The Quick 10: 10 Controversial Music Videos
1. "Jeremy," Pearl Jam. This one's first on the list because it's what I was listening to when I got the Q10 idea. In case you're not familiar, the video depicts a boy who is mercilessly teased by his classmates and ignored by his parents. At the end of the video he strolls into class with a gun and we see him raise his arm. The next shot is of the students in class sitting completely still and spattered in blood. The director of the video, Mark Pellington, says that one of his biggest frustrations is that viewers think that Jeremy shot his classmates "“ I have to admit, I was part of that crowd until I researched this article. MTV wouldn't permit Pellington and Pearl Jam to show a child putting a gun in his mouth, but that's what happened. I have to say, the video stands up "“ I just watched it here for the first time in years, and it still gives me chills. The controversy, of course, came after Columbine. MTV and VH1 both banned the video, and even now it's very rarely seen.
2. "Like a Prayer," Madonna. This 1989 video was all kinds of offensive, apparently. It was criticized for several things: the burning crosses imagery, the scene where Madonna has stigmata, and the part where she, you know, gets it on with a saint. People not familiar with Martin de Porres, the saint in question, thought the video depicted Jesus, so that caused a big kerfuffle as well. It cost Madonna an endorsement deal with Pepsi, sort of. She got to keep her $5 million fee, and she got tons of free publicity when the press picked up on the fact that Pepsi had pulled the commercial she had recently filmed for them. You can read more about the Pepsi deal (and more controversial music moments) here.
3. "Stan," Eminem. The song is about one of Eminem's fans who is psychologically disturbed and kills himself and his pregnant girlfriend when Eminem doesn't respond to his fan letters. The full video is more than eight minutes long and more or less uses the lyrics as a storyboard for the video. But to be shown on MTV, certain parts had to be cut out "“ namely, anything having to do with Stan (Devon Sawa) shoving his girlfriend in the trunk of his car and driving off of a bridge. The song samples the Dido tune Thank You, so it makes sense that she portrays Stan's girlfriend in the video. Reportedly she didn't want to do the video because the trunk scene scared her, but she ended up getting along really well with Eminem and agreed to do it.
4. "Smack My B**** Up," The Prodigy. The title alone is pretty controversial and led to a lot of criticism of feminist groups, but the video is also pretty crazy. We see the world from the point of view of a person who is doing hard drugs, drinking and driving and having sex with a prostitute (among other things). The video was banned almost everywhere, but fans bugged MTV so much that they eventually gave it and showed it (but only after midnight).
5. "Girls on Film," Duran Duran. Why was this video banned? Three words: Topless Mud Wrestling. MTV was only two weeks old when this video was filmed and as a result it was the first censored video on the station. At the time, Duran Duran loved the controversy the censorship caused, but now they have said that they're a little sad that the song is remembered for the controversy instead of the message: the exploitation of fashion models.
6. "Coma White," Marilyn Manson. Part of the reason this was banned from MTV was just bad timing. The video shows a re-enactment of John F. Kennedy's assassination (Manson's then-fiancee portrayed Jackie), but it was scheduled to hit the airwaves right around the time JFK, Jr., died and the Columbine Massacre occurred.
7. "Erotica," Madonna. Yeah, Madonna gets two spots on the list. The video for Erotica was shown on MTV only three times, and even then it was edited. The unedited version, which was shown in Europe, features full-frontal nudity. Even without the nudity, MTV deemed Madonna's dominatrix garb and sexual moves to be too steamy for their network.
8. "Closer," Nine Inch Nails. Directed by Mark Romanek, the video shows various strange happenings in the laboratory of a 19th-century mad scientist. There's a pig's head, a naked woman, a monkey tied to a cross Jesus-style, a diagram of a vulva and Trent Reznor wearing an S&M mask and shackles. Despite (or perhaps because of) its controversial content, Romanek's video is considered a work of art: the Museum of Modern Art has added it to their permanent collection. Another one of Romanek's videos has been given the same honor: Madonna's "Bedtime Stories" video. Among other things, he has also directed Michael and Janet Jackson's "Scream" Fiona Apple's "Criminal", Johnny Cash's cover of NIN's "Hurt" and Jay-Z's "99 Problems."
9. "The Thunder Rolls," Garth Brooks. Yep, even country music artists can cause a stir. Brooks' "The Thunder Rolls" is about a cheating and abusive husband (although the video makes the abuse more evident than the song does) who gets his comeuppance when his wife kills him. The latter part was told in the third verse of the song, but it has been dropped except for live performances. The video, however, still shows this ending to the tale. That coupled with the theme of abuse got this video banned from CMT and TNN, but it won the CMA Music Video of the Year.
10. "Baby Got Back," Sir Mix-a-Lot. It seems silly now "“ it's such a funny video and so widely used everywhere, even in Target commercials ("I like backpacks and I cannot lie"¦"). But when it first came out, "Baby Got Back" was considered quite racy and could only air late at night.
I know this doesn't even begin to cover all of the controversial videos out there "“ Madonna could easily fill this list all by herself. So share your favorite (or least favorite) racy or controversial video in the comments. And have a good weekend!!