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The one where Bandit gives birth: is America ready for the banned Bluey episode?
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The one where Bandit gives birth: is America ready for the banned Bluey episode?

In some parts of the world, the Bluey episode Dad Baby has gained almost mythological status. This 2020 episode, in which Bluey’s dad, Bandit, pretends to give birth to his daughter Bingo, has never been allowed to be shown in the US. No official reason has been given for the censorship, something that has only allowed speculation to spurt off in numerous weird directions.

Why did Disney decide to ban it? Was it because the birth sequence was too graphic for the sensibilities of its young viewers? Or was it that the central conceit, of a man growing and giving birth to a baby, risked getting embroiled in the red-hot culture war screaming match about gender and biology? Just how wildly subversive was this episode anyway?

Most non-American viewers know the answer is not at all. The episode has aired in Australia and intermittently pops up on BBC iPlayer in the UK; it has caused precisely nothing in the way of an outcry. It is, in truth, a normal episode of Bluey. It’s very funny and targets your emotions with ruthless precision. Nothing about it suggests that anyone watching will be mortally offended. There is a moment where Bandit experiences extreme pain but it’s nothing that isn’t also shown in the episode Sleepytime, in which Bandit is kicked in the genitals by his daughter in her sleep.

Nevertheless, the US can finally rejoice, for it has caught up with the rest of the world at last. This week, Dad Baby got an almost-official US release. While the episode still won’t be shown on any Disney channels, it has been uploaded to the Bluey YouTube channel, where, at time of writing, it has been viewed more than 800,000 times in 23 hours. This isn’t colossal by Bluey numbers – the episode Magic Asparagus has been viewed 76m times – but it does suggest that Disney might want to rethink the censorship.

When watching a story like this play out, the instinct is to adopt a state of arrogant superiority over the delicate Americans who thought Dad Baby was a step too far. But that would be foolish, because I am British and therefore have to live with the shameful knowledge that for the duration of its run, the 1987 animated TV show Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had to be renamed Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles in this country. For a while, I lived somewhere that laboured under the delusion that if a child so much as heard the word “ninja”, they would instantly lose their innocence and embark upon a nunchuck rampage in the streets. When the 1990 live-action movie was released with the original name intact, it became clear that this would not come to pass.

More recently, this country censored a lesbian relationship out of a cartoon. In 2016, Cartoon Network UK edited an episode of Steven Universe that featured two female characters dancing together. To make matters worse, the episode retained several scenes of heterosexual characters dancing and kissing. A petition was created in response and gained almost 10,000 signatures.

But at least we are not alone in our stupidity. When episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers aired in the Philippines, they did so with an abbreviated title. There, the show was known only as Power Rangers, because local censors decreed that the world “Morphin” was too close to the word “morphine”; they didn’t want to risk a show about some brightly coloured superheroes accidentally becoming responsible for getting the country’s children hooked on opiates.

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At least nobody in the UK was silly enough to try to ban Sesame Street. For that, we need to return to the US. In Mississippi in 1970, the State Commission for Educational Television decided to ban the show altogether, for the worst possible reason. The commission took action after becoming outraged by all the scenes of Black and white children playing together. Even then, this was a step too far: protests were immediate. “There will always be people in Mississippi and across the nation who will find an integrated television cast offensive,” read one letter printed by United Press International at the time. “But there are probably more conscientious parents who will put the education of their children ahead of their personal prejudices, and these people should not be denied a choice.” Within two months, the show was back on the air. The moral seems to be that popular opinion will always trump conservative censorship. What wonderful company for Bandit Heeler to be in.

Source: theguardian.com