Cartoon Censorship: X-Men The Animated Series
By ZombiePie 31 Comments
Ah X-Men: The Animated Series how you ooze nostalgia. The show is of course important to comics in many ways. For one it is sometimes credited for introducing a whole new audience to the comic book series and as being one Marvel's better forays in animation. As such it is still to this day held in high regard by cartoon and comic enthusiasts. It is however often criticized for being too campy and being devoid of intense action or character death/injury. The sad truth for these criticisms is that the writing and animation staff of the show wanted to include such story elements and desperately tried to inject more action and more mature stories into the show but found most of their attempts constantly rebuffed by the Broadcast Standards and Practices (BS&P).
Now here's a little backstory. X-Men: The Animated Series first came out in the United States in 1992 which is five years before the Television Parental Guide System was put into place in the U.S. This meant that while the show still had to conform to certain standards of what could go on air there wasn't any sort of rating looming over the top left hand corner of your T.V. screen. The political battle in the U.S. to create such a rating system was occurring two seasons into X-Men the Animated Series' five season run and as an animated program it was subjected to more scrutiny from media watch dog groups. These watch do g groups force the writers in constant contact with BS&P censors forcing them to turn in outline, drafts, and final scripts before a single episode could air on television. Things got even more difficult when Fox decided to air the program on prime time meaning that the BS&P would even more heavily scrutinize the show.
The following episodes were written by Stephen Melching who published these BS&P notes on his blog. Now before anyone jumps the gun and accusses members of the BS&P of wrong doing it's important to note that they were doing their job and as Melching notes on his blog:
These are the people who have to protect the network from the many so-called "media watchdogs" out there who would like to child-proof the world. I've seen some of the letters that these people write, threatening boycots of shows and sponsors over the strangest things. Also keep in mind that the FOX network in particular was under a lot of scrutiny at the time due to its prime-time programming, and the spectre of government regulation of content was looming ever closer.
Now that said some of these notes are down right CRAZY and make no sense whatsoever. Also as fans of the X-Men comics noted at the time and still do to this deprived the show of a real sense of danger. This get so bad that the BS&P censors outright deny the writers of the show from depicting characters punching or hitting each other. Now with all of this in mind here are some of the wonderful things the BS&P doesn't think the children of the world shouldn't seen with their little innocent eyes:
(Author's Note: I have bolded some of BS&P's more ridiculous requests)
Page 4: It will not be acceptable for Mojo to call anyone "numb nuts." Also, he should not pick Spiral up by the head.
Page 10: Either show that the hunters Rogue buries are robots, or do not bury them past their necks.
Page 11: Please substitute for Longshot's two uses of the word "killed." Something like "destroyed" or "take their lives" would be acceptable.
Page 3: Please delete or substitute for Spiral calling Longshot "Lover," since we would not want to give their encounter sexual overtones
Page 6: Longshot should not appear "wounded" or bloodied. Also, what does "you sure you got guy" mean? It will not be acceptable for a wolf to "slash" Wolverine in the back, nor for Wolverine's claws to connect with any of the wolves.
Page 23: It will not be acceptable for Jubilee to "blast Jan in the face." Please revise.
Page 25: Please substitute for the boulder Rogue hurls at the two hunters, since this would injure them severely. Please incapacitate them with something less harmful.
Page 27: Please delete or substitute for Rogue's use of the term "scale butt." something like "scale face" would be acceptable.
Page 29: Caution that Slagg not backhand Wolverine in the face.
Pages 31 and 35: Caution that no one is hurt by the raptors.
Page 32: Please show that the bounty hunters are alive after the facade falls on them.
Page 36: Please keep the kiss between Longshot and Jubilee brief.
Episode: "Sanctuary - Part One"
Page 1: Please do not have the Astronaut say "My God."
Page 7: Please avoid having Cortez call Magneto his "savior."
Page 8: Please avoid calling Magneto's followers "acolytes."
Page 9: Please do not refer to the objects as "killer satellites."
Page 11: Please do not have Cortez accuse the X-Men of "assassinating" Magneto. Also on this page, Magneto's compartment should not look as though it is burning, nor should Magneto be surrounded by flames -- no "fireball" with him inside it. Perhaps the compartment could break up or eject Magneto before it explodes.
Also, please change the villain's name from "Cortez" to something non-Hispanic. There are no prominent Hispanic X-Men to provide balance for this kind of negative character.
First Draft Script
Page 16: Please show that the Magistrate in the hovercraft is alright when the craft is knocked out of the sky.
Page 17: Please show that Delgado is alright immediately after the Sentinel's blast.
Page 26: Please do not show Amelia with suitcases in her hands when she leaves Xavier.Revised Draft
Page 26: As also mentioned previously, please do not show Amelia with suitcases when she leaves Xavier.
Page 127: Caution that, as it appears here, the hovercraft is only about six feet off the ground when Cortez hurls the pilot out.
Pages 141, 167 and throughout: Please ask the producers to forward models of the new Mutants in this episode. All women, including Unuscione, should be modestly dressed -- no low-cut costumes, please. Also, what will the "skinsuited" Genoshan slaves look like?
Page 145: Please show that the two guards are alright after they are blasted off their feet.
Page 159: Please show that the two mutants hit by advancing Genoshan guards are alright afterwards.
Page 212: Please do not show a suitcase in Amelia's hand when she leaves.
Page 257: Please do not give the two Nomads such large, hooked noses.
Episode: "Sanctuary - Part Two"
Page 2: Another funeral for another person who isn't really dead? Please could you just show the X-Man talking informally about Magneto over coffee or something, not have another death ceremony in the garden.
Also on this page, it will not be acceptable to show or imply that Gambit is being tortured. Please remove the electrodes. He may be imprisoned, and Cortez could threaten never to release him, or some such. Let's discuss alternatives. (Again, his name should not be "Cortez.")
Page 4: Please do not have Xavier state overtly that there's "a good chance some of them won't be returning from this mission." We would prefer emphasis on the importance of the battle, not its potential for fatality.
Page 5: It will not be acceptable to destroy a landmark such as the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps Cortez could blow up a mountain, or some such. Also on this page, Gambit should not be bruised or appear to have been beaten.
Page 8: Please do not have Gambit grab Cortez by the face or neck.
Page 10: It will not be acceptable to imply that Magneto injures or kills Cortez here. Please devise a way to show Cortez escaping.
Page 14: Please do not identify the location of the attack as Nevada, nor the dam as Hoover Dam.
Page 21: Please show that Chrome is only trapped behind the heavy equipment, not crushed under it.
Page 25: Please ask the producers to send me a model for Unuscione, including what she looks like with her "exo-skeleton projected. And what does Wolverine mean, "she'd be a handful on a date"?
Episode: "Weapon X, Lies, and Videotape"
Page 5: Please do not refer to Maverick as Wolverine's "drinking buddy."
Page 8: Please substitute for the use of "Shiva," a Hindu god. A name from Greek mythology, or some such would be acceptable.
Page 9: It will not be acceptable for Sabretooth to say he wants to "kill" Wolverine.
First Draft Script
Pages 1 and 13 (flashback): Silver Fox may be in jeopardy, but she should not be lying on the floor injured. Also, please lose either Sabretooth's "...and tasty," or "just like..." to avoid a suggestive reference to Silver Fox.
Pages 2 and 16: Please do not show Wolverine and Sabretooth "trading blows" (socking each other with their fists).
Pages 3-5: Please do not have Wolverine intentionally slash the support for the lights so they strike Cyclops, and do not have Cyclops seriously hurt or knocked unconscious. Cyclops and Xavier should not require hospitalization or monitoring afterwards.
Page 9: It will not be acceptable for Wolverine to say "I almost killed Scott." Something like "I was completely out of control when I attacked Scott" would be acceptable.
Page 14: Please do not have Wolverine attack Sabretooth first.
Page 15: Caution to make all the weapons futuristic.
Page 17: Please delete or substitute for Sabretooth calling Silver Fox "squaw."
Page 20: Please limit the shots fired in the "Andre" scene. Each person should fire no more than one blast.
Episode: "Hidden Agendas"
Page 2: Please keep the flames well away from Sam and Pa.
Page 13 and throughout: Please check with your Legal regarding the many references to a "mutant Peace Corps."
Page 14: Please have Gambit use his powers (not tools) to short the sensor and open the hatch lock, or keep all of his actions off camera so they are not instructive.
Page 17: Please do not have the Captive Mutant cry out. Also on this page, do not have the truck come close to hitting Paige and Sam.
Page 19: Please delete or substitute for Kenny's "dang mutie."
Page 20: Please delete or substitute for Gambit's "...tell you where you can put dat."
Page 25: Please do not show a cigarette butt igniting the gasoline.
Page 27: Please do not show anyone in the mob carrying a gun.
Page 29: Please do not show glass breaking after the sonic boom.Page 30: The "Shock Troopers" should clearly be robots, not people in flying armor.
Page 31: Do not have Beast shocked by the Trooper.
Pages 32-33: Please have Unit One just freeze in place, or some such, not fall to the ground and grab his head, as if he is in pain. Also, please eliminate Sam blasting another Trooper and Rogue hurling a Trooper toward Gambit, and delete the action of Sam blowing up the train, which plays as excess for BS&P.
Episode: "The Phalanx Covenant - Part One"
Pages 1-3: As noted at outline stage, a fight will not be acceptable in the teaser. Sabretooth may not slam into Wolverine, who may not be hurled into a brick wall and knocked unconscious, Rogue may not be "smashed," Beast may not slam into Sabretooth, and so on. Find a way to show Sabretooth's capture without depicting violence -- no blows that connect, no injuries.
Page 7: Please delete or substitute for the underlined in Sabretooth's "look who finally got up off his butt."
Page 8: While "Sabretooth" may morph into Jean, she should be in standard costume, not a bath robe, and please delete or substitute for the line "is this how you want me?"
Episode: "The Phalanx Covenant - Part Two"
Page 30: Please do not have the townspeople "splatter" when Sinister blasts them. They may melt, or some such.
Page 1: Caution that it is clear that no Morlocks are injured, only captured or transformed by the Phalanx, in the Teaser.
Page 5: Please show that Moira is alright, although "assimilated" by the Phalanx.
Page 11: Please do not show hospitalized patients being grabbed by tentacles.
Page 24: It will only be acceptable for Amelia to blast Hodge's head if this looks like a mechanical object is hit.
Page 30: Again, please have Warlock's torso separate in a mechanical way, rather than looking like a human injury.