1957 October 11

“Don’t Put the T*ilet Se*t On Screen”

 

On an episode of the popular television series, Leave it to Beaver, “the Beaver” and his friend bought a mail-order alligator and hid it in the toilet tank. The network objected to having a toilet seat on screen, so viewers saw only the tank.

The incident was but one of many examples of the squeamishness about, and censorship of, anything related to sexuality — or other aspects of normal life — on national television from the 1950s to the 1970s. See, for example, how the popular show I Love Lucy incorporated Lucille Ball’s actual pregnancy into the series but did not mention the dreaded “p” word: December 8, 1952; January 19, 1953.

Read a realistic account of family life in the 1950s (spoiler alert: it wasn’t like the TV show Leave it to Beaver): Stephanie Coontz, The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap (1992)

Learn how television changed in the 1970s: Elana Levine, Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television (2007)

Learn more at the National Coalition Against Censorship here.

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