By Dan Stankus

Sex and swearing tend to face heavy censorship in America, whereas in Europe, violence is often the focus of censorship instead. After being abroad for almost three months, I can say this trend is very noticeable indeed.

Pulp Fiction was on cable television here in Belgium, and the “excessive” swearing was completely intact, as was the drug use, and even the violence too. In the United States, the drugs and swearing would have been censored without a doubt, unless it was on a premium channel.

The U.S. TV series, The Walking Dead, features humans and zombies alike being viscerally mutilated, but in Europe you would not see such scenes like a zombie being ripped in half. Yet in the U.S., the series features much less swearing than its graphic novel counterpart.  This is in part due to the likelihood of the show being verbally censored, even it is okay to have a zombie’s head be crushed.

The Walking Dead
Image from

Europe has more renowned as well as more prevalent red light districts, and while prostitution is illegal except in the Netherlands, it is generally accepted. Sex shops are very common and often feature obscene images in windows and display items of a sexual nature. There would be a public outcry if this were present in a U.S. neighborhood.

This relates to a very relaxed view on nudity in Europe. You can take a Playboy off  a magazine rack in a convenience store and flip through its pages, as there is no plastic covering, and it’s just not considered to be unusual to do so. Late-night television advertisements will have naked women and the programs are just as accessible as late-night Comedy Central would be in The States.

It is an age-old philosophical debate over which is worse and what censorship laws are even protecting, especially when the term “art” is involved. After being in Europe for a while, my opinion now leans towards censoring violence over sexual content and drug use because they are two things that are much more prevalent in everyday human life than violence.


Written by Ad Buzz

The American Advertising Federation Illinois Chapter brings to you Ad Buzz, a blog dedicated to all things advertising related, from our favorite campaigns to trends going on in the industry.

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