"We'd show you more, but we actually ran out of black bars."
—Brett Erlich, The Rotten Tomatoes Show
The Censor Box is used to cover up an offending sight with something that obviously doesn't belong, less physically part of the scene than any sort of fig leaf. Most typically, this is a heavy black bar or box, but sometimes bizarre stickers are used.
It's more glaringly obvious than Censor Steam or Pixellation, and such a brutal way of keeping something hidden from audiences that it's often used for parodies of censorship. There are plenty of subversions where the characters acknowledge it as if it was a physical object in their world. Conversely, Speech Bubble Censoring for two-in-one use.
A variation is for the bar to appear over a person's eyes, rather than their "naughty bits". Rather than censoring nudity, it's used to censor identity. This may be used when the subject in question is fully clothed, and is often used to Draw Around Trademarks in order to show a famous person to whom the author doesn't have the rights while still maintaining Plausible Deniability. This was also commonly done while showing parts in vintage porn magazines and older medical books.
Another, more recent, trend is to briefly place censor decals (often the program's logo or some mocking caption) over people's mouths when they say something that is bleeped out. This may be for the "benefit" of lip readers, or purely for added humor.
- The late-night Girls Gone Wild commercials will usually cover up the parts of the aforementioned girls with either their logo or, ironically, a big bar labeled "UNCENSORED!"
- An Australian animated ad for Red Bull was set in a nudist camp. There were black censor bars over everyone's genitals. One fellow had an exceptionally large censor box that rose as he drank his Red Bull.
- "Designer Imposters" Body Spray
Anime and Manga
- Hayate the Combat Butler makes a running gag out of them, since it's a reference-heavy show in a early time slot. A genie holding up 'can't show this' and 'don't do this' signs is used to cover up everything from mild injuries to humans being sexually assaulted by a tiger.
- Naughty bits in Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei often are obscured by a photograph of the bald head of Maeda-kun, the original manga author's assistant who is also responsible for the blackboard gags. His expression and line of sight change depending on what he is covering up. His head also often pops up at intermissions and in the school's clock. It's very disturbing.
- Macademi Wasshoi has Claymation versions of Tanarot appear to cover up the animated her whenever she does anything that might be considered too fanservicey. It ends up looking really weird.
- Nazo Koumori in Rosario + Vampire is a bat of many talents. Combat Commentator, Morph Weapon and Panty Shot censor when he needs to be. This leads to odd scenes where he's in two places at once as Kokoa's familiar and part of the censorship. Spoofed when Kokoa sits down on him only to find he's become part of her panties somehow.
- Later chapters of Hunter X Hunter involve certain scenes shaded out by big black spaces or boxes to cover up gruesome scenery.
- Parodied in Patlabor during the obligatory Hot Springs Episode. We see all the main male characters go into a communal shower, with black dots covering their modesty. Then, after they go behind a opaque wooden screen, they throw the dots over the top of the screen like towels!
- After some unintentional Clothing Damage in Black Cat (or rather, immediately as it happens), two cats appear holding signs that prevent the reader from seeing anything.
- In Eyeshield 21, Hiruma's spirited exchange with the coach of the American NASA Aliens football team is all in English and almost completely covered with the Shounen Jump logo, as is the "translation" on the next page.
- Shown above is Black Lagoon's somewhat ironic use of this trope during the anime's OP. The show itself has no such censoring at all, and depicts acts much more brutal than simply firing a gun at something offscreen.
- The identity-"concealing" version is used in Toradora! when classmates are "testifying" about the evidence suggesting that Ryuuji and Taiga are a couple—but the name of each witness appears below his or her image.
- Mahou Sensei Negima does the "across the eyes" version when someone who totally isn't the KFC guy is shown.
- There's also an incident where Konoka tries to cover the screen when Jack Rakan starts doing something improper with a pair of stolen panties.
- Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou uses Hexagonal Speech Balloon with things like "Don't look" or "Maybe next time".
- In keeping with Japanese law, all hentai manga is censored. Works that don't get creative with their censorship will often have thin black strip censor boxes over the minimum required area to be censored. On men this results in a small black strip over 'part' of the head of the penis, and the urethra. On women, this strip covers the actual opening of the vagina (leaving all the messy bits). One wonders why they even have it at all. Still, its enough that it kills the allure for some people.
- Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt: It appears in If the Angels Wore Swimsuits to cover various naughty bits as the starfish Ghosts replace bits of clothing, as well as in HELP! We are Angels when Panty is singing about a delicious crotch.
- Similar to the Patlabor example above, Urusei Yatsura had an episode set at a sento using black dots for censorship, where the black dots were suspended from crane-arms held by Kabuki stagehands.
- In the anime adaption of Toradora!, Minori mentions she saw something black when Kitamura dropped the towel covering his pride.
- Used in the U.S. version of the French comic book Sillage (Wake in English). In the first issue the heroine Navis/Navee is living as a kind of Jungle Princess, wearing only a pair of briefs. Conveniently for the censors she has a set of white bars tattooed on various parts of her body, one of which just happens to be across her breast. So for the US edition all they had to do was paint her breast tattoo black, and presto!
- Used in Empowered for comedy.
- The first time Judge Dredd's helmet is removed his face is covered with a white censor bar.
- The eye-covering black box was parodied in Spy Kids: The character actually grabbed the black bar, moved it around and finally put it down on a desk or table.
- Adult Swim took this trope to its logical conclusion when they aired The Room. Ridiculously oversized black boxes were used to cover just about every inappropriate scene.
- Parodied in Loaded Weapon 1. The protagonist cops run into the FBI arresting a suspect with a blue circle over his face. Then the view switches to him from the rear, where we can see the strap holding the blue circle mask on.
- Used humorously in Borat during the naked wrestling scene. Borat has an extremely long censor bar that swings between his legs.
- Used in the network television cut of the sci fi film Hideous. One scene features a topless woman, but is too integral to the plot to cut out entirely.
- Subverted in Jackass 3D during naked baseball. A censor bar is used, but is in the wrong position to cover anything most of the time.
- Censor bars are covering the exotic dancers' delicate parts in the peep show segment of Magical Mystery Tour.
- The American release of Storytelling covers up a sexual encounter with a giant orange box in order to avoid an NC-17 rating. The director originally wanted to mark it "censored," but the MPAA objected, on the grounds that they don't consider themselves censors.
Live Action TV
- There was a Bobcat Goldthwait special called Is He Like That All the Time? where he did stand-up comedy in a large communal shower explaining that his jokes are funnier in the shower just like people's singing is better in the shower. Everyone in the shot has the black rectangle. Bobcat's starts spinning like a propeller near the end and he flies off the screen.
- Parodied in the Mad TV sketch "Boys Gone Wild." Men, mostly overweight, flash their chests for the camera and their nipples are black-boxed.
- The Middleman uses them to cover people's mouths while they're swearing.
- Played for extra comic effect near the end of the show's run (in "The Clotharian Contamination Protocol"), when our heroes receive a staticky, blue-tinted video transmission from another planet. The speaker uses a naughty word (actually, he's quoting an Earth catchphrase), and naturally he gets a censor box... except, hilariously, the box is part of the transmission, complete with static and blue tint.
- Subverted in a You Can't Do That on Television sketch where two boys are behind black boxes. Says one to the other, "I don't know why they don't want to see... our boxers!"
- The Daily Show once referred to some sort of gory/sexual footage which couldn't be shown because "they don't make black bars that big".
- In the Devil Fish episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the MST3K logo was used to prevent viewers from getting an unwanted look up a male character's shorts.
- X-Play has often censored violence, gore, and nudity in games they review with little kitten heads. Adorable mewing kitten heads.
- Hey, at least they censor the violence, too, rather than just the nudity.
- In a Welcome Freshmen (Hi There Is No Such Thing as Notability!) sketch, two boys got the censor box and discuss how creepy it is, then ran off stage, carefully covered themselves, leaving the censor boxes just hanging there. Then as if realizing what just happened, the boxes zoomed off after them.
- America's Funniest Home Videos uses a rubber duck.
- In Weird Science, there is an early episode in which Gary orders Lisa to be naked for him. She does, and there are censor bars covering her "rude bits". It quickly becomes clear that Gary and Wyatt are seeing the censor bars, same as the audience: apparently this is a safety feature because actually seeing Lisa naked would ruin Gary and Wyatt for normal women....
- Played with frequently in Japanese comedy shows, like Gaki no Tsukai Ya Arahende. Often, the censored part (usually a man's butt or genitals) is covered by their own face superimposed over their crotch.
- Adam of MythBusters saved the show's editors the expense of pixellating people's mouths by constructing a physical "censor visor" that cursing participants in a myth-test ("Does swearing increase one's ability to tolerate pain?") could wear to obscure their mouths. Being Adam, he decorated the plastic strip with cuss-substitute wingdings.
- In another episode, animal heads (and their respective bleats) were used to censor dangerous ingredients from an explosives recipe. Lampshaded when the narrator explained that you'd get a violent reaction if you "add Donkey to Rooster"
- American Idol conspicuously uses its own logo as the censor box.
- Canadas Worst Driver fittingly uses a stop sign. Sister show Canadas Worst Handyman respectively uses animated duct tape.
- The Late Late Show sometimes uses flags accompanied by a Sound Effect Bleep of Craig saying an expression from the corresponding flag, most frequently France ("Oooh-la-la!"), Spain ("Ay caramba!"), Australia ("Crikey Dingo!"), Italy "Wassacominago!"), and even a gay pride flag ("Uh oh~")
- A Japanese "reality" show called Susunu! Denpa Shonen featured, for over a year, a man (nicknamed Nasubi) locked in an empty apartment and only living off of prizes won by entering sweepstakes. People did not believe the show was real, so the producers started streaming him live over the Internet, 24/7. The problem was, he had not won any clothes yet (except some women's underwear), so the producers hired a team of 50 people to make sure his naughty bits were always digitally covered with an eggplant graphic ("nasubi" means "eggplant").
- Top Gear's trip into self-parody: To make this enormous firework, you will need: a plastic tube, a wooden stick, a box of smaller fireworks and a pair of pixelated hands. Clarkson is very clearly seen pouring the gunpowder from the smaller fireworks into the plastic tube. Later referred to as the cruise missile, it takes out the windows nearest building.
- It used to be standard practice whenever atlases were imported to South Korea for the bookstore staff to take black markers and cross out the phrase "Sea of Japan" on all the maps before releasing the atlases for sale.
- Medical journals use this method to conceal the identities of subjects whose illnesses or injuries are displayed in photos, thus preserving privacy.
- Parodied in the music video for REM's "Pop Song 89", which features topless dancers of both sexes. Both have black boxes over their nipples.
- Used creatively in the video for Brighton Port Authority's "Toe Jam."
- In that they carefully arrange naked people to draw pictures with their censor boxes.
- Used in the video for Lemon Demon's song "Geeks In Love" (animated by Andrew Kepple), a censor box appears to be covering the girl geek fellating the boy geek; the box goes away and we see they are just playing foosball.
- The music video for Make the Girl Dance's "Baby Baby Baby" features nude models walking down a street in Paris with censor boxes covering up their "naughty bits". The lyrics to the song appear in the censor boxes, one or two words at a time, as they are sung.
- The music video for Melody (skip to 1:01) on DJ Max Black Square/Technika has a cat blocking a Panty Shot of the baseball girl.
- The video for Bowling for Soup's "High School Never Ends" covers up a jock's penis with "Too small for TV."
- Zero Punctuation features censor bars in order to depict nudity due to the minimalist art style.
- The censored boxes are also often covered in witty text. When Yahtzee describes something as "being stretched wider than a catamite's rectum," the censor box covering nearly the entire screen reads "IMAGE VERY CENSORED". Similarly, the aftermath of trying juggle babies and chainsaws at the same time is covered up with, "THE BABY IS FINE THE BABY IS OKAY".
- Similarly, when JesuOtaku reviews Ecchi stuff, she'll use black censor bars with amusing blurbs on them like "Bombs away!" and "There's side-nipple under me!"
- A piece of video art by performance artist Pina Bausch featured a shot of a topless woman sitting in a room with a censor box over her eyes.
- Head Injury Theatre movie review site often shows scenes too graphic for the German Web site's editor-imposed UK-15 rating... censored with little white circles stating NO.
- In The Spoony Experiment, there was this scene on the movie called "Clones of Bruce Lee" in which several women were seen baring their breasts on a beach. There was a huge censor box advertisement covering them from the shoulders down that read, 'Revolution of the Mask, by Linkara!'.
- Used in The Nostalgia Critic's review of Red Sonja, when the naked dancing woman appears.
- In this video, a naked blonde resizes the censor boxes in front of her.
- The /tg/ Image Board tends to use censor bars with "HERESY!" written on them, when they bother to.
- When James Rolfe was reviewing Night of the Ghouls as part of his Ed Wood-a-thon, there were a lot of topless girls in there, so he covered their breasts with Bela Lugosi's face.
- Brows Held High covers naked women with the torso of the Venus de Milo, in a fairly epic bit of mockery. Though one time he used the Hottentot Venus for a somewhat more Rubenesque woman.
- The Exterminating Angels review featured lesbian sex censored with a The L Word poster, among other creative censor boxes.
- He does this for pretty much everything racy. Tits get the bird (though he apologized once for using a swallow in its place), ass gets a donkey's head, pussy gets a cat's, ejaculate gets either mayo or milk, etc. At one point, he struggled to find something for "foot job" before finally throwing on a foot with glasses, tie and suitcase.
- And then there was the time he reviewed Up With Dead People and could only do a red censor box with "FUCKING A STOMACH WOUND" on it.
- In Space Quest III, if Roger fails to get off the Conveyor Belt O' Doom and falls into the meat grinder, a box labeled "NOT A PRETTY SIGHT" pops up as he is "shredded like an Iran-Contra document".
- Many players find this moment very funny and will repeatedly kill Roger just to watch it again and again.
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a large "Censored" box will cover Indy when he changes his clothes. It also shows up if he gets killed in some violent way, usually accompanied by a pool of blood appearing at the bottom.
- The Guy Game uses it as a gameplay mechanic: do poorly and the in-game breasts are covered by boxes. Do slightly better and it's switched to Pixellation. Do nigh-perfect and there's no censorship. (It's not worth it.)
- In the Police 911 series, the eyes of criminals in their portraits are censored out, not unlike in Japanese television broadcasts. When you fight them, their faces are pixellated.
- In Revolution X, when a player runs out of life, a big "CENSORED" bar appears over their part of the screen.
- In Secret Agent Clank, if Ratchet loses his Modesty Towel in the showers, he gets one of these. Also applies to the more humanoid enemies.
- Florence Ambrose of Freefall has five when Helix looks at her, emphasizing that she's more based on lupine physiology than a lot of anthropomorphic animals are on their respective source animals.
- Sluggy Freelance censor-boxes a "graphic depiction of peeled eyeballs".
- Shows up in Cross Time Cafe here, though the viewer is left wondering just exactly what is going on behind that box. Keep in mind, most of the characters in that box are canids...
- The Cyantian Chronicles: A male fox's "naughty bits" are covered by a black censor bar saying "We Have a Shivae-13 Rating To Maintain!"*
- Used all throughout this VG Cats comic, with the bar's message starting off as 'Naughty Bits Bar', then continually changing, including things like '18 or Older', 'Quit Looking' and 'No Way'.
- Used to humorous effect in later chapters of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, when the titular character's profane utterances and gestures are covered up by idiosyncratically subtitled black boxes.
- Used in The KAMics here & here.
- Living With Insanity uses them often to an amusing degree when you realise how small the box is.
- Last Res0rt uses a censor box, once, to cover up a chibi-fied Jason's genitalia during an in-comic recap.
- Super Bikini Girls, in a way.
- The fancomic Roommates has fun with Censor Boxes.
- Vivian & Lilian: no fun allowed from Kukuruyo illustrates the idea.
- How can i show this filth to my friends?!
- The SCP Foundation censors things all the time, both for comedy and for horror. Black boxes are typically used to censor dates and names. Larger amounts of text simply [DATA EXPUNGED] because knowing about [REDACTED] would probably break your brain.
- In Chaos Fighters-Route of Peaks:
How many (a lot of swear words) times I told you that leave a note whenever you (a lot of swear words) leave this city!
- In the Blernsball episode of Futurama there is a machine that censor-boxes reality in a men's changing room. It gets accidentally knocked off and all the bars disappear, which means the men have to cover themselves up manually except the one guy with his back towards the camera, who proudly proclaims, "I win." One of the recurring background characters include a naked couple with black bars over their genitals, who assumably use the same technology.
- Rocko's Modern Life uses stereotypical black censor boxes to cover Rocko's nudity on several occasions, including one where a censor actually appears on screen and places the box himself. This, despite Rocko not wearing any pants most of the time.
- In another episode, Heffer and Philburt make a home movie of Rocko (which includes a scene of him naked) and it becomes an international sensation. Rocko gets sent a box of censor bars for autographs, and Hef and Philburt have a ball putting them on each other like stickers.
- The Venture Bros. tends to use black bars instead of pixellation for censorship. Used rather cleverly when a man's penis morphs into Henry Killinger, the censor bar seamlessly transforming into his black coat.
- Also used to hilarious effect in a strip club. The dancers hadn't finished stripping and weren't actually showing their parts, but the censors still thought they were showing too much. Rather than redesign the costumes, the animators just slapped some black bars on them, which turned out to be funnier anyway.
- In "Home Is Where The Hate Is" The Monarch, Sgt. Hatred, and Dr. Venture all have censor bars covering their genitals as they hang out in the hot tub (Not that there's really that much to see in the uncensored version). Dr. Venture's bar inexplicably (and hilariously) shrinks right before he gets in.
- Played with in the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Falling Hare", in which the front gate sign of an unnamed Air Force base is censored to keep classified information from being discovered by the enemy ("Number of planes: Censored. Number of men: Censored.") The last line was censored for more traditional reasons ("Men's opinion of Top Sergeant: CENSORED!!!").
- The TV edit of The Simpsons Movie had a Censor Box that read "European Version Only" digitally laid over the bare hedge during the "Bart's naked skateboard ride" sequence.
- One episode of the series parodied this with a newscast about "nudist camps for animals", which showed a horse and other animals with black bars over their privates.
- Parodied in Family Guy when the FCC begin to censor real life after shutting down Peter's tasteless cable channel. FCC G-men are poised to cover naked people with black cardboard cut-outs (with one G-man asking if he should censor Peter's chin since it looks like a pair of testicles).
- South Park encountered some in episode 201 to obscure all appearances of Mohammed.
- Adventure Time had logs to cover their privates. Originally, they were going to be beavers.
- which is actually a fallacy, as many European countries do consider images of nude children to be pornographic