Historically Dumb Censorship: Wal-Mart's Refusal To Sell Jill Sobule's Album Due To Prozac Pill

from the promoting-drug-usage dept

Singer Jill Sobule recently discussed a story from back in 1997, when Wal-Mart refused to carry the album she released that year -- because of the cover art. I'll let Jill tell the story:
When I was about to release my 2nd Atlantic record, "Happy Town", I was alerted that Wal-Mart was refusing to carry the CD. They told the label that the broken capsule depicted on the cover was somehow celebrating illegal drug use. Never mind that the drug in question was Prozac (with the familiar mint green and Mercedes cream/yellow colors) but that Wal-Mart itself is one of the big dealers. What made it even more silly, was they thought the granules pouring out looked like cocaine. That never crossed my mind. It made me wonder what kind of hopped-up druggies Wal-Mart was employing.

I decided, rather than dismiss a whole segment of society that would probably not buy my record anyway, I would...wimp out. I replaced the capsule with a test tube -big deal. Somehow, this made them happy and the "cocaine" stayed.
The reason she brought this up now, is because the photo above is an exhibit at the Newseum in Washington DC, showing examples of "dumb censorship."


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Pablo Escobar, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 9:42pm

    Pills

    LOL, Funniest story I've heard in forever :)

    That's like having a picture of a stork on the album cover, then they refuse to carry due to graphic depictions of child birth.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 10:47pm

    The Wiktionary definition of Censorship: The use of state or group power to control freedom of expression, such as passing laws to prevent media from being published or propagated.

    Walmart is a private company that is free to decide what it wants to sell in the stores that it owns. It did nothing to prevent Jill Sobule from using that image at other stores or stifle her speech in anyway. All it did was choose not to sell something that it felt could potentially offend some of it's customers. Whether they was right or wrong about that is a debate (and I say not) but this is not censorship.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Jon, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 11:02pm

    Re:

    Actually, it is "censorship." Its just not a First Amendment issue.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    JC, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 1:03am

    They both got want they wanted

    Walmart wins. Jill wins. Everybody's happy. I'm not convinced that it's "dumb censorship". I think Walmart has a better understanding of what their customers want to see than the performers do.

     

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  5.  
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    techflaws.org (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 1:31am

    Walmart of all companies...

    Appeal to authority, you gotta love those!

     

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  6.  
    icon
    techflaws.org (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 1:33am

    Another dumb one

    Remember "Teenagage Dirtbag" by Wheatus? Lyrics go like this:

    Her boyfriend's a dick
    he brings a gun to school

    and guess what, some moron bleeped over "gun". So from now on I guess, noone would ever think of shooting up a high school again, right?

     

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  7.  
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    Dementia (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 4:06am

    Re:

    Hmm, I believe Wal-Mart could be considered a group. Last time I checked there was certainly more than one person employed there. So it does, in fact, fit the definition you quoted.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Jason, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 6:14am

    "Congratulations..."

    "...you're stupid."

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Michael, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 7:24am

    Re: They both got want they wanted

    ...and we, the consumers of this particular art, lose. Instead of the piece of art we were supposed to have available to us, we have a hacked-up version that the artist deemed 'good enough' and met the approval of the store that sells it.

    Personally, I would rather see artists not get pressured into changing their art because some store executive thinks it may offend someone. Is it possible that the artist may have sold less albums because there was a pill on the cover? Sure. Is money the only driving force for an artist to produce something? Nope.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    JC, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 7:25am

    Re: Walmart of all companies...

    Um... no, it isn't.

     

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  11.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 7:37am

    Re: They both got want they wanted

    No, Jill lost. Sure, after the change she could sell the discs in WalMart, but unaltered she could not sell her disc there. Thereby, Walmart limited her creative freedom, hence the word 'censorship'.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    JC, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

    Walmart doesn't care if they carry it or not. No one forces the artist to change anything. If the artist can't handle the pressure, well too bad for them.

    You're not deprived of the artist's work because it is available in many other places.

    I may be mistaken, but Walmart has a set of standards which they seem to enforce universally amongst the brands they carry. Everyone knows this going in. I may not agree with their standards, but they are certainly within their rights to only carry things they want their customers to see.

     

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  13.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 7:37am

    Re:

    It is censorship just not by the government. Nobody said it was illegal -- just kind of dumb.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    JC, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

    So, she "lost" because she can sell her disc in the largest retailer in the U.S.?
    Brilliant.

     

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  15.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 7:40am

    Re: Another dumb one

    I got another one for ya:
    "Oh no no no.. don't mess with my heart"

    That's the version I heard on college radio about 5 years ago, instead of "Oh no no no.. don't phunk with my heart" (Black eyed peas)

     

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  16.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

    She lost, because she had to ALTER her art. She had to concede to a higher power, in this case the corporate board of Walmart. Which by definition means that she lost.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    JC, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 10:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

    But she didn't HAVE to alter her art. She chose to, because she felt it was more important to have it in Walmart's stores than to not have them there. She got what she wanted and Walmart got what they wanted. I don't see the problem.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 6:21pm

    Re: Re: Walmart of all companies...

    "I think Walmart has a better understanding of what their customers want to see"

    "Appeal to authority, you gotta love those!"

    "Um... no, it isn't."


    So you are saying that Walmart is not in any position of authority here. It's just that walmart better understands what the customers want, even if that means the customers want to shop elsewhere.

     

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  19.  
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    techflaws.org (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 11:29pm

    Re: Re: Walmart of all companies...

    Um... but it is.

     

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  20.  
    icon
    techflaws.org (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 11:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

    > But she didn't HAVE to alter her art. She chose to

    Because otherwise Walmart wouldn't have it. So she HAD to.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    JC, Oct 7th, 2010 @ 12:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Walmart of all companies...

    Prove it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    JC, Oct 7th, 2010 @ 12:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

    No she didn't. She made a business decision to change it. It was her decision to compromise with Walmart. She could have chosen to change nothing and kept it out of Walmart's stores.

    What would you have done if you were in her situation?

     

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  23.  
    icon
    techflaws.org (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 6:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

    Tell Walmart to suck it and write a blog post about how they suck, of course.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    JC, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 4:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

    Well then, you would have made a different business decision than she did. Same result... you're happy, Walmart's happy.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    ross1, Oct 23rd, 2010 @ 9:58am

    Employment Law Advice

    i got another one for ya:
    "Oh no no no.. don't mess with my heart"

    That's the version I heard on college radio about 5 years ago, instead of "Oh no no no.. don't phunk with my heart"
    Employment Law Advice

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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