Family Guy Takes on Abortion
Since it debuted in 1999, Family Guy has enraged everyone from Sarah Palin to TV critic Ken Tucker, who called the show “vile swill.” Despite Family Guy’s tendency to constantly court controversy, Fox has stood by creator Seth MacFarlane—well, not counting the time they canceled and then un-canceled the series—with only two exceptions. The first was “ When You Wish Upon a Weinstein,” an episode that would have aired in 2000, but which Fox banned out of fears it could be construed as anti-Semitic. A decade later, Fox chose not to air “ Partial Terms of Endearment,” which had Lois struggling over whether she should abort her surrogate child after its parents are killed in a car crash.
Bugs Bunny Does Blackface
Vintage TV and movies always feature styles that have gone out of vogue. But there’s a big difference between the “Man, we used to dress crazy!” feeling you get when watching an ‘80s movie and the cringe-inducing embarrassment of watching Bugs Bunny donning blackface to sell war bonds or outwit his enemies. Ain’t he a stinker? And if you think Warner Brothers is alone in having questionable racial portrayals in its vintage cartoons, well, think again.
South Park vs. Islam
Much like Family Guy, there aren’t a lot of groups who haven’t been targeted by South Park for vicious—and hilarious—mocking. Tom Cruise got a little testy when a 2005 episode, “ Trapped in the Closet,” mocked Scientology (and his sexuality). But that flap was nothing compared to the backlash against the series’ 200th episode, which featured the Muslim prophet Muhammad in a bear suit. The stunt netted Matt Stone and Trey Parker a bevy of death threats that were way more intimidating than Tom Cruise jumping on a couch.
Donald Duck Joins the S.S.
In “ Der Fuehrer's Face,” a 1943 anti-Nazi propaganda short, Donald Duck falls asleep and has a nightmare that he’s become a reluctant Nazi soldier. Despite netting an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, “Der Fuehrer's Face” didn’t exactly get a lot of replay from Disney on account of, well, seeing Donald Duck as a Nazi.
The Flinstones Get Fired Up
Joe Camel wasn’t the first animated character to hawk cigarettes. In this eyebrow-raising 1961 commercial, Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble take some time out of their regularly scheduled programming to shill for Winston cigarettes. That’s product integration that would make Don Draper proud.
Boondocks Rattles Viacom’s Cage
It’s not particularly surprising when the lampooning of certain subjects—abortion, Islam—leads to a cartoon getting banned, but is making fun of BET really ban-worthy? Apparently, the answer is yes, considering “ The Hunger Strike,” a second-season episode of The Boondocks, never made it on air.
Pokémon Gets Lost in Translation
Sure, everyone’s heard of the Pokémon episode that might have caused seizures in children. But that wasn’t the only episode that courted controversy. An episode featuring baddie James flaunting some bodacious faux cleavage in order to crash a female beauty contest, was heavily edited in its American dubbing.
Beavis and Butt-head Play With Fire
Compared to the envelope-pushing antics of South Park and Family Guy, MTV’s 1990s staple Beavis and Butt-head seems almost, well, quaint. But while the show didn’t specifically set out to tweak political or religious groups, it did come under scrutiny when the title characters’ fascination with fire was linked to the tragic case of a 2-year-old girl who perished in a fire started by her brother, who allegedly got the idea watching an episode of the show.
Shannon Donnelly is a video editor at The Daily Beast. Previously, she interned at Gawker and Overlook Press, edited the 2007 edition of Inside New York, and graduated from Columbia University. You can read more of her writing here.