The Mum of All Fears: 70s and 80s TV Taboos


I was talking with a friend the other day about what, as children of the 70s and 80s, we were and weren't allowed to watch on television. And looking back, the overarching results are pretty entertaining:

  • If the stuffed clown doll tries to strangle a child protagonist: Jenn can watch it
  • If a dude with an axe threatens his wife Olive Oyl in remote hotel location: Jenn can watch it
  • If a boy is eaten by a possessed tree: Jenn can watch it
  • If possessed trees uproot themselves for world domination: Jenn can watch it
  • If a hotel owner pokes lots of holes in Jamie Lee Curtis' mom in a shower, while dressed like grandma: Jenn can watch it
  • If plague-ridden, scythe-carrying seamen go after Jamie Lee Curtis, her mom and Adrienne Barbeau during a weather anomaly: Jenn can watch it.
  • If Melanie Griffith's mom gets nearly killed by pretty birdies, and Bob Newhart's first wife gets pecked to death: Jenn can watch it
  • If little creatures live in the fireplace and go after a housewife named Sally: Jenn can watch it.
  • If Kurt Russell is in Alaska with aliens: Jenn can watch it
  • If Kurt Russell is in San Francisco with ancient Chinese evil: Jenn can watch it
  • If Kurt Russell has only one eye in a post-apocalyptic society, and Adrienne Barbeau isn't being chased by plague-ridden seamen: Jenn can watch it

(Hmmm, now starting to wonder about this Mom-Kurt Russell trend...)


What Jenn could not watch, under penalty of no-phone-calls-to-friends-which-might-as-well-have-been-death was:

  • Charlie's Angels. I never did find out what my mother's problem with this show was, other than she said she felt they were poor role models for a girl. Ironically, I was allowed to watch James Bond films with Dad because, apparently, Pussy Galore was candidate for a Nobel Prize or something. Go fig.
  • Any John Waters films. I knew why I wasn't allowed to watch these films. It was explained to me like this: these movies were about teenagers who "Sassed Their Parents." 

So now that years have passed, I've finally figured it out. The logic was, monsters and evil clown dolls (and Jamie Lee Curtis' boobs) weren't real. But Kids who Sassed Their Parents were real.

And that was the most horrifying thing of all!

(Insert bone-chilling b-movie horror scream here!)

So tell me: what weren't you allowed to watch on TV growing up?


injaynesworld said...

You have to understand that when I was growing up Lucy and Ricky slept in separate beds and Mrs. Cleaver was never seen without her freshly pressed apron, so I could pretty much watch anything -- except Elvis shaking his hips on the Ed Sullivan Show, but nobody got to see that. Apparently, that would have caused the downfall of civilization. I marvel at how far we've come. Chop off a woman's breast. No problem. Slip a nip at the Super Bowl -- All hell breaks loose.

meleah rebeccah said...

I guess I was lucky. I was allowed to watch whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

But it sure is amazing how much television has changed. And what's acceptable programming, language & clothing these days.


I think the picture you used of Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands tells the tale. If children could watch this classic through Blockbusters or parents buying the tape, it really didn't matter whether or not it was acceptable programming during the "children's hour" on tv.

Kelly said...

So what have we learned today, children? Kids sassing their parents is more horrifying than fictitious monsters creating havoc amongst villagers, teenagers and Weeble Wobbles (but they don't fall down).

Would "Children of The Corn" movies be a no-no, too?

Melanie said...

I got to watch anything as long it was on the one channel we got on our black and white television and was on before 8 pm.

Babs-beetle said...

There wasn't anything that I wasn't allowed to watch on TV when I was growing up.

In those days every programme on TV was 'wholesome' - No sex, no violence and no bad language. Parents didn't have to make rules on our viewing.

Probably the only violence we watched took place in cartoons ;)

Unknown said...

Jayne- Yeah, the priorities are very strange, aren't they? :) And getting stranger all the time.

Meleah- Do you remember when the A-Team was considered the most violent show on television? Even though even the bad guys would ask each other if they were all right, having rolled a vehicle that then catches on fire? :)

Sneaky- I WAS allowed to watch Edward Scissorhands. (Also 21 Jump Street was preachy enough that was acceptable. :) )

Kelly- No, I watched Children of the Corn-- and with Mom, I think. I guess evil kids could sass adults, as long as we knew they were evil. :)

Melanie- Heh, try telling kids about watching things in black and white-- even when there WAS color-- just because the set didn't have color. We had one of those, too. I recall watching the Wizard of Oz, but it was ALL black and white.

Babs- Older films sure did do a lot to imply things so they could get past the censors.

Deray said...

All my siblings are quite older than me so when I was a little girl they were already teenagers and they asked me to do something for them: let them know, in code, when MTV was starting. My Dad didn't let them watch it!!! (also, do you remember when MTV was a show that actually played music videos?).
I, of course, couldn't watch any scary movies but I would sneak in when my siblings were watching sometimes.

Self Deprecate Political Humor said...

I remember Beavis & Butthead were absolutely off-limits.