Sunday, October 12, 2008

Warning: You Might Not Be a "Mature Reader".

Multiple things today, if anyone's still out there:


An addendum to my last post on the "torture porn/people should be making decent comics" subject: Greg Burgas performs the not-unexpected trick of saying he doesn't want "to go all 'Won’t someone think of the children?' here" and then tacking the reverse-flip BUT into the routine and complaining that there's no "mature readers" label on Nightwing #146.

Well fine, but that right there shows where someone's attitude is towards the medium and its maturity. Because if you walk into a Barnes and Noble and look at the many books there, in only the most extreme cases is a book ever labeled "mature readers". (In point of fact, I can't think of ever seeing anything like that. Usually a book with explicit visual imagery is shrink-wrapped to prevent curious little fingers from browsing for naughty bits, and I don't know of any text-only paperback that's screened in any way to prevent someone from reading some lurid romance sex scene or sci-fi ultraviolence.)

It's books for children and for "young adults" that are singled out and put in their own ghettos; the mark of Cain goes on those books, not on even the most salacious pulp-style paperbacks. To call for any comic to carry a "mature readers" label is to acknowledge that on a fundamental level that you think the medium as a whole is intended for kids; that you do not consider comics a mature medium at all.

Just so's you know.


Can I just say how much I enjoy hearing about this story, that a gay guy was upset by the blatant objectification going on at some yaoi-oriented convention? Because I will say it, anyway. One of the things I like about it is that those defending the con and its activities are using many of the same defenses used against charges of sexism and misogyny brought by some feminist fangirls. The only real difference is that yaoi is pretty straightforward about being by women and for women; mainstream superhero comics are ostensibly for both genders.

I'd be more sympathetic to the idea that a genre that says it should be accessible to either gender should tone back some of its excesses if it weren't for the fact that anyone with a shred of awareness greater than that of a fruit fly should well know that in practice, superhero comics are made mainly by men and for men.

All that aside: ha ha, female fans are just as warped and pervy as male fans when given their own playground.


It just keeps piling up, doesn't it? Now some guy in Iowa is on the hook for obscenity, related to comics imported from Japan. Already the assumption is that the material that sparked the investigation was of the dread "lolicon" variety, but as pointed out elsewhere, it's been established that laws designed to equate drawn child porn with real child porn are unconstitutional, so all they can do is charge the guy with "obscenity". (Which puts the USA up one over the UK, at least.)

In the comments section of that last link, an interesting point is implied: that what the prosecutors really want to do is bust the guy for possessing drawn kiddy porn, but they can't directly, so they're continuing on with something they think can stick instead.

I'd be willing to believe that theory, having stumbled upon the Adult Swim Message Board and this particular topic, featuring a few thoughtful opinions, as well as a few examples of genetic brain disease rearing its bulbous, hydrocephalic head. I mean, there's one guy intoning darkly about how there's "got to be more to this", which is, I'm inferring, shorthand for "I just KNOW this guy has got real child porn and is probably molesting real children right now based on the fact that he has lolicon manga". Sadly for his deductive reasoning, it's quite correctly pointed out that if there were other more serious charges that could be brought, they'd already be brought.

The other drooling retard likes to go on about how society has a right to excise bad elements from itself, which is a great theory, but is too often a justification for a small but loud minority to impose their will over the true majority. Not to mention that "weeding out the undesireables" is the same kind of rationale that leads to things like, oh I dunno, institutionalized racism.

Now, you may be reading this (or maybe not, with the way WFA's been... should I start linking to Journalista?) and rolling your eyes, thinking "well, there he goes defending child molesters again". But let me suggest to you that whatever you think of lolita manga, you should be very concerned about how this case turns out.

Because, since it's about obscenity, not necessarily child porn, it doesn't have to stop here. For instance, what about yaoi? Remember, you may exist in a tolerant Internet world where two idealized gay guys can happily fornicate on your screen, but do you think it's so beyond the realm of possibility that some hick postal worker from Iowa would react just as negatively to visual sodomy featuring two guys (and let's face it, some of those subjects don't always look particularly ancient, either) as they have to lolita porn? Even if you consider the latter worse than the former, you have to be aware that others see it all as filth, beyond the pale. Let them cross one line, and all you get is that they're that much closer to the next line. And the next line may be "torture porn".

That'd solve the issue, wouldn't it? You wouldn't need to put a "mature readers" label on it, because it wouldn't be allowed to exist.

Wouldn't that just make the medium healthy, mature and respected?

ADDITIONAL: Adding this link to Tom Spurgeon's comment on the matter, to which I want to say, right on, or "motto", like the LJ kids do it.


James Meeley said...

You know, this sort of ties in with something I was involved in recently.

Someone at their own blog was complaining about the art in Catwoamn: Guardian of Gotham Elseworlds mini-series from over a decade ago, which features art by Jim "boob lover" Balent.

Now the original post didn't say anything relating to the work being "evil" or "pornographic," but in the comments section, someone did refer to is as "softcore porn." I stepped in to say that if you see Balent's Catwoman art as "porn," that you obviosuly don't know what REAL porn is.

The person who made the comment I responded to, then made thier own post on their blog about it, in which they stated that they know Balent's art isn't really porn, but that, in their view, the differences weren't great enough. This, however, isn't due to the fact the art is closer to porn than I think, but because of a personal trauma they suffered, when they saw Balent's art in an old GLC Quarterly issue (it was #6, by the way), which basically made them "feel ashamed" to be reading it in public.

This brings me to my point in relating this tale. It seems a lot of this stuff is based on the fear of what OTHER people think about what we read or view for entertainment. The guy referring to Balent's art as "softcore porn," feels that way, because he fears what some strangers, who know nothing about him, would think of him, if they caught him reading a comic with Balent's art.

It seems that much censoring isn't don't so much to protect others (i.e. think of the children), but more to protect ones own public "face" and standing. After all, who wants to be seen as a "dirty, porn loving, pervert?" This guy didn't care about Balent's art hurting kids. He cared that someone might not think of him as a "good and wholesome person," because he was looking at Balent's art. And he felt ashamed because of that.

Funny how people like to put the responsibility of their own personal/sexual hang-ups on others, isn't it?

If you'd like links to where all this happened, I'd be glad to put them up here. Let me know if you are interested.

Andre said...

[b]To call for any comic to carry a "mature readers" label is to acknowledge that on a fundamental level that you think the medium as a whole is intended for kids; that you do not consider comics a mature medium at all[/b]
music also gets the same kinda dumb labeling and I don't think anyone thinks thats just for kids. I also wonder if comics count as books in the first place.

Anon, A Mouse said...

"music also gets the same kinda dumb labeling and I don't think anyone thinks thats just for kids."

Oh, they do, very much so. Because why are the labels on there? To "protect kids".

Andre said...

However lots of things are rated to "protect kids". In fact books tend to be the odd man out.
However I would not be shocked to find that even the fans can't help but think of comics as being made for kids.
Maybe if they stopped selling them next to the yugeho cards and gave them a new name. Birdman comic book sounds like its for kids.
However a "graphic novel" about Harry Dresden sounds like something my mother in law just got in the mail and id very jazzed about.

Anon, A Mouse said...

"However lots of things are rated to "protect kids"."

Yes, that's true. But look at how that's distributed through the culture. Movie ratings are applied to most Hollywood releases that expect to get wide theatrical distribution, and many movies are altered specifically to gain certain MPAA ratings, and the great majority of these films are regarded by "serious" art critics as junk. Films which attempt to make serious use of the artform tend to not seek such ratings, or at least don't care about what rating they receive.

The same with music. Top 40 pop music gets distributed in major chain outlets, and these are the albums most likely to get a warning sticker, if "needed". But a lot of popular music is also seen as bland, juvenile pap by serious music critics. Music that pushes boundaries and explores the artform tends to not use the stickers, even if it means Wal-Mart won't carry the CD.

But books aren't the only medium that eschews child stickers: Have you ever seen any fine art, such as paintings or sculpture, that has some sort of drop-cloth over it with a warning printed on it? "WARNING: THIS RENAISSANCE PAINTING OF SOME LAKE NYMPHS CONTAINS NUDITY SO KEEP THE KIDDIES AWAY!" Granted, I haven't been to a museum in years, but the last time I was in one I saw no barriers whatsoever for even the most lurid and explicit art (from both classic and modern periods of art).

Even if comics aren't the sole artform distinguished in this way, I still maintain that there's a direct link between the maturity of some media and how people try to shield the kiddies from that media. A true mature media does not, in my opinion, have to make a special distinction that it IS mature and unsuitable for the kids.

Andre said...

Yah I see your point.
Truth be told I hate the MPAA and there arcane useless ratings. They have gotten abit better as of late but that's off topic.

Comics have been bloody and sexy for as long as I remember but they have also always been with the other kid toys for as long as I can remember.

Are mainstream comics right next to Saturday morning cartoons or are they a real art form with real story's to tell? If the later then yah I think we should treat it as such.

Andre said...

Everything Ok?

Anon, A Mouse said...

I'm fine, just haven't had anything I felt like making a comment about lately.