Intelligence

[REDACTED] and chill

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We all have our hang-ups. For Saudi Arabia, it’s comedy—particularly when aimed at its government. Last year, the Saudi government took umbrage with an episode of Netflix’s “Patriot Act” in which host Hasan Minhaj had a bit of fun with allegedly reformist Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s alleged role in the brutal murder and dismemberment of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. So the government asked Netflix to remove the episode from the menu in the country; Netflix obliged.

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Yet censoring troubling content isn’t only the purview of one of the most repressive governments on the planet. According to Netflix’s first-ever environmental social governance report on its “broader impact in society,” since 2015 the company has received requests from five governments to remove nine pieces of content—all of which Netflix complied with. 

Nor is Saudi Arabia the most prudish. That award goes to the government of Singapore, which wrote three times to the California streaming giant asking it to remove five pieces of content from the company’s Singaporean offerings. 

Among them was The Last Temptation of Christ, Martin Scorsese’s 1988 depiction of Jesus as a person who experiences a range of emotions, lust included. It also includes The Last Hangover, a Brazilian riff on The Hangover with Jesus as the guy who goes missing after a Last Supper-style night of debauchery. 

It isn’t clear why the Singapore government took offence to the titles; perhaps it was in deference to the country’s large Christian minority. Other Netflix no-nos in Singapore: Cooking on High, The Legend of 420 and Disjointed, all of which sing and/or smoke the praises of cannabis, illegal in the island city-state since 1870.

Liberal-minded Germany asked Netflix to remove Night of the Living Dead, the film version of which is banned in the country, along with several other iconic horror flicks. Even stranger: Germany isn’t exactly priggish when it comes to blood and guts, having helped invent the genre

In 2015, the New Zealand Film and Video Labeling Body asked Netflix to remove The Bridge, having classified the documentary about suicide and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge as “objectionable.” New Zealand has among the highest youth suicide rates in the developed world.

In 2017, Netflix complied with the Vietnamese Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information’s ask to remove Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film that, coincidentally or not, humanizes (and brutalizes) American troops fighting in the Vietnamese war. 

Netflix says it will comply only with written requests from governments to remove content—and has pledged to continue to inform the viewing public of its compliance with any further such demands.