There’s a fine line with what’s acceptable to show on TV shows, and a seemingly harmless joke can lead to backlash with real consequences if it comes off the wrong way.
There have been plenty of controversial moments on television since it was invented. However, some have just gone too far in the eyes of fans, with certain situations even leading to lawsuits and episodes being pulled.
We’ve rounded up 10 times a TV show went too far so we can remember those moments when we had to say, “Is this actually happening?” You can check those out below.
WARNING: Some of the following videos contain graphic content. Viewer discretion advised.
Rick And Morty – 9/11 joke
In a recent Rick And Morty episode, fans were at odds about whether or not some jokes made about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the Pearl Harbor bombings in 1941 went too far. The episode features Rick and Morty flying around an alien city causing mayhem. They were comparing their destruction to the Pearl Harbor bombings and patting themselves on the pack for not reenacting the 9/11 terrorist attack on the place. Needless to say, it wasn’t in good taste.
SNL – Pete Davidson’s Crenshaw joke
Pete Davidson made a joke in late 2018 about Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who lost his eye in an IED explosion while serving in Afghanistan. He compared Crenshaw to “a hit man in a porno movie,” which led to him having to apologize on SNL a week later when there was major backlash.
Skins – child pornography controversy
In 2011, a remake of the British series Skins premiered on MTV. Known for its depiction of teenagers partying and engaging in plenty of casual sex and drug use, it received major backlash in the U.S. for the portrayal of its characters. A scene in particular in the episode “Chris” featured then 17-year-old actor Jesse Carere whose character was running down the street naked after taking Viagra. The content led the Parents Television Council to urge the U.S. to open up a child pornography investigation about the show. However, because the show was filmed in Canada, there was no further action taken.
Friends – fat Monica scene
Monica’s overweight alter ego has been criticized for being offensive about weight and exploiting someone who is “fat” for laughs on TV. While it wasn’t seen as problematic when it first aired, over time as people have rewatched Friends, they began to recognize the subtle damage it was doing to people regarding their own view on body image.
Riverdale – Betty’s strip tease
Some fans were disturbed when 16-year-old Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) was shown doing a pole dance to a rendition of “Mad World” in Riverdale. Not only did it depict someone as underage in an overtly sexual way, but people also criticized the scene for being archaic for the times.
Seinfeld – Puerto Rico episode
In the Seinfeld episode “The Puerto Rican Day,” there are several controversial moments, the most being when Kramer (Michael Richards) burns and stomps on the Puerto Rican flag. This 1998 episode led to condemnation from the president of the National Puerto Rican Coalition at the time.
The X-Files – incest episode
The episode “Home” of The X-Files has only been aired once because of its violent and gruesome content. The episode shows an incestuous family living in a rural town and is overtly graphic with their deformed bodies. Truly, it was scarier than the episodes centered on monsters and aliens.
South Park – depiction of Muhammad
For its 200th episode, the South Park creators wanted to celebrate the many people they’ve offended over the years and focused the plot around the Muslim prophet Muhammad. The first part of the episode led to so much backlash from Muslim communities, including some threats of violence, they censored all appearances of Muhammad in the show. It was so heavily criticized by fans that the show gave into the threats, but they wanted to ensure safety.
13 Reasons Why – broom scene
While 13 Reasons Why is one of Netflix’s most controversial shows for many reasons, one scene in particular featuring Tyler (Devin Druid) is chilling. He’s cornered at school by jocks who beat him up, put his face in the toilet and rape him with a broom handle. The scene was overtly graphic, which led to more outcry over its content aimed at young viewers.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer – attempted rape scene
In season 6 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Spike and Buffy have ended their relationship, and Spike, who’s a vampire, is having a hard time getting over it. It leads to him attempting to force her to have sex, but Buffy is able to shove him off, yell and run away. The episode made people see Spike in a new, darker way, and some fans didn’t like the switch.