Britney Ad Sparks Debate

Tokyo Metro, one of the city’s two subway systems, and the Japanese publisher of Harper’s Bazaar recently squared off in a much-publicized debate over censorship.

HB Japan Inc. wanted to rent advertising space in Tokyo Metro stations for its October issue, which has a cover picture featuring a nude, pregnant Britney Spears covering her breasts with her hands. The same cover photo was used on the American edition’s August issue.

Tokyo Metro’s advertising screening team initially rejected the advertisement, saying the nudity might be “too stimulating” for young people.

The team asked HB Japan to alter the advertisement, and the publisher reluctantly agreed to mask Spears’ belly and thighs with a black space. In this space, HB Japan planned to write “we are not allowed to exercise the same level of freedom of expression as the original Harper’s Bazaar.”

HB Japan deputy chief editor Kayoko Higashino told reporters that Tokyo Metro’s idea of blacking out the lower half of Spears’ body was ridiculous because it made her look like “a chubby woman,” not a pregnant woman.

Tokyo Metro reportedly took offense to the altered ad and asked HB Japan to change it. Eventually, the subway operator changed its mind and posted the original, unaltered version. Tokyo Metro said it has come to understand the publisher’s intention to “portray a happy mother.”

Tokyo Metro has previously received complaints from passengers, usually women, offended by advertisements for men’s magazines that hang in subway cars and often feature pictures of barely clothed women with large breasts.

– Philip Brasor