It is the job of a network censor to watch television episodes that are scheduled to air and make sure they are suitable for the viewers at home. They are paid to sift through every frame and every second of the shows and do their best to eliminate anything that might be deemed obscene or taboo.
However, ever since the advent of the censor, there have been writers, producers, directors, and other television professionals trying to sneak things on screen that don’t belong. There have been tons of dirty jokes, visual gags, and violence that have made it on air.
This has proven to be especially true in the world of superhero shows. Maybe it’s the breakneck pace that most of the episodes have that lets these things slip by so easily. Or perhaps it’s the fact that the majority of these shows are for children so when something profane is noticed, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Who knows?
What we do know is that there is no shortage of these instances occurring. So many of these examples went over our heads when we were wide-eyed youngsters who just wanted to see the hero save the day. Looking back on them now, we can’t believe the shows’ creators got away with these.
Here are the 15 Times Superhero Shows Got Past the Censors.
15. The Flash Earns His Nickname
Justice Leagues’ Flash was a constant source of comic relief during the cartoon’s lifespan. When he’s not running around, saving the day, Wally West was usually the first person to bring some much-needed humor to the show.
Usually cracking wise about his surroundings, it wasn’t often that the Scarlet Speedster was the butt of the joke.
During the season one episode “Injustice for All”, the Flash, bragging about how he easily put out a fire, boastfully refers to himself as the “fastest man alive.” An unimpressed Hawkgirl quips back, “which might explain why you can’t get a date.”
Before the winged warrior can explain exactly what she meant, they are silenced by Batman. Apparently, word has gotten out within the superhero community that the Flash is lacking stamina in the bedroom.
14. Catwoman Gives Batman “Curious Stirrings”
The 1960’s Batman television series was an absurd, kitschy fever dream of a superhero show. Episodes usually played up Batman’s squeaky-clean persona, like when he ordered a “large, fresh orange juice” while scoping out a bar.
However, there were a few occurrences where the pop culture phenomenon pushed the limits of what could be said– especially five decades ago.
One scene in particular saw the Dark Knight being tempted by Catwoman (the Julie Newmar version, if you’re wondering). Upon being approached by the feline femme fatale, Batman admits that the cat burglar gives him “curious stirrings in my utility belt.”
13. Harley Quinn’s Dessert
It’s been well documented that no matter how hard Harley Quinn tries, she will never be enough for the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime seems to get endless joy out of tormenting the one woman who truly loves him.
She lays it on particularly thick in The New Batman Adventures episode titled “Beware the Creeper”. The Joker has lost his mojo after he accidentally creates the Creeper, a character whose green hair and maniacal grin greatly resembles the villain.
Trying to cheer up her beau, Harley does her best Marilyn Monroe impression by popping out of a giant dessert to serenade Mr. J. She then proceeds to let out an extremely risqué line when she offers asks the Joker to, “try some of her pie.”
12. The Powerpuff Girls Were “Accidents”
Despite its cutesy art style, adorable child heroines, and bright colors, The Powerpuff Girls was able to slip some things past the censors from time to time. During the season four episode of Cartoon Network’s beloved show, “Super Friends”, the writers snuck in a line that was without a doubt not for children.
As the titular PPGs give a tour of their house to their new friend Robin Snyder, Bubbles informs her that Professor Utonium made them in his laboratory “by accident.” To which Robin responds, “Don’t worry Professor, I was an accident too.”
It certainly was not the type of accident that Bubbles was referring to, and the bug-eyed look on the Professor’s face is priceless.
11. Superman Is All About Safety
“Double Dose” is a classic episode of Superman: The Animated Series. It involves two villains, Livewire and Parasite, teaming up to finally get the best of the Man of Steel. The pairing had previously tried to take Superman down separately but believed that their powers would work well together.
With Livewire’s abilities involving electricity absorption and manipulation and Parasite feeding off of the energy of others, the two seemed unstoppable.
The plan was for Parasite to suck all of the Last Son of Krypton’s powers and Livewire to finish him off.
10. Beast Boy’s Toy Misses A Small Detail
“Switched” is the seventh episodes from Teen Titans and was one of the first examples of just how buckwild of a show it could be. The plot involved the Puppet King trapping the Titans souls inside puppets. Well, with a name like the Puppet King it would be weird if he used anything else.
The episode starts with a mysterious package arriving at Titans Tower. When the teenage heroes open the crate, they find tiny marionettes designed to look like them.
Robin couldn’t be happier with his doll saying, “they got all the details just right.” Beast Boy, who has done some below the belt inspections exclaims, “speak for yourself.”
9. Princess Diana Wants To “Personally” Thank Freakazoid
The episode three segment entitled “Mo-Ron” of the Steven Spielberg produced Freakazoid opens with the comedic hero being applauded for saving the day.
President Clinton recognizes his bravery before Princess Diana enters and tells him, “On behalf of the United Kingdom I want to personally thank you Freakazoid.”
She even takes it one step further by adding, “In a very personal way if you catch my drift.”
Before the grinning, underwear-clad hero can answer, Sharon Stone interrupts and a fight between the two women ensues.
Seemingly to get ahead of any backlash, the episode wrote a network censor character into the show who was constantly getting brutalized. Thankfully, she assured the at-home audience that everything and everyone was okay.
8. What’s In A Name?
The Lego Batman Movie is one of the funniest animated movies to be released in a while. Its filled with tons of great jokes ranging from underwear to lobster thermidor to the absurdity of Batman reboots. It also takes shots at some of some low hanging fruit in the Dark Knight’s universe.
When he was first created in 1940, Dick Grayson didn’t have the type of name that would make someone blush.
However, times have changed and so has language.
Naturally, after Bruce Wayne finds out that all of the children in the orphanage call the future Robin “Dick,” the billionaire playboy responds with the hilarious line, “Well, children can be cruel.” It’s a throwaway line that is laugh out loud funny and a bit shocking for the movie’s PG rating.
7. A Powerpuff Villain Doth Protest Too Much
The “Members Only” episode of The Powerpuff Girls is a great example of the show’s message that girls can do anything boys can, if not better.
Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup try and join a boys’ club featuring the most masculine heroes, the Association of World Super Men. Unfortunately, sexism prevails, and they are rejected.
Enter: Mascumax. A parody of over the top masculinity in the world of superheroes. Mascumax starts off as a flaming, flying muscle car before revealing his true form.
He transforms into a barrel-chested, musclebound, steaming behemoth, uttering lines like “Witness the coming of Mascumax!,” “Bring thine own manhood against mine own!,” and “I feed off your expulsions of manliness.”
The AWSM are more than excited to test their own manhood against the villain’s. The men are defeated, and the Powerpuff Girls are forced to clean up the mess and put away the over compensating, double entendre-spouting Mascumax.
6. Artemis “Feels Naked”
The return of Young Justice is one of the most anticipated revivals in recent memory. New episodes of the show can’t come soon enough.
Despite starting out as a series for kids, YJ soon began adding more and more adult themes to its episodes.
A lot of these were plot driven, with the show tackling things like growing up and death. The series became a beloved example of how to not talk down to its audience.
The show also got away with some sexual references. After losing her quiver, the Archer Artemis let’s out a line, stating that she feels clothless “and not in a fun way.” It’s kind of a disturbing line when you realize it’s coming from the mouth of a teenager.
5. Going Out With A Bang
The Justice League episode “Maid of Honor” involves Wonder Woman saving the life of Audrey, the Princess of Kaznia. The thankful princess takes Diana out of for a night on the town.
It is revealed that Audrey is about to be married but wants to have one last night of fun before she enters the world of matrimony.
As she so eloquently tells Wonder Woman, “I’m a world class party girl. I intend to go out with a bang. Several, if it can be arranged.” It seems like the princess definitely has some lofty goals before her forthcoming nuptials.
4. Chef Cyborg
Teen Titans Go! Is a pretty divisive TV show. It pretty much takes all of the cutaway gags from the original Teen Titans and isolates them into their own little segments.
Segments have ranged from rap songs about pyramid schemes to Weird Al voicing Darkseid. One episode, entitled “Burger vs. Burrito”, involves Beast Boy and Cyborg arguing over which of the aforementioned meals is superior. Cyborg is a burger boy, while Beast Boy is more into burritos.
To settle this once and for all, Robin declares that the two should have a cook-off. This cuts to a kitchen montage where the two frantically put together their meals.
There are shots of them cutting tomatoes, chopping onions, and Cyborg… beating meat. To make the joke even more obvious, the technology enhances hero is even wearing an apron that says, “food pun.” Way to be subtle.
3. Gargoyles Gets Bloody
Gargoyles was Disney’s answer to Batman: The Animated Series. It was a dark, brooding series that constantly pushed the boundaries of what could be shown on a children’s television show. One episode, “Deadly Force”, had originally aired on television with no problem, but was soon banned by censors.
“Deadly Force” dealt with gun violence and safety. After watching an old western on TV, the chubby, fun-loving gargoyle Broadway steals Officer Elisa Maza’s gun.
While playing with it, the gun goes off, wounding Elisa.
A shot of her in a pool of blood was enough to get the episode pulled entirety from future. It would later be added back into the rerun cycle, but only after major edits were made to remove blood from the scene.
2. Kid Flash Has Girls On The Mind
Despite taking place in separate universes, the Wally Wests in Justice League and Young Justice sure do have a lot in common. Besides the obvious ability to run faster than the speed of light, the Wests are also both a couple of flirts with a one-track mind.
In the Young Justice episode “Bereft”, Kid Flash and Artemis both hear Miss Martian’s voice in their heads. When Artemis asks, “Did you just hear a girl talking in your head?” Kid Flash responds by saying, “Girls are always on my mind, but they’re not usually talking.”
This proves the youthful speedster still has a lot of growing up to do.
1. X-Men Evolution’s Stripping Sirens
For those of you who are too young or don’t remember, X-Men Evolution reimagined our favorite mutants as adolescents. In addition to figuring out how to safely use their special abilities, they also had to navigate normal teenage life. Wasn’t high school difficult enough?!
The season two episode “Walk on the Wild Side” involves a bunch of the female mutants starting their own crime-fighting crew. Jean Grey, Magma, Boom Boom, Shadowcat, and Rogue make up the Bayville Sirens.
The bulk of the episode is a bit much in that it objectifies teenagers and one exchange, in particular, puts it over the top.
After switching into their Siren gear, Rogue posits that they “have to find a better place to change.” Boom Boom follows this up by saying, “No one will believe that tollbooth guy.” This implies that the underage heroines changed in front of an unsuspecting stranger.
Can you think of any other times when superhero shows were censored? Let us know in the comment section!
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