PROTIP: Press 'i' to view the image gallery, 'v' to view the video gallery, or 'r' to view a random entry.
Unnecessary Censorship refers to the practice of adding censor bleeps, mosaic blurs or black bars to source materials that were neither profane or explicit to begin with. The bleeps are typically dubbed over words to make it sound as if they were explicit. Mosaic blurs and black bars are placed over people, objects, or text to make it appear as if they are covering up pornographic or explicit material.
Origin: On Television
Censor bleeps are commonly used on television to indicate that explicit language has been replaced. In 1999, FOX aired the short-lived sitcom Action! starring actor and comedian Jay Mohr. An article on Salon pointed out that the show had a total of six bleeped-out words prior to the opening credits, and an article by Television Without Pity claimed that the show was one of the first shows in television history to use censor bleeps for comedic purposes.
In January 2005, Entertainment Weekly writer Paul Katz published a brief article titled “Funny $#@*!” that recognized The Osbournes and Arrested Development as shows that used censored bleeps for comedic effect. A 2002 article from the National Review commented on how often the censor bleeps were used on The Osbournes, providing a quote from Ozzy Osbourne in an episode:
“What the [bleep] am I doing? Can’t get this [bleeping] television to work! I’m [bleeping] stuck on the Weather Channel!” Panicked, he yells, “I press this one button and the [bleeping] shower starts. Where the [bleep] am I? It’s a [bleeping] nightmare! Nightmare in Beverly Hills!”
This Week in Unnecessary Censorship
In 2004, Jimmy Kimmel Live! began hosting a segment every Friday called “This Week in Unnecessary Censorship” as a satire of the FCC’s censorship guidelines. The segment included edited video footage where words would be bleeped over to make it sound as if they had been cursing.
One of the earliest known iterations of censor bleeps online comes from the YouTube Poop community, where it is referred to as the “censor beep.” It has been applied to episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street, and other popular source materials.
YouTube Poop creator Klusingolo created several censored bleep videos with footage from SpongeBob and Dora. His first bleep video titled “Chocolate with Nuts” was uploaded sometime after 2007. His entire account was taken down due to copyright claims by Viacom, and he created a new YouTube account titled “ViacomCanSuckIt.”
In December 2008, the restaurant MMMafia in Chennai, India produced a series of censored ads for their food products. In March 2010, SomethingAwful.com posted a collection of faux-censored photos. In June and August 2010, Food Network Humor showcased “censored” photos from episode stills.
More can be found in the video gallery below.
Search queries for “unnecessary censorship” picked up in January of 2005, the same month that Entertainment Weekly published an article about using censored bleeps for entertainment.