How to Get Your Video Banned by MTV


We’re betting that most people who read this Salon post on MTV banning DJ Invincible’s new music video, “Ropes,” had never heard of the artist in question before. So, while the network’s reasons for refusing to air the clip are weak, there’s also a silver lining there: Tons of new people know DJ Invincible’s name. (Plus, it’s not like MTV actually airs music videos anymore — hence the collective shoulder shrug at the network’s refusal to air Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.”) In fact, now that we think of it, getting your video banned may be a great, Malcolm McLaren-style PR move. With that in mind, we’ve created a handy guide to winning MTV’s scorn and, if you play your publicity right, upgrading your public profile.

Be sexy. Example: Madonna — “Erotica” (1992) We could leave out one of the most infamous banned videos of all time. Directed by photographer Fabien Baron, it’s all beautiful depravity, BDSM, and celebrity cameos (Isabella Rossellini, Naomi Campbell). Of course, the song didn’t just get Madonna snubbed by MTV; it also made her persona non grata at the Vatican.

Be sacrilegious. Example: Soundgarden — “Jesus Chris Pose” (1992) According to Chris Cornell, MTV censors were so scandalized by the video that they wouldn’t even air it on Beavis and Butthead. Us? We don’t really see what the fuss was over the lady, bird-like creature, and skeleton who variously appeared on the cross.

Be gay. Example: Queen — “Body Language” (1982) Think Madonna was the first artist banned from MTV for being too racy? Think again. Queen took that title way back in 1982, with this (literally) steamy video. Was it the raunch and sweat or the subtle homoeroticism that put the network over the edge? You decide.

Cross-dress. Example: Foo Fighters — “Low” (2003) Rappers can smack bitches all they like, but MTV was not amused by a video featuring Dave Grohl and Jack Black dressing in drag and playing grab-ass. It seems that even straight performers aren’t safe from the network’s ban on all things homoerotic.

Mention suicide. Example: The Faint — “Agenda Suicide” (2002) It’s not surprising, we suppose, that a song whose chorus is, “Agenda suicide/The drones work hard before they die/And give up on pretty, little homes,” didn’t fare well on MTV. Word is, the network took the song’s obviously figurative title literally and decided it would encourage self-harm.

Endorse a controversial political group. Example: M.I.A. — “Sunshowers” (2004) It wasn’t the video for this Arular single that brought the wrath of the censors down on M.I.A. It was her refusal to take out the lyrics “You wanna go?/ You wanna winna war?/ Like PLO, I don’t surrendo.” It’s hard out there for the daughter of a Tamil Tiger!

Inspire dangerous behavior. Example: Mistah F.A.B. — “Ghost Ride It” (2006) Don’t know what “ghostriding” is? Don’t worry, neither did we. It seems it involves dancing on or next to a vehicle while it’s in motion. And people have died doing it. We’re guessing MTV didn’t want to see its name on the lawsuits that would inevitably result from it.

Be violent. Example: The Cribs — “Men’s Needs” (2007) Okay, kids. You can have your naked lady at the ironing board. But a cartoonish beheading is just not going to fly.