"It's been a week, dude. You came back from the [hurt] after I [destroyed] you and sent you to [Hades]. That stuff was cut. For, uh... time."
—Joel, to the no-longer-dead Phil, after retooling Bonus Stage as a kids' show
Bowdlerise basically means to alter existing programs, plays, etc. so they are less rude and/or offensive. Used in a very negative sense, by those who think the alterations are often done with a ridiculously high fear of lawsuits and/or need for political correctness.
North American releases of Anime are frequently targeted with this accusation. Differing cultural norms create separate notions of what is okay to show on television, but some companies take extreme measures to stomp out any preliminary complaints from Media Watchdogs and Moral Guardians—so extreme, in fact, that they pick up a reputation for going undeniably overboard. This may be because of the American perception that cartoons are for kids, so that shows meant for slightly higher age groups that aren't specifically marketed to them are edited down. In fact, one of the most notable Bowdlerizers is actually named 4Kids! Entertainment. (And you wouldn't believe how much hate they get for it.)
Ironically enough, the same happens to North American movies and series, both inside and outside the US. Since TV audiences are also made by kids and teenagers, movies tend to get edited to be watchable by that part of the audience as well (specially the swearing). This is even worst in other languages, since the movies get dubbed with that in mind, meaning that even the theater releases are cut.
Also, this can be done to movies that were originally made for television in an era where standards were looser. TV movies once lauded for their daring when first aired are now edited as much as any R-rated theatrical film when rebroadcast.
Named after Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), who first did it on The Bible and Shakespeare's plays; for instance, changing Ophelia's drowning from suicide to accident. It's worth noting that Bowdler himself created his "Family Shakespeare" versions as a way to introduce Shakespeare's plays to audiences who would otherwise be barred from experiencing them at all, and actively encouraged people to seek out the originals. Sadly, this cannot be said of most modern Bowdlerisers. Before him, the French Duke of Montausier published "ad usum Delphini" versions of works for the Dauphin (heir apparent) of France. "Ad usum Delphini" is now a synonym of this trope.
Cultural Translation can often contain elements of Bowdlerization. See T-Word Euphemism for a mild form of bowdlerization. See also Cut and Paste Translation (which specifically refers to Bowdlerization in translated works and refers more to the final product than the process) and Disneyfication (which generally goes further, in not only removing content, but adding new, "kid-friendly" content). See Bluenose Bowdlerizer for when it happens here on the wiki.
The inverse of this trope is American Kirby Is Hardcore.
Yet another related trope is Bleached Underpants, where a creator self-censors his work to appeal to a broader audience. There is also a Censored Title, for when a work seems to be Bowdlerized, but only the title is for marketing purposes.
- Anime and Manga
- Comic Books
- Live-Action TV
- Myth and Legend
- New Media
- Newspaper Comics
- Real Life
- Video Games
- Web Comics
- Western Animation
- The "bow" part of the word rhymes with "cow".