The word ‘ban’ is a particularly emotive word, and us humans are particularly curious beings; we always want what we can’t have… With that in mind, we take a look at some of the most notorious ‘bans’ in history, and pose the question: is prohibition good for business?
Iceland’s 2018 Christmas advert
Already tipped to be one of the most popular Christmas adverts of all time, Iceland’s story of Rang-tan the orangutan has never actually been shown on TV. Promoting the plight of the orangutan – of which 25 die each day, due to the palm oil industry – advert regulator, Clearcast, has banned Iceland’s Christmas advert, deeming it ‘too political’ for our screens.
However, the illustrated advert, which was created in partnership with Greenpeace, has since taken on a life of its own and has become a viral wonder the world over – introducing many more people to Rang-tan’s plight, than a mere UK-based Christmas advert could ever have imagined.
At the time of writing this article, a petition created by Mark Topps entitled ‘Release Iceland’s banned Christmas advert on TV #NoPalmOilChristmas’ has garnered almost 900k signatures on Change.org. Add yours here…
Relax – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
The debut single of the Liverpool band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Relax, barely scraped into the UK Top 40, upon its release. Objections to the single came in the form of BBC Radio 1 DJ, Mike Read, who refused to give the song any airtime, due to the record’s saucy artwork and lyrics; and the BBC which banned the single from radio and TV. This only bolstered the single’s appeal, and it soon found itself topping the charts for five consecutive weeks.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D H Lawrence
D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was first published privately in 1928 in France, and quickly became notorious for its story of the physical and emotional relationship between a working-class man – Oliver Mellors – and an upper-class woman – Constance Reid (or, Lady Chatterley) – and its explicit descriptions of sex and, then, unprintable words.
Following a spate of heavily censored versions being printed around the world, UK publisher Penguin printed the novel in full in Britain in 1960, and an obscenity trial ensued. Tried under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, the trial lasted six days, and eventually a verdict of ‘not guilty’ was delivered. Following the case, Penguin quickly sold three million copies of the book.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Released in 1979, The Life of Brian, is a satirical religious comedy, written by and starring the comedy group, Monty Python. Containing themes which were considered controversial and blasphemous upon its release, 39 local authorities in the UK either imposed a ban on the film or deemed it X-Rated – a certificate which essentially prevented the film from being screened. It was banned outright in countries such as Iceland and Norway.
However, these bans only fuelled the film’s success, with the filmmakers’ marketing campaign leading with the slogan: “so funny, it was banned in Norway!”
The film went on to become a box office success, and it was the fourth highest grossing film in the UK, in 1979.