Thursday, March 20, 2008

Here, See For Yourself.

So, don't believe what I said in my last post? Don't think it could happen?

Found via Journalista, we have an example of Frederic Wertham's writing itself! Not the fabled Seduction of the Innocent, alas, but an article he wrote for a magazine that covers much of the same ground.

Let me offer a few quotes.

Dorothy Thompson recently wrote about comic books: "The harm done is incalculable, even if it results in no overt acts, and even if at last it is overcome by other influences."

Okay, he's quoting someone else, but look at that: they claim enormous damage even if nothing happens and any bad message a kid may learn is countered in the end. "God only knows what these poor kids have festering in their heads! Why, they may stab their parents in their sleep! Proof? Ah, well, look at all the harm! In the head!"

Children do not think of reading a comic book as they might "read a book". They "look at" a comic. They become picture-gazers, because they can get the main points of the stories from the pictures alone, without bothering to read the words. The damage may show up years later in the disinclination - or inability - to read a whole book from beginning to end. What right do we have to deprive a whole generation of children of the wholesome influence that comes from reading good literature?

Right, not only do comics make you illiterate (which, anecdotally, sounds like bullcrap to me, since as a kid I grew up on comics, and was far more advanced in my reading than the majority of my classmates in school), but they actually somehow prevent kids from reading the good stuff (also bullcrap, I read a lot more than just comics), and it's a moral question, since "we" are depriving kids of good literature by letting them read comics, you know, that's right, allowing kids to read what they like is an active infringement of their rights.

This is why Wertham fails, and can be ultimately dismissed: a lot of what he says is mostly conjecture and opinion presented as fact without much in the way of evidence to back it up, and half of the evidence he does present is just some other doofus pontificating (without evidence) about comics having a negative effect.

They stimulate morbid - especially sadistic - sexuality in young children, without leaving any outlet except deviate day-dreaming, masturbation, and delinquency.

Okay, never mind any actual proof of cause and effect here: Sexual fantasies and masturbation are evil. When kids touch themselves we have failed them as a nation.

In the wording of the code, Mr. Murphy has tipped his hand, too. "Excessive" violence is forbidden. Should not all violence be toned down? "Brutal" torture is forbidden. Does that mean that refined torture is all right? "Excessive" knife and gunplay is forbidden; so is "unnecessary" knife and gunplay. Does that mean that it is all right to stab a guy if need be? Surely this is not a counter-measure, but a cover-up continuation of the cruelty-for-fun education of children.

Think about that. What kind of action story would you have if you removed every last vestige of violence from comics? If the bad guys cannot be bad, what do the good guys fight for? "You'll never get away with mocking authority with your pointed, sarcastic graffiti and journal posts, Joker!" And also consider the attitude of "whatever they're doing, it isn't enough" that permeates this piece.

This was 1953, about as close to the utopian Ozzie and Harriet ideal as was ever achieved (but which only really existed in rose-colored Republican remembrances), and people still think like this to this day.

If being worried about that happening again is being paranoid, fit me for a tinfoil hat.

1 comment:

Swinebread said...

The "enormous damage" happend but to the comic fans and creators that were hurt by this mindless garabge.

I'm sad when I think of all the stories that were lost and lives ruined because of this...