In the United States, we just celebrated the 4th of July, the anniversary of our independence from Great Britain.  Independence is a symbol of Freedom.  Freedom means many things to US citizens, including the ability to write and say what you are thinking without worry of repercussions (censorship).  It’s in the First Amendment of the Constitution – Freedom of Speech.  However, the freedom to say and write things doesn’t mean the freedom to read or listen to those things equally.  Our history is wrought with lists of banned books, censored music, and even edited televised programs.  Music, movies, and TV are monitored for inappropriate language, objectionable or harmful content, and moral or political sensitivity.  A rating system is in place to ensure people aren’t unwittingly exposed to things they ought not to hear, see, or read.

In the spirit of Freedom, listed below you’ll find a few of my favorite things that made at least one banned or censored list in the United States:

Books

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller; Banned in English classrooms in the 70’s because of its ‘objectionable language’.  Now, its title is an American colloquialism!

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbach; Poor John. People considered him a Communist for his depiction of American Individualism.  Not to mention his use of profanity and S.E.X. talk!

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbach; John couldn’t catch a break.  This banned book made the naughty list for pretty much the same reasons: language and sex.  You know, the two things that sell just about anything these days.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; This one hit too many sensitive issues: Rape, race relations, and inappropriate language.  <insert eye roll here>

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; another one for language and sex.

even Harry Potter in some states!  Yes.  Can you believe the beloved series that made millions in book and movie sales has actually been banned or at least been challenged?  Themes of witchcraft and wizardry promote Satanist tendencies.  Because Freedom of Religion apparently doesn’t cover that…

Music

‘You Don’t Know How It Feels’ by Tom Petty (1994). If you follow me on Social Media, you’ll know I just enjoyed the hell out of this concert.  But believe it or not, when this song came out in the 90’s, the word ‘joint’ caught the censor patrol.

Hey Joe’ by Jimmy Hendrix (2001) – banned by Clear Channel Radio after 9/11 because of its violent themes.

In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins (2001) – also banned by Clear Channel after 9/11, again due to its themes.

Cop Killer’ by Ice-T (1992) – banned due to its violent subject matter about taking justice into your own hands.

Paper Planes’ by M.I.A. (2007) – banned because of gunshot sounds in its background music.

Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke (2013) – banned at some universities for its sexist lyrics.

Turn on the radio, and many song lyrics are changed or altered (censored) to filter out profanity, sexual themes, and other inappropriate content.

Movies and TV Shows

Two movies that come to mind immediately: The Last Temptation of Christ and Monty Python’s Life of Brian.  Both were banned at one point in at least one state for their perceived assault on Christianity.

One of my favorite shows is “The X-Files”.  In season 4, an episode entitled ‘Home’ about inbreds aired.  Due to its crazy, violent, and sensitive content, it only appeared once due to the sensitivity of the subject matter.  Even though I’ve only seen it once, it’s easily embedded into my memory.

Another favorite is “South Park”.  Season 14, Episodes 200 and 201 insulted pretty much anyone, anywhere.  So, you know…Banned!  You can still catch them on DVD and Blu-Ray, though!

Any live Media event broadcast publicly has a few second delay, just in case someone decides to drop an F-bomb or other ‘sensitive’ sentiment.  In my own life, my kids will use the ‘bleep’ sound effect to replace would-be obscenities.  They do it more as a joke, but censorship is no laughing matter.

Alas, I’m not here to stand on a pulpit and discuss what is right or wrong about censorship and Freedom of Speech.  Just having a little fun while considering what Freedom means to someone who makes a living writing.

So now, how about you?  Do you have a favorite banned Book, Movie, TV episode, Song, Band, etc., you’d like to add?  Leave a comment below.

For more lists of banned materials, you can check out www.ncac.org (Nat’l Coalition Against Censorship) or the American Library Association’s many lists of banned or challenged books (www.ala.org)

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Censorship & Freedom: A Look at Books, Music, & Media
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