Raunchy comedies. Scary movies. Songs with explicit lyrics. Space, the final frontier.
When we're kids, we're frequently banned from checking out films, TV, music or other entertainment before we're “ready.” Whatever that means.
At HitFix, we discovered there's a range of what was banned in our households when we were children. Some folks like lucky-duck Gregory Ellwood had no bans at all. Some bans didn't hold. Some bans were so intense, they blanketed all corners of media.
Below are some of our staffers sounding off on what wasn't allowed in their household. Share with us in the comments what stuff you couldn't watch or hear.
Chris Eggertsen – “Married…With Children”
“Married…With Children” was like the Devil in our house, and here's the kicker: I'm almost positive my mother never watched it before banning it. It was enough that a random Christian woman living halfway across the country whom she had never met said it was filth. I am referring here to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan “anti-obscenity” activist Terry Rakolta, who involuntarily became the series' greatest promoter when she led a boycott of the show in 1989. “Married…With Children” was deemed so offensive that my mother's ban eventually extended to essentially every FOX series worth watching in the '90s, from “In Living Color” to “The Simpsons” to “Beverly Hills, 90210.” We've moved past this trauma as a family, but I will never forgive Terry Rakolta.
Emily Rome – “Titanic”
I wasn”t allowed to see “Titanic” when it became king of the movie world in 1997. Not a surprising ban: The movie was PG-13, and there was that steamy car scene, and I was eight at the time. My consolation prize in lieu of seeing the movie was getting the score on CD for Christmas that year. And somehow that tided me over. I remember listening to that CD all the time, but I don”t remember being hugely disappointed at not getting to see “Titanic.” Only when I had to tell a friend I wasn”t allowed to watch it on VHS with her and her older sisters and feeling like quite the loser did I bemoan that ban. I finally saw “Titanic” when I was in eighth grade. The one bummer about waiting that long to see it was that by then watching the movie spoiler-free was not an option, as I was very much aware of Jack Dawson”s fate.
Drew McWeeny – “Fangoria” magazine
I've written about several of the quirkiest of my father's media bans in my house, like his distaste for counter-culture comedy, but the one that was most profound was “Fangoria” magazine. If you're not familiar with it, it's a horror fandom magazine, and during the '80s in particular, it was known for its startling cover imagery. I was a fan of make-up FX, which is exactly what made the magazine forbidden. My dad saw one cover with the exploding head from Cronenberg's “Scanners” and decided to set a zero-tolerance policy for it. There was less trouble if I was caught with a “Playboy” or a “Penthouse.” Because of this ban, I took a particular perverse pleasure when my script for “Pro-Life” was produced for season two of “Masters Of Horror” and our KNB-designed demon character made the cover of “Fangoria” in October of 2006. Sending my dad that cover was one of the proudest days of my life, and I think even he was able to appreciate the full-circle nature of the accomplishment.
Dick Schulz – “The Matrix”
My Dad didn't really care about the MPAA. My mother was a different story. For the first 17 years of my life I royally hated her system for selection. She was by the book; I had to be 13 to watch a PG-13 movie, 17 to watch an R. A twist in her system did often occur, though, and it wasn't until film school that I realized what she had done. If she thought a movie was a good movie and had cultural significance without unmotivated sex or meaningless violence, she would sit me and my older sister down and have a talk about certain themes in the movie. She was essentially saving wasted time. There were some mis-steps (The Matrix, Batman Returns, and The Simpsons) but for the most part she was right on the money (Braveheart, Schindler's List, and a show from which many now-twenty-something were sheltered: Friends).
Daniel Fienberg – “Dirty Dancing”
I was taken to see “Star Wars” at a drive-in when I was still an infant, I napped in the front row at “Gandhi” when I was five and at no point in my young life was pop culture anything my parents ever restricted due to content. [Some things were limited due to ideology or perceived quality, but that's a different essay on why I couldn't watch “G.I. Joe” and “The A-Team” and “The Smurfs” as a child.] But somehow, “Dirty Dancing” was deemed too sexy when I was 10 and I'm not sure I've ever watched it with my parents too this day. The MPAA may have given “Dirty Dancing” a PG-13, but things between Johnny Castle and Baby were just too steamy for my impressionable young eyes. I'm not sure when I finally got around to seeing “Dirty Dancing,” but by that time, I'd see “Basic Instinct” and more than a few things floating around the Internet and I was disappointed by the heat generated in the Catskills. And that's sad.
Louis Virtel – “Back to the Future: Part II”
I grew up with three crybaby brothers who loved feeling like badasses, so it's a wonder my mom still let us watch the original “Back to the Future” after my older brother Jim started mimicking Biff all day and calling everyone “dipshits.” “Back to the Future: Part II,” meanwhile, did not pass the smell test with Mom, who was no-nonsense in a stern church organist way. I couldn't fault her because for years the only thing I knew about “BTTF: II” was what she told me about the plot: “Biff beats up Marty's mom.” That's what I'd say when friends, cousins, and babysitters asked why we weren't allowed to watch it. Sometimes it felt like Mom banned things she'd heard rumors about from puritanical friends or news sources (Her infamous “Simpsons” moratorium comes to mind), but I watched “BTTF: Part II” as an adult and have to agree: What a disgusting plot complication! “BTTF: Part II” was the original “Babe: Pig in the City,” a twisted, harrowing update to an effervescent original. Unlike “Babe: Pig in the City,” it is also only OK at best. So good on Mom! Glad I come from a family that respects and honors Lea Thompson and her extraordinary hair journey.
I have thought this over and there really was nothing that I was banned from. It was the 70's…
Donna Dickens – “Star Trek: The Next Generation”
“Aliens are an abomination against God, who created Man in His image.” This was the logic my mother used to ban “Star Trek: The Next Generation” from our house. Other shows were banned on variations of this theme, but the bottom line? Star Trek was the devil”s work. And nothing will ignite a child”s desire to watch something faster than a statement that it”ll send her to hell. At least, that”s how it worked for me. I can remember sneaking in episodes when my mom wasn”t around, my hand clutching the remote like a lifeline, thumb hovering just over the “channel up” button, ready to eject at a moment”s notice should I be caught. It wouldn”t be until Netflix, glorious Netflix, that I would finally get to cobble together all the scene snippets my childhood self inhaled like stolen cigarettes. To this day, my mother banning a show about tolerance, acceptance, and the wonder of discovery on the grounds of religious doctrine still skews my relationship with organized faith.
Katie Hasty – “Spaceballs”
My brother seems to think the only thing that had any brief ban was this Mel Brooks masterpiece (and maybe some HBO late-night). But then again, we were quoting “Blazing Saddles” as small kids, and now I speak almost exclusively in “Spaceballs” quotes. What happened, then? We passed then.
Tucker Kolanko – Blink-182's “Enema of the State”
My parents were extremely liberal with their censorship, which makes the banning of this CD particularly strange. In typical American fashion, they were okay with gratuitous violence, but not always with nudity (although they were often inconsistent). When I was 11 years old, a relative purchased me the explicit version of “Enema of the State” by Blink-182 as a gift. The CD cover features a cleavage-heavy nurse suggestively snapping on a rubber glove. I”m convinced that cover art is the main reason my parents forced me to return the CD to be replaced with the “clean” edition. Later that year, my Mom bought me the dirty version of “The Marshall Mathers LP,” containing an opening track with the lyrics: “You don”t wanna f*** with Shady, cause Shady will f***ing kill you” And those are relatively tame lyrics for that album. Solid logic.