Do you think cancel culture is a real thing? Have you gone out of your way to either protest a ban or take part in one? Sometimes it’s good to exercise your right to free speech and share your thoughts on something you think is an injustice. That could mean protesting or just no longer supporting a person or business. Whatever works for you. That said, there have also been some pretty bizarre bans over the years that seem, if not egregious, at least pretty hard to justify.
10. A Teen Boy Was Banned From Saying the Word “Grass”
Free speech is a concept that not everyone fully understands. Spend any time in an online forum and you’ll realize some people don’t understand that free speech doesn’t mean you can’t suffer the consequences for what you say, especially in the private or business world.
Free speech means you may express yourself without censorship. But in more specific terms it usually means “from the government.” That means if you support horrible causes and your boss fires you for it, then that’s your fault for not keeping your mouth shut. But at least the government didn’t do it, because that would be wrong. And yet it happens.
In 2014, a teenager was ordered, in court, to never say the word grass again, at least in England or Wales. Go on, take a second with that one.
The boy was accused of a laundry list of offenses which include the serial harassment of his neighbors. He accused them of being police informers, he’d curse out people using foul language, cause property damage, steal, and carry weapons such as knives and bats in an intimidating way. This went on for over two years, apparently.
The word grass apparently has an alternate meaning, which is police informant. So we have to assume the kid was yelling this at his neighbors so much that, above and beyond the intimidation, the swearing, the threats, the vandalism and so on, his use of the word “grass” was so over the top the court had to order him to stop. If he was caught saying it again, he could be arrested and sent to a facility.
9. The Stanford Marching Band Has Been Banned From Dozens of Places
You can thank the American Pie movies for changing everyone’s opinion on band kids back in the 1990s but real school bands have been stirring the pot longer than you think and being far more offensive than Alyson Hannigan ever imagined.
The Stanford marching band is the most banned marching band in sports history. That sounds both impressive and confusing and, rest assured, it’s both. The band has a long-standing tradition of playing pranks, and much worse, to where many schools have banned them from attending sporting events. Stanford is one of those schools.
The story dates back to the 1960s when a beloved band leader was fired. The students took it poorly and his replacement ended up giving control to the students themselves. Thus, as they say, the inmates got control of the asylum. Performances have focused on things like Jimmy Carter’s hemorrhoids and flying genitalia among so many other controversial ideas.
The band was booed repeatedly at the Rose Bowl for things as simple as playing kitchen sinks instead of instruments or parading a cow around for no apparent reason. They were barred from away games for 2015-2016 thanks to violations of sexual harassment policies, drug violations, hazing and more. They’ve been banned from Notre Dame since 1930 and from Disneyland since 1972. The Governor of Oregon tried to ban them from the state once. The list just goes on and on.
8. Sesame Street Was Once Banned in Mississippi for Showing Black & White Kids Together
Sesame Street should be, arguably, one of the least controversial things ever. For decades the show has been dedicated to helping children understand letters, numbers, the concept of sharing and other basic, wholesome things. And yet that was too much for the people of Mississippi back in the year 1970, shortly after its debut.
What horrible thing could have happened on everyone’s favorite puppet-filled street that caused the State Commission for Educational Television to actually ban the program? Racial integration.
In a 3-2 vote, the commission voted to kick the show off of TV because it showed black children and white children playing together. According to one member “the state has enough problems to face without adding to them,” whatever the hell that means in this context. The father-in-law of one of the commission members was the founder of an organization devoted to maintaining segregation in schools.
You may be surprised to learn none of the commission members spoke on record about the ban. However, once it became a national headline, the state was embarrassed by the backlash over the choice and quickly changed their mind, suddenly finding all kinds of reasons to love the show.
7. All Quiet on the Western Front Was Banned For Opposing Reasons
Movies and books get banned far more often than they should. This is usually because a group of random people let their own biases determine what they want other people to see and know. The attitude is much like a toddler who demands candy and refuses to acknowledge the idea that their whims are not what controls the universe.
One of the most remarkable bans ever was faced by Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. It may be the only film banned for diametrically opposed reasons in completely separate bannings. Germany banned it for being anti-Germany while Poland ended up banning it for being pro-Germany. If that doesn’t show you people read their own biases into a narrative, nothing will.
The truth was that it’s just a staunchly anti-war film; it has nothing to do with the countries represented, but wartime audiences, and in particular governments, weren’t open to that interpretation.
6. An Episode of Peppa Pig Was Banned in Australia
If you know nothing about Australia, you know you need to be careful with the wildlife there. It seems like nearly everything in Australia will happily kill you. That may be an exaggeration, and of Australia’s 10,000 spider species, only a handful are truly dangerous with just two being deadly to adults. But kids are another matter, and some of the less venomous ones can be more dangerous to children.
Because of the potential risk to children, Peppa Pig ended up being on the receiving end of a nationwide ban thanks to a spider-themed episode. The episode was meant to teach kids that spiders aren’t really dangerous and can’t hurt you, which is a bad message to send in a place where the opposite is true.
The show, which is British, involved the little cartoon pig befriending a spider called Mr. Skinny Legs. And in Britain the message was probably fine as Liverpool has never been a hot spot for bird-eating tarantulas and black widows. But since Australia can’t offer the same safe assurances, the episode had to go.
5. Australian Parliament Tried to Ban the Word “Mate”
Speaking of Australia, one of the other well-known stereotypes from the land down under focuses on their charming turns of phrase. In particular, the prevalence of the word “mate” in everyday Aussie conversation.
Back in 2005, the Australian government banned the use of the word mate in Parliament, at least by staff in the building. Even the Prime Minister thought this was a bad idea but some unnamed “senior civil servant” who was in charge of Parliamentary staff issued an order that the word be stricken from the workplace. Specifically “G’day mate,” the most Australian phrase ever, was ousted.
The ban was apparently the result of two complaints that staff were not as polite as they could have been which seems to show the people didn’t feel “g’day mate” was a polite thing to say despite it being a literal greeting. The ban was lifted in less than a day.
4. Myanmar/Burma Banned The Simpsons Over The Colors
At this point it seems like The Simpsons has been on TV since the Dark Ages. It’s courted its fair share of controversy over the years, in particular back at the beginning when “eat my shorts” was offensive to some more sensitive types.
The most unusual reaction to The Simpsons, which resulted in the movie being banned outright, came from Myanmar/Burma. When the movie was released in 2007, Burma was in the midst of a conflict with the National League of Democracy, whose flag was red and yellow. To avoid conflict and not be mistaken for showing support or inciting violence, the country banned The Simpsons because of their similar color palette.
3. Dunking was Banned in College Ball for 10 Years
College sports have a long and wild history of rules and regulations that sound a lot like the whims or organized crime bosses, but that’s neither here nor there. We’re just going to focus on how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got slam dunking banned for a decade.
The ban dated back to 1967 when Lew Alcindor, who later became Kareem, was dominating the court. The man stood an impressive 7-foot-2 and could dunk like it was his job, which it sort of was. In his first game he broke the UCLA scoring record and people immediately hated him for changing the game, likely in no small part because of his race.
Dunking was a newish phenomenon, despite dating back to the 30s, and not everyone liked it, either. The feeling was that this was cheating and putting shorter or less skilled players at a disadvantage. That’s like saying if you hit a ball too far in baseball you’re ruining it for the crappy hitters, but whatever. The league banned it altogether.
The ban came on the heels of Jabbar and the UCLA Bruins dominating the league tournament. Two days after he dunked his way to the top, the move was forbidden,.
2. Marlon Brando was Frequently Banned From Chat Rooms
Marlon Brando is still considered one of the greatest actors of all time but he was also known to be wildly eccentric, especially in his later years. Just look into the behind the scenes stories about him on the set of The Island of Dr. Moreau.
In his later years, Brando apparently discovered online chat rooms and was a big fan. And, just like the rest of the people in the world, he flamed the hell out of strangers. This was in the infancy of the online chat phenomenon, in AOL chat rooms. He logged in anonymously and engaged strangers in conversations about politics, a mistake people still make on the internet to this very day.
When people got on his nerves, Brando would curse them out, resulting in him getting banned. Apparently this would be the culmination of hours of conversation. This was something that happened on a regular basis and there are people who can attest to meeting and befriending Brando in these rooms.
1. The UK Banned a Man From Having Sex Because His IQ Was Too Low
How do you feel about human rights violations? This one’s a doozy and it comes out of left field. In the year 2011, a court in the UK ruled that a man could not legally have sex because his IQ was too low. The 41-year-old man wasn’t a criminal, he wasn’t being banned because he’d done terrible things. Instead, he has a learning disability, and an IQ measured at 48, which is considered quite low.
The concern came from the man’s local council who referred to him as having a “vigorous sex drive.” His housing is provided through some sort of government program and he had a boyfriend who lived with him so they were aware he was having sex. It was ruled that he could not understand the potential consequences of his actions, in particular health risks, and so he was no longer allowed to have sex.
In Britain, a Court of Protection may decide for people deemed to lack the intelligence to do so for themselves. This can even include forced abortions or being taken off of life support.