Getting Crap Past the Radar

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search

The practice—usually found in but not limited to comedies—of attempting to sneak some manner of profanity or other forbidden material past the network censors. The trope name is a somewhat milder version of comedian Robin Williams's term for his attempts along these lines while he was on the air in Mork and Mindy; Williams has probably made the greatest (known) effort along these lines in television history, allegedly researching and exhausting several different languages in an attempt to find genuinely dirty words the censors would not recognize, and coming up with sequences that would seem utterly innocent on paper, but which would carry vast quantities of implied prurience—often hilarious—when executed.

He was hardly the first, however. Films have flirted with the line for decades, often through the use of Double Entendre (as demonstrated, for example, by Lauren Bacall's famous line from To Have and Have Not: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow."). And, of course, Mae West pretty much made her career out of finding ways to get her bawdy comedy under the censors of Hollywood back in the 1930s and 1940s.

This is where Western Animation shines; there's pages and pages of it. Especially if you include all the people who are just reading too much into things.

If you're not trying to hide it at all, it's Refuge in Audacity. If an author makes fun of their censors directly, it's Think of the Censors. Censor Decoy is when creators deliberately put in something objectionable for censors and editors to catch to distract from the stuff they actually want to put in. Some of these can be brilliant, especially if you saw it when you were a kid and only understood it later. Probably won't be very funny in the case of Get Thee to a Nunnery, in which case Seinfeld Is Unfunny will inevitably follow.

Some specific examples are Hide Your Lesbians, Frothy Mugs of Water, Something Else Also Rises, Head-Tiltingly Kinky, Bowel-Breaking Bricks. Compare Subtext, which may involve this. See also Parental Bonus

Anything that makes you go "tee hee hee" is not an example of this trope. If the writers are genuinely and unironically using a word that just happens to sound like something sexual, don't put it as an example. And if it didn't sound dirty then, put it in Have a Gay Old Time.

Addendum: Not everything remotely obscene said in the media is necessarily an example. If the offending joke/scene is part of the plot or the main focus of the scene, it is probably not a valid use of this trope. And don't add ones for shows that don't really have radars, and hence have nothing to get past (such as South Park, Family Guy and Drawn Together).

Examples by Media/Category:



Other Examples:

Mythology & Religion[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Older Than Feudalism: The Bible has various examples:
    • The Revelation to John is considered by many scholars to be a disguised warning against Rome. Since it was to be read by a Roman audience, it had to get past Rome's censors, so it couched its accusations in crazy imagery. For instance, the Beast was said to have 7 heads, and a later passage said "The seven heads are seven hills" (referring most likely to the seven hills of Rome).
    • The Song of Songs (a.k.a. the Song of Solomon) contains plenty of suggestive sexual imagery couched in a perfectly innocent (cough cough) Hebrew poem.
      • Of particular interest is verse 7:2, in which the groom describes his beloved's navel as "a rounded goblet that never lacks wine". Let's just say that in the original text, the word "navel" probably refers to something a bit lower than your bellybutton.
      • Or, the word navel could simply refer to the womb of a woman with the wine being babies.
    • Throughout the Old Testament, the word "naked" is often used as a polite euphemism for engaging in the sort of activities that would normally require a person to be naked.
    • The Bible is full of veiled references to sex, such as the famous "to 'know'" (have sexual relations with) and "thigh" as a euphemism for "groin".
      • Which leads to the realization that the Israelites swore oaths to someone by grabbing the *cough* family gems.
    • Long story short, The Bible is a lot less wholesome than fundamentalists would like to admit.
  • In The Arabian Nights, one of the stories deals with a merchant who gets a lucky break, allowing him to pretend to be rich. The story describes his wedding night in highly suggestive detail, e.g. "He loaded his cannon, lit the fuse, and fired the shot."


Print Media[edit | hide]

Steve Thomason: [With Sonic's new sword skills], he'd probably make a good guest fighter in the next Soul Calibur game. Hey, it'd be less absurd than Ivy's... um... "enhancements".

    • The purchase of the magazine by Future Publishing, in 2008, significantly toned down the radar, as they allow crude humor and sexual references in their magazines. One issue of PC Gamer even used a Precision F-Strike.
    • The issue with the large article on New Super Mario Bros. Wii included the line "Lemmy's bouncing balls won't hurt you, but they will push you away."
    • Even the old Nintendo Power comics had some there - you'll very clearly see that Fara Phoenix wears no undergarments under her pilot suit.[1]
  • This Korean children's book gets 1337 crap past the radar.
  • Someone at Reuters wasn't paying enough attention to the title of this July 2010 sports article
  • In 2011 in Chicago when a blizzard stranded cars on Lake Shore Drive, the Chicago Tribune initially went with the headline, "Bad LSD trip: Who's to blame".
  • A 2012 column by New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat snuck this one in:

The promise of a Lincoln-Douglas-style showdown with the president has been one of Gingrich’s more effective rhetorical flourishes... [but] it’s hard to see how Gingrich’s Master Debater reputation recovers from his poor showings in the debates in Florida.


Radio[edit | hide]

  • The Howard Stern Show could be considered the epitome of this for radio. Admittedly one of the FCC's most watched targets as far back as 1986, for the next twenty years of his highly rated terrestrial radio career, Stern had to figure out ways to still be funny without violating the rules of what could and could not be said on radio, else he would have faced steep fines and most likely been fired. Hence the phrases oral and anal sex became known as just oral and anal, the word douche bag became douche, and asshole became ass.
  • British Radio comedy has a long standing tradition of sneaking stuff past the censors. Round the Horne and I'm Sorry Ill Read That Again are especially good examples.
    • The ultimate example of this is probably Round the Horne's "Rambling Syd Rumpo", played by Kenneth Williams, a west country folk singer whose songs were littered with nonsense words that, taken in context, sounded utterly obscene.
    • Not forgetting Julian and Sandy, who conversed almost entirely in Polari, the slang language used by the gay community at the time. Of course, the whole thing was subverted in the final episode, which introduced Julian and Sandy's wives...
      • A novelty act was described as 'The Great Omipaloni' which sailed totally over the heads of audiences (basically Polari for The Big Poof).
      • It has been claimed that during Julian and Sandy sketches the audience would sometimes laugh dirtily at lines that even the performers couldn't see any innuendo in.
      • Other examples include mentioning that Julian and Sandy were very good at the "cottage upright" (gay male sex in a toilet) and mentioning that, when they were being lawyers, have "a criminal practice that takes up most of their time" - at a time when male homosexuality was illegal.
  • Radio comedy "gameshow" I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue subverted this in many ways, by the scripted rounds, host, and contestants.
    • A round called Censored Song glorified this trope, in which, by judicious use of the buzzer, a song hitherto thought of as being as clean as Whistler's Mother could be rendered utterly filthy by suggestion. Take Maurice Chevalier's battle-scarred voice, for instance, and insert a strategic buzz in Thank Heaven For Little Girls:

Every time I see a leetle girl/Of five or six or maybe seven;/I can't resist the joyous urge to (BZZZZ) and sing Zank Heaven for leetle girls...

      • I Whistle a Happy Tune was censored to become

"Whenever I feel a[buzz] / I hold my [buzz] erect / And whistle a happy tune / so no one will suspect I'm a[buzz]... Whenever I [buzz] / The people I [buzz] / I [buzz] myself as well..."

      • My Favourite Things:

"[buzz-buzz] and [buzz-buzz] and [buzz-buzz] and [buzz-buzz], / [buzz-buzz] and [buzz-buzz] and [buzz-buzz] and [buzz-buzz], / [buzz-buzz-buzz-buzz-buzz] all tied up with string: / these are a few of my favourite things".

      • Walking in the Air from The Snowman: many instances of a small boy singing "I'm [buzz]ing in the air..."
    • Clue also employs double entendres every episode to describe the (fictional) scorer Samantha (who "sits on [the Chairman's] left hand") on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. Lines like "Samantha's going out now for an ice cream with her new Italian gentleman friend. She says she's looking forward to licking the nuts off a large Neapolitan" barely even qualify as double entendres...
      • Another example:

"Samantha has to nip out now with her new gentleman friend. Apparently, they've been working on the restoration of an old chest of drawers. Samantha is in charge of polishing, while he scrapes the varnish and wax off next to her."

      • And another:

"As is customary, Samantha spent some time down in the gramophone library earlier, fetching the hit singles she's chosen. She's become quite friendly with the two elderly archivists, Jack and Arthur. They've recently gone part-time, so Samantha's come to a working arrangement — she does the paperwork, Arthur gets her 45s out and Jack's off all afternoon."

      • Not to mention, when talking about a grumpy neighbor who phones her a lot:

Humph: She says she always finds time to handle his testy calls.

    • A rather risque example was Stephen Fry on the 30th anniversary special in 2002. In the "Uxbridge English Dictionary" round, in which panellists give "alternate" definitions of English words, Stephen offered "Countryside: to kill Piers Morgan".
      • More recently, a guest panellist gave the definition "Control: Piers Morgan, George Galloway, A A Gill, Simon Cowell..."
  • I'm Sorry Ill Read That Again got into trouble for including the phrase 'Cowpoke' by BBC executives who mistook the innocent slang for a cowboy as a bizarre sexual fetish. They totally missed the fact that the same episode featured a character called Martha Farquar.
  • Many running gags on The BBC radio comedy The Goon Show were the punchlines of dirty jokes, entirely meaningless out of context. Such as spy-themed story called 'The Pink Oboe'. When the BBC finally twigged, the Goons took the entirely reasonable position that if the people complaining already knew the jokes, they had no business being offended by them. There was also a regular character named Captain Hugh Jampton. They didn't always get away with it—in an episode about the Roman Empire a reference to "the lays of ancient Rome" was cut, although the joke later came to light when the uncut script was published.
    • And then there were the names... Justin Eidelburger,[2] anyone?
    • Also this little gem:

Doorman: Are you a member?
Neddie Seagoon: No, I'm a country member.
Doorman: Oh, I remember.

    • Then there's a seemingly innocent aside by young Bluebottle:

Pulls up trousers, tucks in shirt. Heh heh... my hands were cold.

    • And the punchline to a specfically Royal Navy joke (clue: disregard rum and the lash and focus on the third alleged staple of Navy life).

"Bend over for the Golden Rivet!"

    • The question must be asked, how did they get away with this?

Seagoon: But my wife...I can't leave her with 38 children!
Grytpype-Thynne: Isn't that enough?
Seagoon: Yes...I suppose a rest would do her good.
Grytpype: It'd do you good too, you naughty boy.

  • Proving later radio comedy could still pull it off, Radio Active in the 1980's had a sketch about a musical singer trying to suggest to a spectacularly dense producer that a song called "If You See Kay..." might just conceivably be misinterpreted.
  • When Mark and Lard did their afternoon show on Radio One from 1997-2004, a regular feature was a kind of budget soul singer named Fat Harry White, who would tell "anecdotal" stories laden with unsubtle and usually filthy double entendres. A memorable example was when he was talking about camping with one of his "beautiful ladyfriends" who opened the tent to allow him access following a downpour -- "when she parted her wet flaps, I was keen to get stuck in!". On one memorable occasion they had the "controller of Radio One" telephone the studio in protest when the boys chose to "axe" Fat Harry and demand Harry's return in "unintended" Fat Harry-style innuendo: "I've a good mind to call you into my office and give you a dressing down, and we all know how you're left spluttering when you've had a mouthful from me! If you don't put Harry back right this instant I'm coming down there to pull you both off!". It's amazing that they got away with that stuff on an early afternoon show.
    • Then there was their cruder but just as audacious feature "Lard's Classic Cuts", where they would play a damaged vinyl record which jumped and skipped and just happened to turn the air blue, just as if they'd been edited for innuendo or swearing. How did they get away with it on national radio at lunchtime?

Max Bygraves, "Messing About On The River": There are boats made of s/hit, which reach you in / bits, for fu/k/ing about on the river...

      • How did they get away with it on national radio at lunchtime? Firstly, because it was radio (where you can get much more crap past the radar than on TV, at least in the UK) and secondly, because it was lunchtime. The kiddiewinks were all at school then, and there isn't that much crossover between the adult listenership of Radio 1 and the people who complain to the BBC about double-entendres on the radio. It's possible there wasn't anyone listening to the show who was inclined to complain.
  • One ad for modded game controllers featured two gamers, one of whom possessed a game controller rigged for a "hyper" mode. The loser says that his friend "really kicked my ass", and goes on to state, "Your right hand must really get a lot of practice from all that time you spend in the bathroom, huh?"
  • The Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama Zagreus has the Doctor yell what sounds a lot like "shit!" under cover of a noisy sound effect shortly after a bit of totally unsubtle sucking up to The BBC.
  • The Ricky Gervais Show- this show went out live in the early afternoon. No examples as, well, listen to any clip of the show and you'll know....


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In the 2nd-edition days of Dungeons & Dragons, a large number of Forgotten Realms guidebooks (particularly the "Volo's Guides" series of in-universe travelogues) made reference to "festhalls" scattered across the Realms in just about every city and town. And by "festhalls" we mean "brothels".
    • Ed Greenwood himself once actually made a statement to the effect of "TSR won't let us say 'brothel,' so if you see the word 'festhall'..."
    • Made even more blatant by 3rd Edition, when Sharess, goddess of sexual pleasure, also became goddess of festhalls.
  • In the game Pirates and Plunder, in the rules for port cities, it is explained that when sailors come ashore from the uncultured environment of shipboard, what they most want is to enjoy polite conversation over a cup of tea with a genteel young lady. It then gives a detailed list of the tariffs of the houses providing this service, from your basic cup of tea, up to such pricey luxuries as tea, iced cake, spicy biscuits and extremely refined conversation with two young ladies.
  • The RPG HoL (Human Occupied Landfill) may have been created just to release a supplement titled Buttery WHoLsomeness. Inside contents go straight to Refuge in Vulgarity.
  • In Warhammer there's been a certain iconic image of a Beastman that's appeared in Beastman-related supplements since the Realms of Chaos books...which has a very Refuge in Vulgarity version of "Mary Had A Little Lamb"[3] written on its sword. The pic has lasted through at least seven editions of supplements as the phrase in question is written in the runes of the (in-game Chaos language) Dark Speech, which the editors apparently don't read.
  • The Mutants and Masterminds supplement for comic book fantasy gaming, Warriors and Warlocks, includes a sample character with the following quote.

Ha! Did I ever tell you the story of how I stole the giant’s staff and his twin orbs of power?

Textbooks[edit | hide]

  • In the Campbell/Reese (6th Edition) Biology textbook, it describes a particular type of breeding, technically referred to as semelparity, from Latin roots. However, the first and easier to remember name it...big-bang reproduction. It gets better.
  • Many biology textbooks mention the four Fs of life: Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing and.... Mating.
  • The Cambridge Latin Course has its moments. Any language book that includes the line "ancilla dominum multum delectat." (the slave girl pleases the master very much), can't exactly claim innocence.


Toys[edit | hide]

  • There was a toy in the late 1980s that consisted of plastic rings with fighter jets on them. It, as well as the cartoon series it spawned, was entitled Ring Raiders. One can just imagine the dialogue that occurred at Matchbox R&D:

Executive: So, um, we need a new toy line or something.
Developer: How about a series of disembodied pair of legs that have a parrot perched on the pelvis and an eyepatch on the left arse cheek? We could call them Butt Pirates.
Executive: Maybe. Any other ideas?
Developer: How about Anal Invaders? I can't think of what they'd be, but the name's pretty good, right?
Executive: (nods approvingly)
Developer: OH! How about a set of plastic rings with fighter jets on them? We could call them Ring Raiders.
Executive: Perfect! And we can make it into a cartoon series somehow!
Developer: For fuck's sake, Gary, stop agreeing with me. I'm trying to lose my job before Mattel buys us out.
Executive: So am I.

  • Jeepers Media spotlights toys that fall under this trope. Some say they're Innocent Innuendo, but I mean, really.
  • Mattel's Cock Ring Earring Magic Ken doll didn't remain on store shelves for very long. No idea why.
  • Some of the earlier outfits made specifically for Barbie dolls included lingerie. This is actually most noticeable by the fact that some of said lingerie resemble evening gowns. And yes, what makes them lingerie are the fact that Barbie is either supposed to wear them under her fancier dresses or sleep in them.
  • A Revoltech model of Toy Story's Woody has a particular swappable head that has been exploited in various ways. It seems that Revoltech figurines have interchangeable parts, which account for some of the riskier gallery entries.
  • One of the early Harry Potter movie tie-in toys was a Nimbus 2000 replica aimed at children in the 8-12 age bracket. This battery-operated gizmo had sound effects and vibration. Somehow, nobody seems to have noticed what they were making until after it was already on store shelves.
  • Two words: vibrating pens. This troper had one when they were a kid, it was about an inch thick, and when turned on, the vibrating motion caused a spiraling motion when used to write. Now that I look back, that was so wrong.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

Patrianna: [reading her note] "Eat a cant"?
Queen Beetle: Her "u"s look like "a"s.

  • Normally, Carrie from Everyday Heroes doesn't use anything stronger than "Holy cow!"; however, extreme shock will cause her to exclaim "Saint Francis University!!" ... which is her way of saying ST F U.
  • In-universe example: Agatha in Girl Genius doesn't realize the implications of some of her lines in The Socket Wench of Prague until she finds out the context for them.


Other[edit | hide]

  • In Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave, in the scene where Wallace goes into the yarn shop there is a sign behind the yarn display that reads "Two Balls Per Person".
    • Almost a running gag now - Curse of the Wererabbit includes a similarly-themed Stealth Pun where a cardboard box worn by a naked Wallace is labelled "May contain nuts".
  • A delightful line from the third Bionicle movie that didn't quite make it past the radar (but was still included in the Novelization):

Matau: These... "urges" of yours... they wouldn't happen to involve me, would they?

  • One of The Nostalgia Chick's images in the slowed-down "Chipmunk Song" is a silhouette of a dragon graphically fucking a car, visible cum and all. The radar in this case being Blip, who probably would not have let that through if they'd noticed.
    • While The Nostalgia Critic does oblige to Blip's guidelines and censors nudity whenever it appears, he still manages to get Duck Tits past the radar.
      • Granted, those were an example of the trope to begin with, since Howard the Duck was only rated PG...
  • Watchdog is a British magazine-format consumer-interest show. In one episode two presenters were investigating a scam. The dialogue went like this

First Presenter: These guys are masters of the bait and switch.
Second Presenter: Master switchers then?
First Presenter: And baiters.

  • In one of the Blue King City of Heroes comics (specifically the first Dread Carnivale), in the second nightclub scene there's very clearly (if you know where to look) a woman, dancing entirely naked.
  • Topps' "Wacky Packages" stickers were aimed at child consumers, and had strict limits on the kinds of humor that could be included (there wasn't so much as a fart joke in any of the sticker series). However, the artist managed to sneak a rather ... suggestive image onto the lower-middle of this sticker.
  • This LOLcats.
  • There's a restaurant called Joe's Crab Shack that gives you their t-shirts. The caption on the shirts? "My waitress gave me crabs".
  • The YouTube channel "Ray William Johnson" and his logo, which obviously looks like a simulation of anal sex.
  • The Mark Twain story "The Story of Grandfather's Old Ram" features a narrator who gets so sidetracked he falls asleep before finishing his story. That's fortunate, because the story appears to be about how his grandfather was given the gift of unexpected sex when he bent down to pick up a coin.
  1. that is, you see "Country Matters"
  2. Just an idle bugger
  3. "Mary had a little goat and so I cut its f_cking throat"--yes, the second letter of the F Bomb is smeared out to boot