9 Bizarre Bans And The Stories Behind Them

1The banned biopic that is on several "best of" lists

Acclaimed indie director Todd Haynes, known for art house films such as Velvet Goldmine, I'm Not There, and the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce, got his start playing with Barbie dolls. Haynes used them the to the tell the story of tragic chanteuse Karen Carpenter in his 1987 grad school film, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story.

Despite the dolls, Superstar is a straightforward, somewhat reverent biopic – it mixes in performance footage and soundtrack nostalgia with backstage drama, homelife scenes, and attempts to explain each with reference to the other. In reference to Karen's real life struggle with anorexia (which ultimately killed her), Haynes whittled down her Barbie effigy with a knife for later scenes, mimicking the progressive emaciation of her body.

Karen's brother and fellow bandmate brother Richard Carpenter hated the film for its portrayal of his family and in particular because the film insinuated he was gay. Haynes also never obtained music licensing from either Richard or the Carpenters' label, A&M Records, for the numerous songs used in the film. For this, Richard sued Haynes and won. The film was never distributed and all known copies were destroyed. Nevertheless, the film made it onto Time Out's list of "Fifty Greatest Music Films," and Entertainment Weekly's list of "Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time."

And never fear! Bootlegs of Superstar still circulate and have made their way to internet:

2The app that has made certain hashtags unsearchable

It's no secret that Instagram censors certain hashtags. Sexually charged terms or hashtags relating to illegal activity are an obvious choice, but there are certain items that will have you scratching your head in disbelief.

Why, for example, are the following tags banned on Instagram? The app also currently bans these 10 inoffensive hashtags:

#iphone4s (#iphone5 is not banned from searches)

According to Instagram co-founder Mike Kreiger: “We've stopped serving feeds (both in app and API) for some tags that were too generic, and didn't provide enough end-user value.”

As Instagram evolves, (advertisers started running ads in earnest on the photo sharing app in 2013) the list of acceptable hashtags will as well. The social media giant clearly wants an environment that won't embarrass its clients.

3The hospital staffers who were banned from drinking coffee

In October 2014, medics and staff members at three Leicester area hospitals were banned from drinking coffee and tea while on the job. The ban follows complaints from management and patients who feel that employees who enjoy a hot drink in front of patients gives the impression staff is slacking. The ban applies to outpatient clinic reception areas at Leicester Royal Infirmary, Glenfield General Hospital and Leicester General Hospital.

While drinking water is acceptable (“It's important they – staff – are kept hydrated," said a hospital spokesman), hot drinks are not. Needless to say, the ban has infuriated some staff. A clinic co-ordinator told the Leicester Mercury: “What will it be next, that we won't be able to go to the toilet?"

4The authoritative code that squashed diversity in comic books

The Comics Code Authority was used by the comic book industry to self-regulate content, as a result of moral panic that culminated in Senate Subcommittee Hearings into comic books and juvenile delinquency during the 1950s.

Administrated by the Comic Magazine Association of America in 1954, the Comics Code Authority forced comics to conform to the socially conservative, politically correct norms of that time. Some of its points:
• “Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal.”
• “Romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.”
• “Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.”
• “Policemen, judges, government officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.”
• “All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.”
• “Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and, wherever possible, good grammar shall be employed.”
• “Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.”

While the last point did eradicate insulting racial stereotypes that proliferated pre-Code, it soon became clear that minorities in comic books would no longer be tolerated, period. Comics under the code would thus be purged of assertive women, of people of color, of challenges to authority, and even of working-class, urban slang.

Comics generally stayed true to the Code for about 50 years, but its power started to wane during the 1970s. Major publishers bothered less and less with code approval, and coupled with the shift from newsstand distribution to comic book shops, the Code becoming a meaningless entity over time. By 2011, no big name publishers adhered to the CCA.

5The school district that banned the dictionary

In 2010, Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary was removed from some California classrooms after a parent complained about a child reading the definition for "oral sex." Books were ordered off the shelves at Oak Meadows Elementary School in Menifee until a committee could determine if they were "age appropriate" for fourth-and fifth-graders.

After a few days of deliberation, parents, teachers and administrators decided the dictionaries should return to classrooms with the caveat that parents would be given the option to determine if they want their kids to have access to that particular dictionary.

The same book was also under scrutiny in Anchorage, Alaska in 1987 for including what were considered “slang words” such as “balls," “knockers” and “bed."

6The performers that were banned from Saturday Night Live for life

Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels has banned more than a few performers from the show in its 40 year history. Some were banned for obvious reasons like inappropriate behavior onstage, but others have been banned for mild, or even superficial, transgressions.

Here's a partial list of performers (hosts and musical guests) forbidden to ever take the stage again in Rockefeller Center's Studio 8H and what their offense was. Some you'll remember, but there are a few that will surprise you:
• Milton Berle – TV legend to most, stage hog to SNL producer Lorne Michaels, Berle mugged and ad-libbed far too much onstage, and while backstage insisted on walking around in his boxers and "proving" the oft-whispered Hollywood rumors about his physique to anyone who ambled by.
• Adrian Brody – The Oscar-winning star of The Pianist was forever banned after giving an improvised monologue while wearing fake dreadlocks in honor of that night's musical guest, Jamaican Sean Paul.
• Chevy Chase – A former cast member from SNL's first season, Chevy hosted the show 8 times after his departure but was known to be very verbally abusive. He also regularly pitched sketch ideas that were somehow offensive to current cast members.
• Sinead O' Connor – Before starting in on Bob Marley's “War,” Sinead showed a photo of former Pope John Paul II to the camera while singing the word “evil." She then proceeded to tear the picture into pieces and throw it on the floor as a sign of protest against the church as she told the audience to “fight the real enemy."
• Cypress Hill – DJ Muggs light up a joint and proceeded to smoke it during the band's musical performance before they trashed their instruments.
• Martin Lawrence – The comedian went on a rant about feminine hygiene, while using crude language to describe a woman's private parts.
• Fear – LA punk band Fear was a favorite of John Belushi's and took him up on his invite to be a musical guest on the show in 1981. Fear played songs the producers deemed offensive, and bused in dozens of dancers to perform as they played. The dancers proceeded to trash the stage causing about $20,000 worth of damage to the studio.

7The U.S. ban on alcohol was an abysmal failure

It's hard to believe now, but from 1920 to 1933 it was illegal to sell, manufacture or transport alcohol in the United States.

There had been efforts, mostly by religious leaders, to ban liquor since the country's inception. In 1870, the Women's Christian Temperance Union joined the fight, and the idea started to pick up speed.

Religious figures, temperance advocates, feminists, Ku Klux Klan groups, and urban Progressives protests of legal alcohol finally led to the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment on January 16, 1919.

Almost immediately after Prohibition began, a black market for booze came into being. Distillers in Canada and Mexico flourished as “bootleggers” and “rum runners” smuggled liquor across the borders to sell on the black market. Hardware stores sold portable stills so people could make their liquor at home. Speakeasies cropped up everywhere, and those that didn't normally drink joined in, just for the thrill of breaking the law. Organized crime also expanded during this time, and controlled the smuggling and distribution of alcohol in most major cities. Needless to say, violence increased tenfold.

By the end of the decade, there were calls to repeal prohibition, and citizens seeking relief from the Great Depression joined in the protest. In 1933, President Roosevelt signed a bill into law that allowed the manufacture and sale of certain kinds of beer and wine. However, that wasn't good enough, and citizens continued to clamor for a full repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. They got their wish – later that year, Congress introduced the Twenty-first Amendment to end Prohibition.

8The song that was investigated by the FBI for two years

"Louie Louie" has been recorded hundreds of times since it was written by Richard Berry in 1955, and has been recognized by organizations and publications worldwide for its influence on the history of rock and roll. There's even an International Louie Louie Day. However, the song wasn't always so revered by the establishment and – in the case of the 1963 version by the Kingsmen – in some places, it was banned outright.

Why was the smash hit song so reviled in certain circles? The lyrics, or rather the public's perception of them, were the culprit. While the song is an innocuous, first-person story of a Jamaican sailor returning to the island to see his lady love, vocalist Jack Ely's enunciation left listeners baffled, and permitted teenage fans and concerned parents alike to imagine the most scandalous obscenities. As the rumor mill went into overdrive over the meaning of "Louie Louie," some radio stations (and the governor of Indiana) deemed it to hot to handle.

In an attempt to decipher the lyrics, the FBI conducted a two-year investigation into the record and interviewed Berry and officials of the record label that released the Kingsmen's single. They even turned the record over to the audio experts who played and re-played the song at 78 rpm, 45 rpm, 33 1/3 rpm and even slower speeds in an effort to determine whether it was pornographic. Their verdict? "Incomprehensible at any speed."

Ironically, there is one profanity in the song the FBI appears to have missed – drummer Lynn Easton later admitted that he yelled "F**k" after fumbling a drumstick at 0:54.

9The dog that has been banned in several places worldwide

Are pit bulls really vicious or just much maligned family pets?

Before the 1980s, pit bulls were considered America's darlings – stories of attacks before that time are virtually non-existent, and some can't even agree on which breed is a pit bull. (The definition includes the American pit bull terrier, the Staffordshire terrier and, at times, the bulldog.)

At the early part of the 20th century, the dog was a favorite among families, and was so engrained in American culture that the country itself was personified as a pit bull on army recruitment posters. Pit bulls were often associated with children, and some have called the pit "the nanny dog." They were seen in both in short films (Our Gang comedies) and as the corporate mascots for a shoe company (Buster Brown). The famous RCA Victor image of a dog and a gramophone also featured a pit bull terrier.

By New Year's Day 1986, over thirty communities were considering breed-specific legislation and bans on pit bulls. What changed?

Despite being illegal in all states, dog fighting made a comeback and the pit bull was the dog of choice. Pit bulls also became a favorite of the criminal element, and to those looking for dogs to threaten, guard, intimidate and generally look scary. This led to many owners abusing their pit bulls into becoming vicious, mean attack dogs.

Legislation started popping up in the U.S. and worldwide and in some places, ownership of the dog is outright illegal. However, despite the dog's bad rap, there is no hard evidence that pit bulls are naturally more aggressive or dangerous than other breeds. Aggressive pit bulls (or any dog, for that matter) are almost always the products of abuse, neglect, or both. It is irresponsible breeders and owners who are to blame for the breed's negative image.