singapore, which banned the show from the air. In 2004, however, the country finally relented and allowed Sex and the City to be shown — but only with some edits to water down the characters.
Next: Another harmless kids cartoon and China
11. Peppa Pig
Yes, even Peppa Pig isn’t safe from getting banned in China. The popular British cartoon pig family is seen as promoting the poorly educated, creating “the antithesis of the young generation The Party tries to cultivate.” If you’ve ever seen Peppa Pig, that may come as a surprise to you. But China sees things through their own lens.
Interestingly, an episode of Peppa Pig is also banned in Australia. This episode is one that fixates on how spiders aren’t harmful, which can be a dangerous attitude to take depending on where you live. It’s understandable why Australia wouldn’t want small children seeing that episode.
Next: Kids were injured watching this one
There are plenty of stories about banned episodes of Pokémon, including the one that was causing small children to have seizures. But the series was banned in Turkey after two small children were injured in a fall. The kids, a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, jumped off a balcony believing that they had superpowers.
Eventually, Pokémon did return to TV in Turkey, but the cellphone game Pokémon Go has been the subject of banning in Turkey in more recent years.
Next: Another cartoon and China
Although it’s not a total ban, China has gone to great lengths to be sure that Chinese children won’t be seeing such foreign cartoons as Scooby-Doo during prime time television hours. Along with The Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, and SpongeBob Squarepants, Scooby-Doo was part of a mass cartoon banning in 2008. The reasoning was murky at the time, with the government wanting to create a “favourable environment for the domestic cartoon industry.” In laymen’s terms, they wanted Chinese cartoons to be able to compete.
Next: A ton of countries banned this show
14. Family Guy
It should be no surprise that Family Guy is banned in several countries. There is a pretty long list, which includes Taiwan, Russia, Egypt, Vietnam, Iran, and many others. The show about the Griffin family and their obnoxious patriarch, Peter, is controversial enough in the United States without having to add in the rest of the world.
Several episodes of Family Guy have either been banned from the airwaves or required major changes to their content.
Next: A cartoon banned in the USA
15. Mickey Mouse: The Shindig
Believe it or not, our final note on this list is a banned Mickey Mouse cartoon. It’s odd enough to note a Mickey Mouse cartoon being banned, but equally shocking is the country in which it’s banned: the United States. The 1931 cartoon The Shindig featured a Clarabelle Cow reading the book Three Weeks in her stable. After there is a knock at the door, she puts on clothes and walks out. There are two reasons here why the cartoon was banned in America.
The first is that the scene shows Clarabelle’s udders, and it’s apparent after she puts on clothes that the audience was looking at her lying naked and reading. Second, it’s that Three Weeks was a work of erotic fiction that religious leaders in the USA had fervently spoken out against. It’s not the first Mickey Mouse cartoon to find itself banned by a country, but it’s pretty strange that it happened in the United States.
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