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There are some well-known works that gathered controversy throughout the years, and there are also famously controversial works in which the controversy, whether rightful or not, would overshadow most other aspects. Which isn't to say that works in the latter category have no other redeeming factor, just that most people would know little else aside from the controversial aspects.
Bad reviews alone do not make a controversial moment, and in fact some works can be well-regarded by critics and those who watched, read or played the work, and not all works listed here are either laughably bad or just downright terrible. Plot-related twists are generally not what makes up the category either, even if such cases are subjective and arguable. The major qualifier is that the works would be known beyond the fans of a particular genre that there's little knowledge of some other parts of a work to the general public.
Controversies can be a result of the following:
- Moral Guardians (be they politicians or groups)
- Unfortunate Implications
- Public cat-fights between the creator and the media, critics, public, or all three (such as Dear Negative Reader rants).
- Deceptive or offensive marketing
See also Dancing Bear, Just Here for Godzilla, Mainstream Obscurity and Watch It for the Meme. Compare No Such Thing as Bad Publicity. When a whole genre gets held under controversy, it would become The New Rock and Roll.
Please be cautious about editing this page. It isn't supposed to imply that there's no other redeeming factor for the works on this list.
- The Brown Bunny is a film known mostly for being booed harshly at the Cannes Film Festival and the subsequent media catfight between Roger Ebert and the director. The film was later Re Cut and given a wide release, and Ebert gave the recut a three star review.
- Cannibal Holocaust was notorious to a degree that it forced director Ruggero Deodato and the actors to explain that nobody died in production and the gore was just special effects. There is still a great deal of controversy to this day relating to the cruelty against animals.
- Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ had sparked protests from religious groups worldwide, including the infamous attack at a Paris cinema where the use of Molotov cocktails injured 13 patrons and brought the theater under heavy repairs for the next three years.
- Fanny Hill is well known for having been a subject of obscenity tests and for having been banned in America from inception until a 1966 Supreme Court case ruled that the book has redeeming social value. When it was published in 1748, it got the author arrested on obscenity charges.
- Lolita is unfortunately more famous for the controversy that surrounds it than the actual content and quality of the novel: Vladimir Nabokov went through many publishers who refused to publish it, and after it was published, it was banned in many places for being "pornographic" or "an instruction manual for paedophilia" (which it is not). Even for people who aren't familiar with the history of the book, a lot of the covers/jackets make it look like erotica.
- The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie is recalled more for the ensuing fatwa declared on the author by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and for the fallout from that incident, than for the novel itself.
- The Uncle Remus stories are a group of actual fables told by slaves and former slaves in the American South, making them a valuable cultural resource. However, though once popular, they are now nearly unknown. Compiler and editor Joel Chandler Harris' fictional character who tells the stories, Uncle Remus, was written as an elderly ex-slave who was basically content to continue to work for a white family. The implied racism is now almost all that is known of the stories. The fables themselves, taken out of the Remus context, are stories about animals using their wiles to trick each other, and man, in order to survive. Unlike Aesop's fables, they are not meant to be morally instructive, but are a commentary on man resorting to animal-like behaviors in desperate circumstances.
- Uncle Toms Cabin had a controversy that the publication of this book inspired over slavery, particularly in the years leading up to the American Civil War. However, few people have actually read the book.
- The Roseanne revival in 2018 skirted the line. While it had good ratings as fans tuned in eagerly to watch the rest of the cast, Roseanne Barr's outspoken politics were all over the news and even bled into her character, causing even fans to become uncomfortable with the idea of watching even to see Dan alive and well.
- The Sex Pistols are mostly known for trying to play "God Save The Queen" from a barge during the Queen's Jubilee after being prohibited from playing the song on land. Much of the bad press was intentional.
- Evony, a browser-based, allegedly free strategy game, is more known for its infamous advertising campaign and false promises of boobs than for anything else. On top of that, the publishers have been accused of plagarism, spamming and distributing spyware, and they tried to sue a British blogger for libel for pointing it out (which backfired predictably.
- Custer's Revenge was an unauthorized third-party game for the Atari 2600 in 1982. It gathered quite a bit of negative attention, particularly from feminist and Native American groups, as the objective involved raping an Indian woman. From the next generation of consoles onward, manufacturers require approval for games to be released on their machines.
- Daikatana, aside from its years spent in development hell, picked up controversy over its advertising campaign, which stated that "John Romero's about to make you his bitch." The game has mostly been forgotten aside from the aforementioned campaign and the negative press that brought Romero's development career down with it.
- The Manhunt series was best known for its premise of being about a convict being forced to take part in snuff films (the gameplay was mostly stealth based, with elements of Survival Horror). The first game was given mixed reviews, with some marking it down for the Gorn and others praising it for its atmosphere, the sequel received average reviews across the board and the series was mostly forgotten.
- The Postal series is well-known for being a common target for Moral Guardians to campaign against video game violence.
- Night Trap was one of the video games that contributed to the creation of the ESRB ratings in the United States. An infamous bathroom scene in particular was what led to intense senate hearings with proponents of the ban saying it glorified violence toward women, while many of them admitted they hadn't played the game.
- Coonskin, Ralph Bakshi's satirical Blaxploitation reimagining of the Uncle Remus tales. The Rev. Al Sharpton famously criticized the film without even seeing it, saying, "I don't got to see shit; I can smell shit!"
- ↑ which the game does call you out for when you fail to spare the girl