Here’s a serious Top 7 list for this month. There are people who want to make creative projects which I don’t begrudge them for making things. Unfortunately, there are people that want to ban, censor, restrict, or ruin the project in different ways. There are times where films or series get this treatment because they’re obscene. There are times where it is legitimately offensive. There are also times where they get canceled because of the creator(s) doing horrific things.
This isn’t about any of those times. I’ve done some thinking and wondered about movies and series where some powers that shouldn’t be decide to be either idiotic or straight up nefarious. Relax, I’m not going to delve into conspiratorial territory over here. This isn’t some crackpot blog talking about alien overlords or making irrational claims about tragedies. These situations have actually happened and I can’t make any of these stories up.
Here are the top 7 examples I can think of that would fall in that category. Some of these examples even involve popular media.
7: The Vision of Escaflowne
Perpetrator: Fox Kids
Actions: Canceling the whole series, grotesque censorship, lack of promotion on the new Anime Takeover Friday block.
Reasons: Low ratings, Complying with “broadcast standards”, skipping the first episode
For those of you who didn’t grow up with anime in the late 90s/early 00s or who live outside the US, Escaflowne got airplay on Fox Kids back in the day. Yes, really. This got airtime alongside Digimon as part of an anime block and it was on the same channel that exposed people to the X-Men cartoon, Batman: The Animated Series, and Power Rangers. However, this critically acclaimed series would not get the same kind of mainstream success. Fox Kids skipped the entire first episode, made shameless recaps of different episodes, censored several parts of the anime, dubbed over the soundtrack with generic techno music (Leave Yoko Kanno alone!), and didn’t even bother to show the whole series to this new Western audience. Dang it, even 4KIDS wasn’t THAT vicious when it came to the anime they license and they’ve been the biggest go-to reference for gross censorship of Japanese animation for decades now. Since it supposedly got low ratings, then Fox gave it the Arrested Development treatment before that show was a thing. I ranked this low on the list because it’s been available in it’s uncensored form thanks to Bandai and eventually Funimation. That left a bad taste in my mouth as they mishandled Escaflowne.
Perpetrator: Iranian government
Actions: Banning this movie
Reasons: Jafar Panahi’s determination and the film involves women in drag at their gender-segregated stadiums.
There is no way I wasn’t going to put at least one Jafar Panahi movie on this list. Shoot, you can put four or five of his works on a list like this and no film expert would blame you. For the sake of diversity, I’m just going to put one on here because the reasoning is so idiotic. Okay, Iran has one of the strictest measures when it comes to getting films made and released in the country. They even have an entire ministry dedicated to arts and film to make sure everything is on the level in the government’s eyes. Offside’s banning in Panahi’s home country is uncalled for. The whole drag king aspect was a key role in the plot and they filmed this movie while an actual World Cup qualifier was going on. The cross dressing was there to show the only believable way for women to go to a men’s soccer game, but it was also a metaphor about women’s rights done in a non-preachy way. Since the government had an issue with Panahi’s progressive stance on his movies in general, they banned it in Iran and the only way people saw it was through pirated DVD copies. It angers me with how much was stacked against this director and totally reasonable why he filmed in secret as well as making This Is Not a Film years later. Jafar, you deserve so much better.
5: Jungle Emperor Leo (1997)
Actions: Attempted cease & desist letter
Reasons: To make Leo/Kimba run away and never return to North America despite existing first. Reference fully intended.
Real talk, I really wanted to put this example much higher, but there are more serious issues to deal with in this list. Jungle Emperor Leo is a sequel/remake of Kimba the White Lion that focuses on Leo/Kimba’s adult arc where he has his own family as well as becoming the new king. It was about to get a North American debut at Canada’s Fantasia Film Festival in 1998, but Mickey Mouse wasn’t going to have any of that at first. The reasoning is incredibly obvious: this movie is based on an anime/manga series that The Lion King stole characters, plot concepts, and scenes from. Also, it’s important to know that this would make it’s North American debut the same year The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride would be released, so that’s another plausible reason. This is such a douchey move on Disney’s part and just proves that the House of Mouse totally knew about Kimba/JEL despite their constant denial even to this day. I’m sick of Lion King stans excusing and/or downplaying this fact among other pieces of evidence while constantly bashing the entire Oasmu Tezuka IP. Disney is a multi-billion dollar corporation, so stop pretending they’re some poor unfortunate souls (Oops! Wrong movie reference!) being bullied by imaginary big bad otaku. That attempted ceast & desist letter is kind of like Scar not letting anyone in Pride Rock say Mufasa’s name if you think about it. I know the screenplays aren’t identical, but one has to be insane or delusional to not see that this Hollywood animation studio was in the wrong this whole time. That’s not even getting into the other plagiarism or cultural appropriation crap the TLK franchise is guilty of. Here’s a quote from film critic Don Marks who was there at the Fantasia ’98 festival:
“Julian Grant introduced the film by noting that Disney filed suit to stop them from showing the film. Interesting…. Still, the source material this film is based on, classic manga from Japanese cartoon giant Osamu Tezuka, precedes that Disney film by a good 20 years, so who’s to say who is ripping off whom? In any case, while both are children’s movies that unashamedly tug at the heartstrings, Jungle Emperor Leo edges out Lion King because it simply does a better job, taking a few more chances along the way.”
I’m too tired to keep repeating this fact and for people senselessly bashing fans or people who’ve done their research on this controversy. The fact that this sequel to the original king almost got banned by the rip-off is infuriating.
4: Sesame Street
Perpetrator: Mississippi state commission
Actions: Temporarily banning the show on their PBS stations in 1970
Reasons: That show’s crime against humanity was having a multiethnic cast.
You’re not imagining things. Sesame Street…a show that a vast majority of people under the age of 50 grew up on during their childhoods was banned at one point early on. Don’t lie. Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and so many others were a part of your early days helping you out with life lessons and all of that stuff. How can a show aimed at an early childhood demographic cause so much controversy? Well, in the state of Mississippi, the higher ups in the state were quite intimidated by the show’s presentation. This utopian setting featured so many people and puppets of different colors living in harmony together. I don’t want to play up stereotypes with the Magnolia State, but I shouldn’t be surprised anymore that they would ban freaking Sesame Street even if it was just for a little bit. That is just so shallow and uncalled for. Those officials were more offended by an integrated cast of humans and puppets than let’s say some X-rated content that might air somewhere else in the state. To add insult to injury, Mississippi also happened to be Jim Henson’s home state of all places (he was originally from Greenville). It just baffles me how such an innocent show could be subjected to so much irrational and racist scrutiny. Say what you want about this show, but even I remember it being racially progressive in hindsight when I thought about the episodes I saw when I was knee-high to a desktop computer. Some of the people who helped out in the show were actually Black psychiatrists who acted as consultants for the program! Shoot, I think I may respect that show even more now after learning about these facts.
Going slightly off tangent, as much as I have my issues with CNN let alone other mainstream networks, I have to give them props for that family-friendly Sesame Street Town Hall they did in response to the Black Lives Matter protests. Here’s a powerful clip with Elmo and his dad about that situation.
If you have a family and just saw the clip, I have to ask you this. If Elmo and his dad can break down the concepts of systemic racism, police brutality, white privilege, equity, and protesting in a way the PBS Kids demographic can understand it in just over 2 minutes, then what’s your excuse? About that line of Elmo’s father saying “Not all streets are like Sesame Street.”…I’M NOT CRYING! YOU’RE CRYING! [Shuts door before reopening] Okay. I’m better. Let’s move on to the next one on my list.
3: Camp de Thiaroye
Perpetrators: French and Senegalese government
Actions: Banning the film (10 years in France)
Reasons: Ousmane Sembene DARED to make a movie about the Thiaroye Massacre. France wasn’t happy about a movie where their country looked bad despite it being a historical fact about WWII.
Now we’re going to get into the more serious examples for the top 3. I know this was a more recent review since I saw Camp de Thiaroye for the first time this year. It was such a tragedy and at the time of this posting, it’s currently my 2nd favorite Ousmane Sembene work next to Black Girl. I didn’t know about the African side of World War II, so this was a gut check of a cinematic truth bomb. Sure, the characters were fictionalized versions of the soldiers, but it didn’t change the fact that the situation actually happened where troops across Francophone African nations stationed in Thiaroye, Senegal would be undermined by French troops (whom they were fighting for against the Axis powers), mistreated, and many of them would be slaughtered by their colonizers. France didn’t want it to be shown in their country for a decade and to this day, they haven’t included the massacre in their textbooks. Senegal sadly followed suit by temporarily banning the film. Keep in mind, that’s Sembene’s home country, so that hurts even more in hindsight. This was such a powerful watch and easily one of the better WWII-based movies I’ve seen since rediscovering Grave of the Fireflies, Mother of Mine, and Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. However, this isn’t the only period piece that’s based on a real life historical event that will make so many uncomfortable while also rarely if ever talked about in history classes.
What do you know? That other film takes the #2 spot.
2: Birth of a Nation (2016)
Perpetrators: Movie and entertainment news media
Actions: False rape accusations
Reasons: Nate Parker DARED to make a movie about one of the biggest slave rebellions in America and it shockingly got mainstream distribution from Fox of all companies.
I was irate when I did research for this film. While I didn’t get to see it during it’s debut, this was one movie I never thought would have ever existed to begin with. Nate Parker managed to direct, write, and act in this adaptation of the Nat Turner rebellion and he pulled no punches. If you’re expecting 12 Years a Slave or Amazing Grace, then this isn’t the movie for you. The depths of human depravity are shown with how horrific slavery was in America and it showed the slaves fighting back which actually happened. The title was an intentional inversion of the original KKK-sympathizing silent film which has the unfortunate distinction of being the first ever full-length film. I had to watch it for one of my film courses and I was SUPER OFFENDED when I wasn’t bored out of my mind. There’s your “review” of D. W. Griffith’s bigoted movie. Going back on topic, Birth of a Nation (2016) was poised to be nominated for so many major awards until some news sources like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter smeared Parker with fake rape accusations of him forcing himself on a white woman in college which never happened. That case went to court and was found innocent. That’s how the movie about Nat Turner was sabotaged from making the box office and for not getting those awards. I was angry at Gabrielle Union who was in that film for slandering him despite never raping that woman. Speaking of that actress, I did some research to find out she’s such a hypocrite since she lambasted Nate Parker for something he didn’t do, yet she had no problem co-starring with Rob Lowe who had sex with a minor earlier in his career. What show were they both on and what characters did they play? They were on Disney Junior’s The Lion Guard where Union and Lowe were Nala and Simba respectively (That’s right, that iteration of Simba was played by a someone who fooled with an underage girl. What does that say about the House of Mouse?). I also can’t stand these bald faced hypocrites who slag off Nate Parker who never sexually assaulted anyone, yet praise actual pedophiles like Roman Polanski as he gets the treatment of “separating art from the artist”. No, they’re just angry because a Black director/actor/writer made a professional-looking movie addressing America’s original sin while getting a major distributor to show it in theaters. I’m not going to bash someone for something they didn’t do especially since I know Caucasian directors never got the treatment Parker got whether they were innocent or guilty.
1: The Central Park Five
Actions: Attempted subpoena to ban the film
Reasons: Allegations of the documentary “crossing the line from journalism to advocacy”…let’s be honest. The documentary shows video evidence of the police railroading the teenagers.
Maybe it’s kind of cheating putting a documentary on the list let alone being my #1 choice, but I thought it was very deserving although one could certainly argue the previous two films could fit that spot as well. This wasn’t made by some unknown. The Central Park Five was directed by legendary documentary filmmaker Ken Burns as well as being distributed by PBS. There was huge pressure against this documentary from the NYPD as they thought the documentary was very biased even though it shows all the wrong done against these innocent children who were accused of a rape none of them committed. They sued Ken Burns, but he actually won against them which is amazing not just for the film, but for justice itself. Keep in mind, this was made before Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us existed! Yes, there’s the obvious harsher in hindsight aspect when a certain casino/condo tycoon wanted these five to be executed as well as eventually becoming president and never apologizing for his flagrant full-page ads (saying nothing about his sexual assault allegations). I’m glad this doc didn’t get banned because the whole world needs to see the color coded injustice and how these five people didn’t deserve to have been in prison in the first place!
What do you think? Do you know any series or movies that got sabotaged or even banned?
All videos and photos are property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. The Vision of Escaflowne is property of Funimation. Offside is property of Sony Picture Classics. Jungle Emperor Leo (1997) is property of Discotek. Sesame Street is property of the Sesame Workshop. Camp de Thiaroye is property of New Yorker Films. Birth of a Nation (2016) is property of Fox Searchlight. The Central Park Five is property of PBS.
The no sign is from NetClipArt.
The GIF of Escaflowne is from Imgur and is property of Funimation.
The screenshot of the women in Offside is from International Film Festival Rotterdam and is property of Sony Pictures Classics.
The GIF of Leo, Lyra, Lune, and Lukio from Jungle Emperor Leo (1997) is from gfycat and is property of Discotek.
The GIF of the Muppet cast of Sesame Street is from Giphy and is property of the Sesame Workshop.
The screenshot of Camp de Thiaroye is from Cinescope and is property of New Yorker Films.
The GIF of Nat Turner and his militia from Birth of a Nation (2016) from gfycat and is property of Fox Searchlight.
The screenshot from The Central Park Five is from KPBS and is property of PBS.