Cartoon Network censors many of its shows when airing them outside of the USA. This fact has come to light after a particular cut made to an episode of Steven Universe caused outrage in the LBGT community and was picked up and reported on by various news sources. However, the rabbit hole goes much deeper than this. After hearing about this initial controversy I decided to see if this was an isolated incident and found that it was not.
The initial complaint that caught traction, and became a big deal was a cut made to the Steven Universe episode “We Need To Talk” in which Rose and Pearl, who are both technically non-gendered individuals embodying feminine forms, do a brief romantic dance together before fusing into a single entity. A video comparison of the cut can be found below.
In an official statement released to various news outlets Cartoon Network stated:
“Cartoon Network (in Europe) often shows amended versions of programs from US originals. The US broadcast system requires that shows are marked with a rating –in this case, PG (parental guidance necessary). In the UK we have to ensure everything on air is suitable for kids of any age at any time. We do feel that the slightly edited version is more comfortable for local kids and their parents.”
“Be assured that as a channel and network we celebrate diversity – evident across many of our shows and characters. We have an ongoing dialogue with our audiences and our shows reflect their preferences. Research shows that UK kids often watch with younger siblings without parental supervision.”
A lot of negative press has been levied at Cartoon Network since the incident, stating that under the British Board of Film Classifications Universal rating for TV shows there is no reason that homoerotic romantic gestures that stay within the guidelines of what is considered acceptable should be removed. As is stated in the first line of Cartoon Networks official statement instances like these are not all that happens to have been removed from the show.
There is an entire list on the Steven Universe wiki dedicated to all the different parts of the show that have been censored in different countries, and not only is Steven Universe far from the only show to have this done to it but it is done too far more than just romantic content, for example here is a comparison video I was able to find that demonstrates Jasper’s visor being smashed in a fight between her and Garnet being censored:
There are bigger instances that I was unable to find a video of such as Stephen saying “And now I’m gonna die.” in one episode having been completely removed from various localizations as well as the intense kiss between characters Lars and Sadie being edited or removed from a different episode. In addition to these major changes though there are plenty of cuts which are barely noticeable.
There is a scene in an Adventure Time episode which shows Finn and Jake’s butts which were moved slightly up and to the right, which was so subtle that I had to see the video five times before needing to be told what had been changed. There are also episodes which are almost completely shredded by censorship. The Regular Show episode “Terror Tales of the Park IV” had most things that were remotely frightening removed in addition to chopping out an entire story out of the three that were originally part of the US version. There are lists and lists of all of the different changes made to censored episodes of many of the popular shows that Cartoon Network has produced.
Censorship like this goes all the way back to the late 1990’s at least. There was a semi-infamous case in which an episode of Dexter’s Lab entitled “Rude Removal” was prevented from being broadcast until it was eventually released on Adult Swim in 2013. The reason the episode was pulled was that it included characters swearing, although it would have been occluded behind a censor’s bleep. This same sort of thing reportedly occurs often nowadays with “strong language” such as turd and Uranus (yes, the name of a planet) being replaced with milder terms when used on Regular Show.
I suppose I was ready to believe that censorship of children’s shows would be occurring in countries ruled by dictators or perhaps in ones without separation of the state and church but to see this going on now, in 2016 coming from such a great content producer like Cartoon Network and to have it happening in major first world countries such as Australia, France, and the U.K. is pretty astounding.
Is this going on in your country? How do you feel about it? Are you pro or anti-censorship? Think that this should be considered localization? Tell us about it in the comment section.
Trent Katzenberger is a writer, youtuber, gamer, nerd, and just all around a strange sort of guy. He loves trying new stuff and creating odd things.