Sex, Violence, and Blasphemy
Sex, Violence, and Blasphemy: A History of Banned Music Videos » Gossip - Now that MTV rarely plays music videos, it's no big deal when the network decides a clip is too racy, violent, or disturbing to air — most people are going to watch it online, anyway. But before the dawn of Teen Mom and countless cheaply produced dating shows, it actually meant something when MTV drew the line, prompting discussions of censorship in art and racking up plenty of free publicity each time (just ask Madonna).
Here's a look at some of the most notable music video bannings over the years.
Queen's "Body Language"Though it's laughably tame compared to any current hip-hop video, Queen's 1982 music video "Body Language" was never aired on MTV due to its highly sensual content, including close-up shots of fingernails on sweaty skin and barely clothed dancers licking and biting at each other in odd places. There's also an odd communal shower dance scene that features a severe lack of nudity.
Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls"Believe it or not, the powers that be at MTV were not thrilled at the prospect of airing footage from a Los Angeles strip club. Though the original music video for "Girls Girls Girls" was likely an accurate depiction of the average evening for any Mötley Crüe band member in 1987, it was too much for television and was eventually edited for nudity. The band's video for "You're All I Need" was also banned from the network that same year due to a mildly graphic depiction of a murder and its aftermath.
Madonna's "Justify My Love"Madonna embraced her stunt queen status in 1990 with the release of "Justify My Love," which blurred the lines between art and pornography with its depictions of sadomasochism and voyeurism. The singer reveled in having been banned from MTV, famously shrugging it off in a Nightline interview by saying, "Yeah, so? Lucky me." Obviously, the hoopla boosted her VHS sales. How convenient.
Soundgarden's "Jesus Christ Pose"The six-minute video for "Jesus Christ Pose" was only played a handful of times before MTV banned it in 1991 due to its controversial depiction of a crucified girl. We'd argue the video for "Black Hole Sun" is ultimately much creepier, more interesting, and less dated. Still, it seems ridiculous that this video got the shaft while lesser bands like Limp Bizkit were free to spew mindless frat boy aggression all over the network for years.
Madonna's "Erotica"Chances are you can't hum the tune to Madonna's 1992 single "Erotica," perhaps because it's one of the least catchy songs she ever recorded. If you were old enough to watch television, however, you likely remember the music video, which featured sapphic cameos from Isabella Rosselini and Naomi Campbell. It only aired on MTV three times, and only after a certain hour of night.
Prodigy's "Smack My B**ch Up"In 1997, there was no music video more controversial than director Jonas Åkerlund's clip for Prodigy's "Smack My B**ch Up," which infuriated feminist groups with its depiction of violence against women. Featuring a heavy cocktail of drugs, alcohol, nudity, and even vomit, the video only once aired on MTV 2 in its full, unedited glory, and ran with MTV News warnings after midnight on the main station. The full uncensored version can be watched here. It is most certainly not SFW.
Madonna's "What It Feels Like for a Girl"The most enjoyable of all Madonna's banned videos, "What It Feels Like for a Girl" featured a violent extended fantasy in which a woman, accompanied by an elderly lady from the "Ol' Kuntz Guest Home," goes on a crime spree, doing bad for the sake of doing bad while chowing down on fast food. Directed by Guy Ritchie, the video was only played late at night on MTV and VH1, despite being less violent than most primetime TV shows.
M.I.A.'s "Born Free"The unflinchingly graphic short film for "Born Free" was not M.I.A.'s first banned music video: Her gorgeous, non-violent clip for "Sunshowers" was banned from major networks in 2004 after she refused to excise or modify the line, "You wanna go? You wanna win a war? Like PLO, I don't surrendo." But the Romain Gavras-directed piece was her first to be banned from YouTube due to "excessive violence." The video was later re-posted to the site by VEVO.
Mistah F.A.B.'s "Ghost Ride It"There was nothing particularly objectionable about Mistah F.A.B.'s absolutely idiotic music video for "Ghost Ride It," up until a couple of people killed themselves in 2006 trying to replicate the stupid, stupid stunt it glorified. MTV asked that the video be re-edited after the deaths, but quit airing it altogether after Columbia Pictures complained about the video's use of an unauthorized Ghostbusters logo.
Lady Gaga's "Alejandro"It was really only a matter of time before Catholic-bred pop provocateur Lady Gaga pissed off the Vatican, given her taste for shock and awe, but no one anticipated she'd do it so swiftly with her Steven Klein-directed video for "Alejandro." MTV relegated the video to late-night viewing on sister channels, thanks in part to that scene in which the barely clothed singer swallows a rosary. The video even drew passive aggressive criticism from Gaga's pop colleague Katy Perry, who tweeted shortly after the video's release, "Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke."