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SPIDERTEMBER: Top 6 Ridiculous Censorships in the Animated Spider-Man Series

Television, particularly in America, is notorious for censorship. But they don’t always do it in a way that makes sense. Turn on any channel and you’ll probably be confronted by bare chests, gunfire, or some group punching the crap out of each other, only for the next seen to have the characters saying things like ‘gosh’ because they’ve been told swearing is off-limits. It’s largely down to culture of course; British TV has an abundance of swearing and violence, yet prohibits pretty much any depiction of sex (you’ll find a lot of scenes where two people are kissing, then a jump to them lying in bed the next morning). This is epitomised by Friends. Watch it on Comedy Central early in the day and the swearing is cut, but watch it on Channel 4 and it’s the explicit references to sex to go missing.

Anyway, enough of that nun’s sagging testicles, let’s get to the plot. Every now and again a show comes along so full of censorship you can practically smell the nervous sweat of the suits in charge, having put so much money into the product they’re terrified of offending anyone. The ’90s Spider-Man cartoon is a show such as this. We’ve selected the six best examples of Orwellian impressionism in the show, all of which making about as much sense as a lard salad.


6. Pew Pew

Nick Fury

Guns, I think we can all agree, are bad. Their only purpose is to kill and, as such, it makes perfect sense a company like Marvel would want to keep them out of their shows, not wishing to glorify gun violence. Except that’s not really what they did. In the Spider-Man cartoon from our youth there were a plethora of fire arms, but censorship had them shooting stun lasers rather than actual bullets, making it clear to viewers nobody was in real danger and thus keeping the show family friendly.

This is perhaps the most misguided censorship of any programme in all history. Showing guns as non-lethal trivialise firearm use, promoting the notion the weapons are fine and you should totally fire one at your sister kids that’d be funny wouldn’t it? But in truth the compromise doesn’t really work anyway, as we grew up thinking Spider-Man’s enemies shared the weapons of Storm Troopers and any hit from one of those lasers would kill a normal person instantly. So regardless of how you look at it, this misguided censorship was pretty counter-productive.


5. Think of the Children!


In an effort not to give viewers nightmares in which a man with a fish-bowl on his head chases the viewer through a house of mirrors, the show producers stipulated that no children must be seen in danger at any point in the show. However, as the programme revolved 90% around bank robberies, explosions, and dastardly schemes to steal Aunt May’s prized potato collection, the result was barely any children made it into the show at all.

Not representing the key audience seems a rather silly thing for a company to do. It’s alright though, they’ve probably learnt from their mistake and constantly show kids in their new stuff. Like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where that kid…. err…. oh, never mind.


4. Bird Trouble


Oh come on, now it’s just getting silly! Producers of the show reportedly sent out a memo telling the writers to be careful when Spider-Man is jumping around that he “doesn’t land on any pigeons”. Firstly, why would any writer include a scene where the hero accidentally stomps on a pigeon’s head mid-fight? And secondly, who cares? Yes animal cruelty is wrong and we wouldn’t have wanted Spider-Man to go on a lion hunting tour in Africa, but this makes PETA look like Luka Magnotta.

Okay, come on, deep-breaths. The next three on our list have to be less ridiculous than these, right?

3. If You Cut Us, Do We Not Bleed?


Well… no, not according to this show. On top of the already tame fight scenes, the writers were inhibited even more by not being allowed to let any character draw blood. Not an easy feat, especially when the clawed Wolverine showed up for a few episodes. His entire shtick is slicing people up, after all.

The party line was that Marvel didn’t want to scare the kids, but let’s be honest, shows like Dragon Ball Z (where characters not only bleed but got literal holes punched through them) proved ’90s children weren’t exactly woozy to the sight violence. In fact I seem to remember it being the scarier, grosser characters who sold the most action figures, as demonstrated by the success of the Kenner Alien toys. No, the real reason they wanted to avoid blood is probably down to the waves of over-protective parents willing to jump on any excuse to kick up a fuss, a craze started by games like Mortal Kombat released a few years before (#ThanksObama).


2. Hands-free


Can you remember anyone actually getting punched in the show? You probably think you can, but in reality not a single fist contacted face in the show’s entire run. Most fight scenes involved the spraying of acid, shooting of guns, and the throwing of punches, but Spidey always managed to jump out the way in the nick of time. Seriously, watch the show back and you’ll see plenty of acrobatics, yet the most contact you’ll come across are weird homoerotic wrestling on the ground or characters hitting each other with sticks (a la the Daredevil Kingpin fight).

Thankfully the show didn’t go full The Return of Superman and lack anything though, as despite the rule on fisticuffs the producers seemed to have no problem with electrocution, near drowning, characters being thrown across rooms, and buildings collapsing on people. I guess because not many nine year olds can shoot high velocity water blasts from their palms.


1. Not so Tragic Past


Undoubtedly the most ridiculous piece of censorship of the series was the inability to let anyone die. Doesn’t sound like too big a deal at first, I mean Batman: The Animated Series had a similar rule and that worked out fine… except in Batman they didn’t take it so far as to make Bruce’s parents alive and well. That’s right, in Spider-Man uncle Ben wasn’t dead, having instead just moved to Canada.

This fundamentally changes the background of Peter Parker, and kinda means his heroism doesn’t make any sense. Ben’s death was a catalyst for the web-head to understand the importance of using his powers wisely, to make the world (or at least his city) a better place rather than indulging in his own private jaunts. Kids don’t question things enough so the show got away with it, but in truth if Ben just ran away we’d have a Peter Parker with an extreme abandonment complex who’d have most likely used his powers and physique to get a series of women (and/or men) into bed with him as his life became a spiral of destructive hedonism, full of alcohol and drugs, desperately using any substance he could to feel the aching void in his soul.

Inevitably he’d crash into a severe depression. He’d decide to take his own life, but despite his attempts couldn’t find a single lethal gun or knife sharp enough to break his skin. In his misery he’d take to crime, hoping the thrill would make him feel something, yet without a hero in the city to go against him the gesture was empty, but he would continue, not knowing what else to do.

They didn’t go that route though. Marvel never take any of my suggestions…

With all this censorship it’s amazing the writers kept any form of tension running through the episodes, so we salute you, you determined and hearty Winstons! Now dear reader, what are your thoughts on our list? Do you think television has too much censorship and should respect the vision of creators, or should we “think of the children”?

Sound off in the comments below or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Charlie Oldfield