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December 03, 2010  | by: Kerri O'Malley

The Dirty Boys of 30 Seconds to Mars

When 30 Seconds to Mars released their 13 minute-long, mildly epic music video for “Hurricane,” they didn’t anticipate the storm of disapproval destined to rain down on their pretty little heads.  The band released the video, off of their most recent album This Is War, at the end of November, only to find it had been deemed unsuitable for network TV.  MTV censored the video and posted it on its website, but an uncensored version has leaked on YouTube (which is where we all watch our music videos anyway).

Angry about the fate of the video, lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars and actor Jared Leto (probably still best-loved for his sultry role as Jordan Catalano on “My So-Called Life” in the 90s) vented on his blog.  Leto posted an official document from an unnamed network explaining what the company found offensive.  (But don’t read it until you’ve watched the video — it’ll ruin all the best parts!)  While the document cites at least 25 scenes with mature content, the scene that made the video “completely restricted” is a shot depicting a “woman running her finger over another woman’s g-string-clad bottom and touching her anus.”  Phew.  Those network execs sure don’t mince words.

For now, MTV has put a bandage over the bondage problem, almost literally.  Red block-outs of color appear over offensive images and a blacked out “censored” screen appears intermittently throughout the video.  This kind of solution brings to mind Nine Inch Nails’ 1989 “Closer” video.  Also admonished for lewd content, the video was similarly censored with panels the band chose, reading “Scene Missing.”

Jared Leto in the "Hurricane" Video

Personally, I think the art direction and musical content of “Closer” are superior to “Hurricane.”  At least the thing wasn’t 13 minutes long.  After awhile, I wasn’t sure if I was watching a music video or if Eyes Wide Shut had somehow started playing on my computer.  “Hurricane” is best described as a long, slow trip into a seedy, part-sci-fi, part-S&M underworld that leaves one feeling both uncomfortable, slightly confused, and really unimpressed with 30 Seconds to Mars’ music.

Why bother to talk about a music video that ultimately disappoints?  Because this is yet another case of our society drawing the line at deviant sexual behavior, almost inexplicably.

While reading through the list of the network’s complaints on Leto’s blog, I learned something quite significant: there are actions or types of actions that can limit when a video (or, I assume, movie or TV show) can be played.  In the specific content of this music video, a scene where a “gimp man hits the singer with a sledgehammer” is considered “non-graphic” violence and okay to show after 7pm.  However, a scene depicting a “bondage girl with nipple tassels” makes the video only appropriate for the after-9pm crowd, and a scene where someone is “dripping wax over a body” is only air-able after 10pm.

We live in a strange, strange world.

Granted, the world of the video is stranger, and not one I want to live in.  One 13 minute viewing was more than enough for me.  And it has almost nothing to do with the (mildly) assaulting visuals.  My biggest complaints: the song is boring and the video tries too hard.  S&M scenes with Romeo & Juliet quotes?  Supposed-to-seem-subliminal cuts?  Bunny heads and girls with keys on red ribbons?  Flag coffins?  How much more blatantly cryptic can you get?

Still, the fact that the video was censored due to its bondage scenes and deviant sex play is a bit upsetting.  As Spin says in its coverage of the incident, the previously described scale of air times for certain acts in the video shows once again that sex on TV is still perceived as more dangerous than violence on TV.  Especially sex mixed with violence.  Yet, sex is an act we all perform, an act that ultimately creates and sustains (not to mention motivates) life.  Violence is almost its antithesis, yet somehow more normalized by the networks.  Our attitudes toward so-called deviant sex is more important than ever now as our society faces many issues rooted in “abnormal” sex.  Where we draw the lines of what we allow ourselves to see and know, and how much emphasis we place on “protecting” ourselves from the sexual behavior of others, is extremely important.  Don’t let MTV decide it for you.

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