TIME movies

This Disney Censorship Story Is Udderly Ridiculous

Disney And Mickey
Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse, circa 1935 General Photographic Agency / Getty Images

The studio was founded on Oct. 16, 1923

When the Disney Brothers Studio got its start on this day, Oct. 16, in 1923, Walt Disney couldn’t have predicted that his animation studio would become the entertainment powerhouse that it’s been for nearly a century.

He also probably failed to predict that, within a decade, he’d get hit with what must be one of the sillier censorship cases in history.

Here’s how TIME described what happened in February of 1931:

Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America last week announced that, because of complaints of many censor boards, the famed udder of the cow in the Mickey Mouse cartoons was now banned. Cows in Mickey Mouse or other cartoon pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed other of Mickey Mouse’s patrons. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting when the cow stood still; it also stretched, when seized, in an exaggerated way.

That’s right: Clarabelle Cow’s udders were deemed inappropriate for tender American audiences, who one must presume did not know where milk comes from. Clarabelle was also censored at one point, in Ohio, after she was seen reading a racy book.

But, it turns out, Clarabelle wasn’t the only one of Disney’s creations to get adjusted by decency boards during the studio’s first decade. Canada banned another cartoon because of the way a fish got too close to a mermaid’s thigh, and German censors objected to a cartoon in which Mickey and friends were approached by cats wearing German military garb, which was seen as offensive to Germans. (It’s unclear from TIME’s coverage whether the German censors objected to being compared to undignified felines or to anti-Mickey predators.)

It was probably not because of her udders, but Clarabelle has largely faded away from the list of popular Disney characters, which means that–to paraphrase another cartoon icon, Bart Simpson–most of the studio’s movies these days do not, in fact, have a cow, man.

Read TIME’s 1937 cover story about Walt Disney here, in the archives: Mouse & Man

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 9

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Like Pakistan, Turkey nurtured a militant movement next door. Will ISIS enter Turkey as the Taliban made a new home in Pakistan?

By Michael M. Tanchum and Halil M. Karaveli in New York Times

2. Look homeward: America should form a new North American partnership with Canada and Mexico to tackle global challenges.

By Nicholas Burns in the Boston Globe

3. Protestors in Hong Kong and around the world can bypass government censorship with “mesh networks.”

By Gareth Tyson in the Conversation

4. Early childhood development can dramatically change a child’s life and future. Massively scaling up investment in youth could close the income and skills gaps, and accomplish much more.

By the Brookings Institution

5. Rural America has the nation’s fastest rising child poverty rate. To overcome it, we must confront the weaknesses in our economic recovery.

By the Rural Family Economic Success Action Network

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME China

China Keeps Citizens in the Dark Over Hong Kong Protests

The government blocked Instagram Sunday

China is well known for its censoring social media and certain websites when there’s news it wants to block out — and now that Hong Kong is ablaze with protests, the shutters have come down again.

Some Chinese newspapers have made no mention of the protests, and the countries authorities blocked photo-sharing app Instagram on Sunday, according to CNN.

China even blacked out a live CNN newscast about the protests as host Anderson Cooper narrated. “In the past, they’ve censored us, and it’s gone to black. They might do it again. They might censor us again tonight,” he said, seconds before authorities cut the stream off. “And, we’ve just gone to black in China,” he finished.

 

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 27

1. A reimagined NATO – with rapid response capability – could balance the Putin doctrine.

By David Francis in Foreign Policy

2. Hold the bucket: Focusing on a single disease isn’t a good use of philanthropy dollars.

By Felix Salmon in Slate

3. The Navy’s audacious plan for a new warfighting vessel was too good to be true. The result is a ship that meets none of our needs well. Cancel the Littoral Combat Ship.

By William D. Hartung and Jacob Marx at the Center for International Policy

4. The conventional wisdom is that social media stimulates debate, but self-censorship online actually leads to a ‘spiral of silence.’

By Keith Hampton, Lee Rainie, Weixu Lu, Maria Dwyer, Inyoung Shin and Kristen Purcell at the Pew Research Internet Project

5. Better living through design: Injectable, long-acting birth control will revolutionize family planning in the developing world.

By Heather Hansman in Pacific Standard

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME China

Want Some Entertainment in China? Don’t Turn On the TV

CHINA-ECONOMY
This photo taken on July 15, 2014 shows a couple watching TV in their apartment in Beijing. GREG BAKER—AFP/Getty Images

China’s TV and film watchdog has ordered a dull diet of nationalist fare ahead of the country's National Day in October

There’s nothing like coming home from work, plopping down in front of the TV and watching some relaxing antifascist and patriotic fare. That’s exactly the kind of prime-time programming China’s TV and film watchdog is ordering up for September and October, according to state media. One reason for this propaganda blitz? National Day falls on Oct. 1 and a line-up of TV shows glorifying, say, the Communist Party’s fight against the Japanese during World War II, will hopefully usher in a wave of jingoistic pride among citizens.

Earlier this year, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (commonly known by its previous acronym SARFT) also urged TV stations to present entertainment that propagated President Xi Jinping’s ideological catchphrase, the “Chinese Dream.” Applicable programming, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, includes such delights as a program on the navy’s activities in the Gulf of Aden and a 48-episode series on the life and times of Deng Xiaoping, the late leader who spearheaded the nation’s economic reforms. (Deng would have celebrated his 110th birthday on Aug. 22.)

What exactly constitutes patriotic programming? The China Daily, the government’s English-language mouthpiece and no stranger itself to jingoistic content, reported that “patriotic TV shows should promote the protection of the home country, as well as entrepreneurship and innovation.” As for antifascist TV material, anything to do with World War II, or what China calls the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, should do nicely.

Smaller TV stations will have more latitude than major networks in controlling their schedules. They can, for instance, reserve patriotic programming for prime time and relegate anti-fascist material to less coveted time slots, according to the China Daily. On Aug. 13, the China Youth Network also assured viewers that the premieres of a couple highly anticipated TV dramas shouldn’t be affected. Nevertheless, one user of Weibo, China’s microblogging platform, quipped “The authorities force the masses to watch such rubbish. Who is the fascist here but SARFT?”

Chinese viewers have been clamoring for TV programming with modern entertainment value in recent years — just as censors have begun clamping down. In 2011, as China celebrated the 90th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party, SARFT railed against films and shows that depicted time travel because they were “treating serious history in a frivolous way.”

Then, in April of this year, authorities began restricting foreign material that could be watched through streaming websites. A particular favorite was the geeky U.S. sit-com The Big Bang Theory, which racked up 1.3 billion views in China before it was banned. (The Good Wife, NCIS and The Practice were also targeted.)

Other areas of online space have been encroached on. Weibo has lost some of its edge because of industrious censorship and a crackdown on its more high-profile users. This month, the crackdown was extended to mobile instant messaging services, like the hugely popular WeChat.

As for the upcoming two months of antifascist and patriotic TV, even the Global Times, a Beijing-based daily that often takes a nationalist line, grumbled in an Aug. 15 article. “It is also an administrative order,” the story reported, “that many TV shows producers often see as ‘annoying.’”

Imagine how the people who are expected to tune in to such partisan programming feel.

with reporting by Gu Yongqiang/Beijing

TIME Video Games

Google Removes ‘Bomb Gaza’ Game From Play Store

Google Play

The company has removed several other games related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent days, claiming they violate the the Google Play store's policies.

In Bomb Gaza, a game about doing precisely what its peremptory title commands, you play as the Israeli Air Force, tapping a touchscreen to pour red-nosed bombs into a 2D multi-level landscape filled with cartoonish people wearing white robes and clutching children — meant to signify civilians — as well as others draped in black, clutching rifles, touting greenish headbands and grinning maniacally. The goal is to hit those black-garbed militants — presumably members of Palestinian militant group Hamas — while avoiding the white-clad civilians.

At some point in the past 24 hours, Google removed Bomb Gaza from its Android Play store (the game was released on July 29). It’s not clear why. Google’s only officially saying what companies like it so often say when handed political hot potatoes: that it doesn’t comment on specific apps, but that it removes ones from its store that violate its policies. The game’s dismissal comes just as Israel says it’s pulling out of Gaza in observance of a three-day ceasefire, on the heels of a month-long fight that has to date left nearly 1,900 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 67 Israelis (mostly soldiers) dead.

It’s unclear which of Google’s policies Bomb Gaza might have infringed, but in Google’s Developer Program Policies document, it notes under a subsection titled Violence and Bullying that “Depictions of gratuitous violence are not allowed,” and that “Apps should not contain materials that threaten, harass or bully other users.” Under another titled Hate Speech, Google writes “We don’t allow content advocating against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity.”

Bomb Gaza isn’t the only Gaza-centric game Google’s removed: another, dubbed Gaza Assault: Code Red is about dropping bombs on Palestinians using Israeli drones. Its designers describe the game as “[bringing] you to the forefront of the middle-east conflict, in correlation to ongoing real world events.” It was also just yanked, as was another titled Whack the Hamas, in which players have to target Hamas members as they pop out of tunnels.

Politically-themed games about touchy current issues have been around for years, from depictions of deadly international situations like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to others modeled on flashpoints like school shootings. In late 2008, a game called Raid Gaza! appeared around the time Israel was carrying out “Operation Cast Lead,” a conflict that left 13 Israelis and some 1,400 Palestinians dead. In that title, you’re tasked with killing as many Palestinians as you can in three minutes, and actually afforded bonuses for hitting civilian targets, all while listening to a version of the Carpenter’s saccharine “Close to You.”

But the game wasn’t merely a pro-Israeli celebration of violence against Palestinians, it was a pointed editorial reflection on the horrors of the Gaza conflict. As games critic Ian Bogost wrote at the time:

The game is headstrong, suffering somewhat from its one-sided treatment of the issue at hand. But as an editorial, it is a fairly effective one both as opinion text and as game. It is playable and requires strategy, the exercise of which carries the payload of commentary.

Other games about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persist: There’s Peacemaker, a more serious and simulation-angled game about the conflict that its developers say was designed “to promote peace.” Another, called Iron Dome (still available on Google’s Play store), lets players intercept incoming rockets using Israel’s eponymous missile defense system. A third, called Rocket Pride (also still available on Google’s Play store), lets players provide “support for the besieged Gaza Strip” by firing rockets at targets in Israel. There’s clearly a winnowing process here, in other words, with Google favoring some apps but not others. It’s just not clear what that process is.

I haven’t played Bomb Gaza, so I can’t speak to its efficacy as either a game or an editorial commentary (or whether it was even intended as the latter). When I reached out to the game’s creator, he told me it had been “developed without any budget” and “more for fun,” and that he was “very surprised to catch such attention with it.”

But the game’s removal raises older questions that we need to keep asking: Should companies like Google remove politically charged games because passerby find them offensive? Are we overreacting to some of these games instead of taking the time to consider whether they’re intended as satirical (be it nuanced or crude, successful or misguided)? Are games that depict violence related to a current event fundamentally so different from caustic political cartoons or scathing op-eds? And should companies like Apple and Google and Amazon — and thereby the swiftly narrowing channels through which we’re acquiring more and more of our content — also be the arbiters of what’s morally tasteful?

TIME Video Games

Thailand Bans Tropico 5 City-Building Game Over Security Concerns

Kalypso Media Group

The military-ruled country is banning an irreverent PC strategy game in which you play as a dictator, fending off military coups, rigging elections and ruling with a iron fist

If you live in Thailand, it looks like you’ll have to find a way around the country’s military junta if you want to play Tropico 5.

The Associated Press, citing a game distributor, reports that censors in Thailand operating on behalf of the country’s military leaders have put the kibosh on sales of developer Haemimont Games’ city-building simulation because it might “hurt the country’s security.”

Thailand’s military launched a coup against the civilian government on May 22, 2014, and currently holds sway under the rubric of a group called the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The NCPO has been cracking down on what it views as radical elements in the media and online ever since, and the junta’s film and video censorship wing reportedly opted to block sales of Tropico 5 over concerns it “might affect peace and order in the country.”

That’s presumably because Tropico 5 — the fifth in a long-running series of PC-based city-building games — is about ruling a Caribbean island as “El Presidente” soup to nuts, including dictatorial maneuvers like rigging elections, strong-arming the media and pretty much doing whatever floats your boat. The goal is less about improving the lives of your citizens than staying in power, fending off military coups and steering clear of Cold War superpowers.

It’s not clear what about Tropico 5 specifically so worried the junta’s censorship office that it banned the game outright, but the distributor cited by AP notes prior series installments were sold in the country. And it’s worth noting that while measures like these indicate a much harsher stance, the country’s long-standing censorship practices, which range from sanitizing or outright banning certain books and magazines, media stories, Internet URLs, television shows and films, predate the May coup.

TIME China

China Now Says Almost 100 Were Killed in Xinjiang Violence

China Steps Up Security Following Xinjiang Unrest
Chinese soldiers march in front of the Id Kah Mosque, China's largest, in Kashgar, on July 31, 2014. China has increased security in many parts of restive Xinjiang following some of the worst violence in months Kevin Frayer—Getty Images

Tensions in China's northwestern frontier region are escalating rapidly

It took a week, but authorities have finally released a death toll for the violence that rocked China’s far northwestern frontier on July 28. Early reports said “dozens” were killed or injured; now the government says nearly 100 were killed, and 215 arrested, making it the deadliest single incident since riots hit Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region’s capital, Urumqi, in 2009. But even as more details are released, questions remain about what, exactly, happened in Shache County (also known as Yarkand in the Uighur language). And with the area shut to foreign journalists, and Internet access spotty across the region, those questions will be difficult to answer.

As TIME reported last week, there are at least two competing accounts of what happened in Shache — and neither feels complete. Some 24 hours after the unrest, China’s official newswire Xinhua issued a breaking-news alert stating that dozens had been killed or injured in a premeditated terrorist attack on a police station in Xinjiang. After local officials discovered a cache of explosives, state media said, knife-wielding mobs went on a rampage, killing civilians and torching several vehicles. One report speculated that the attack was timed to coincide with a commodity fair.

The official narrative has changed in the interim. The latest details released by Chinese authorities suggest the incident was both more severe, and less isolated, than it initially seemed. State media now put the death toll at 96, including 37 civilians, and 59 people identified as terrorists. The violence “was preceded by a large-scale police crackdown in Hotan,” reported the Global Times, and was “followed” by the murder, in Kashgar, of an imam with ties to the government. Chinese news outlets say the unrest was coordinated by extremists with links to a group called the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, and that banners calling for jihad were found at the scene.

Other groups paint a strikingly different picture. An early report by Uighur-speaking Radio Free Asia reporters Shohret Hoshur and Eset Sulaiman said the uprising was linked to restrictions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the alleged extrajudicial killing of a Uighur family. In their account — which here bears some similarity to the government’s narrative — knife- and ax-wielding Uighurs went on a rampage and were subsequently gunned down by Chinese police. A representative from the World Uyghur Congress, an overseas exile group, presented a slightly different story, saying the armed Uighurs were in fact protesters speaking out against the Ramadan restrictions, not rioters per se.

The divergent accounts say much about the divisions affecting Xinjiang, and the difficulty of reporting on the area. The vast area known as Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is the homeland of the mostly Muslim, Turkic Uighur people, but is claimed also as Chinese territory. Since coming to power, the Chinese Communist Party has sent waves of migrants to Xinjiang in an attempt to settle its far west; in 1949, China’s ethnic Han majority accounted for only about 6% of the population; today, the figure is more than 40%. The government says it is bringing prosperity to the region, but many ethnic Uighurs say they have been cut off from the economic benefits and resent restrictions on freedom of movement and their right to practice their faith. A small minority has waged a decades-long struggle against Chinese authorities, often targeting police stations or transport hubs.

Over the past year, the conflict has intensified considerably. In October 2013, an SUV carrying three ethnic Uighurs plowed through tourists in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing five, including the occupants. In March 2014, a group of black-clad, knife-wielding attackers slashed its way through a busy train station in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, killing 29. Chinese authorities blamed that incident, and two subsequent ambushes in the regional capital, Urumqi, on terrorist groups with overseas ties. Little information has been released about the perpetrators or their victims. And with much of Xinjiang closed to foreign reporters, the government’s account is difficult to independently confirm.

The central government has responded by tightening already stringent security measures and stepping up efforts to integrate Uighurs — by force, if necessary. There are police trucks and officers in riot gear in town squares across the region, and many towns, particularly in Uighur-dominated southwest Xinjiang, are now sealed off by police checkpoints. The physical lockdown has come with curbs on religious practice, including attempts to ban civil servants from fasting during Ramadan and, reportedly, efforts to stop Uighur women from covering their hair.

The authorities are calling the latest crackdown a “people’s war” on terrorism, urging — and in many cases, paying — people to come forward with information about suspicious activity. The government recently announced it would offer 300 million yuan ($48.6 million), in cash for “hunting terrorists.” At a recent ceremony in the city of Hotan, 10,000 local officials and civilians were given some 4.23 million yuan ($685,000) for their trouble. Critics worry, however, that the scheme will only deepen distrust between Uighurs and the Han-dominated central government, turning neighbors against each other and potentially criminalizing certain religious practices that have nothing to do with organized terrorism.

Meanwhile, amid calls for calm, the government’s rhetoric is heating up. In the wake of the latest attack, Xinjiang party secretary Zhang Chunxian, promised an even tougher crackdown to come. “We have to hit hard, hit accurately and hit with awe-inspiring force,” he said. “To fight such evils we must aim at extermination. To cut weeds we must dig out the roots.”

The statement was no doubt designed to reassure people that the government has the situation under control. Somehow, though, the nihilistic imagery feels more like a warning of more conflict, and violence, to come.

TIME Singapore

Singapore Has Banned an Archie Comic for Depicting a Gay Wedding

In an installment of Life With Archie first published in 2012, the franchise tackled the issue of gay marriage head on — by putting it on the cover. The Hollywood Reporter

A recent crackdown on publications discussing homosexuality sheds light on Singapore's traditional moral values and notoriously restricted press

State media censors in Singapore have banned the sale of an Archie comic book for its frank presentation of gay marriage, a matter that remains socially taboo and legally verboten in Southeast Asia’s most developed state.

Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) censored the comic book, first published in January 2012, earlier this year, but the ban is only just now coming to light — a week after another state agency removed three children’s books promoting tolerance of same-sex relationships from the national library’s shelves.

The third installment in Archie: The Married Life, one of several spinoff series in the multifarious Archie universe, features the wedding of Kevin Keller, a gay character whose creation in 2010 earned writer Dan Parent a GLAAD Media Award last year. (In the latest volume, Archie dies taking a bullet for Kevin, now a U.S. Senator.)

As critic Alyssa Rosenberg noted Wednesday in The Washington Post, the 75-year-old comic book franchise has in recent years adopted a distinctly political subtext, taking on issues of topical significance as they come: Kevin, a gay solider, was introduced as the Obama administration was deliberating the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; Archie’s interracial marriage made the cover in 2012.

Social progressivism isn’t really Singapore’s forte, though.

“[We]… found its content to be in breach of guidelines because of its depiction of the same sex marriage of two characters in the comic,” an MDA spokesperson said in a statement to TIME. “We thus informed the local distributor not to import or distribute the comic in retail outlets.”

In its guidelines for imported publications, the MDA prohibits comics and other illustrated material that depict or discuss “alternative lifestyles or deviant sexual practices,” listing homosexuality as an example of such (alongside “group sex and sadomasochism”).

Such stringent regulations are par for the course in Singapore, where social conservatism reigns supreme and strict curbs are placed on the dissemination of information. The country ranks 149th of the 179 countries listed in the 2013 Press Freedom Index — between Iraq and Vladimir Putin’s Russia — earning it the distinction of having the least free press of any developed economy in the world.

Concerning the recent purge of homosexual content, though, these restrictions may not be completely unwelcome. Sodomy, although rarely prosecuted, is criminalized as an act of “gross indecency,” and the majority of citizens, according to one survey, still take a “conservative approach” to marital and family matters. Indeed, the MDA claims to predicate its censorship decisions upon “public feedback or complaints,” and only turned its attention to the Archie comic after receiving a number of grievances.

TIME Singapore

Singapore Provokes Outrage by Pulping Kids’ Books About Gay Families

Toddler plays with bubbles as participants wait to take part in the forming of a giant pink dot at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore
A toddler plays with bubbles during the Pink Dot parade at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore June 28, 2014. Edgar Su—Reuters

One of the books, the multi-award winning And Tango Makes Three, recounts the real life-inspired story of two male penguins raising a baby chick at New York's Central Park Zoo

The Singapore government has ordered the National Library Board (NLB) to remove from library shelves and destroy three children’s books that portray gay, lesbian or unconventional families.

The multi-award winning And Tango Makes Three recounts the real life-inspired story of two male penguins raising a baby chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo. The other two banned titles are The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, which features a lesbian couple, and Who’s In My Family: All About Our Families, which describes unconventional parental set-ups.

The move has resulted in a torrent of opposition in mainstream and social media, the latter largely via the #FreeMyLibrary hashtag. An open letter criticizing the ban has also received more than 4,000 signatures.

“This is a very unfortunate step backwards,” Kirpal Singh, associate professor of English Literature at Singapore Management University, tells TIME. “While we try to balance the conservatives and liberal minded, do we remove anything or everything that gives offense, especially if this offense is quite problematic, quite complex?”

Homosexuality is a sensitive subject in ostensibly modern Singapore. Gay sex remains illegal but is rarely prosecuted, and an estimated 26,000 revelers thronged this year’s annual Pink Dot gay rights rally — one of the largest public gatherings of any sort seen in recent years. Nevertheless, society remains conservative.

According to a NLB statement, “We take a cautious approach, particularly in books and materials for children. NLB’s understanding of family is consistent with that of the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Education.”

The ban was reportedly spurred by a complaint from a single library user who is also a member of the Facebook group “We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore.”

The NLB boasts a collection of more than five million books and audio-visual materials, and a spokesperson told Channel News Asia that it acts on less than a third of the 20 or so removal requests received each year. (James Patterson’s Kill Me If You Can, which depicts incest, was the subject of a complaint but remains on the shelves.)

Naturally, gay rights activists are outraged. “This unfortunate decision sends a message of rejection to many loving families that do not conform to the narrow father-mother-children definition of family that it has adopted,” said Pink Dot spokesperson Paerin Choa by email. “Pink Dot believes that Singapore can be an inclusive home for its people in all their diversity, and that constructive dialogue should be the way forward for a truly embracing society.”

For Singh, the furor may at least have the positive side effect of prompting debate. “This may contribute to a more vital discussion for Singapore in terms of where we are and where we are not when it comes to values, freedoms and an open state for discourse,” he says.

While praising the NLB as an institution, acclaimed Singaporean author Alvin Pang writes: “This is a serious impoverishment of what books are and what knowledge means, and it can only harm our intellectual development and broader social discourse.”

Justin Richardson, co-author of And Tango Makes Three, would no doubt agree. “We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families,” he told the New York Times in 2007. “It’s no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks.”

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