For the Luvva God, Please Stop Thinkin’ of the Children!

For the Luvva God, Please Stop Thinkin’ of the Children!

I know you can’t see me, but that’s pretty much irrelevant, because I’m not very tall, and I’m physically incapable of conveying to you how fed up I am with people like Johanna Draper Carlson’s new pal Greg. Thought experiment, okay? Pretend I’m Giant-Man. Right then–I’ve had it up to the motherfuckin’ antennae!

Listen, I’m no fan of Mark Millar or any of the other purveyors of “dark”, “evil” pap out there, but that doesn’t mean I’m concerned about them as threats to “childhood”. In fact, I’m fairly certain that the only useful service these dorks perform is to sneak a little nastiness into the lives of the youngsters that sickening American moralizers would seek to protect from “exposure”. What on earth do these innocence-worshipping prudes hope to accomplish, other than the manufacture of more innocence-worshipping prudes?

I ask you–do we really need any more of that?

Newsflash folks! The world is fucked! No need to pretend it isn’t. In fact, if you do, then I hold you personally responsible for the monstrous denial that lurks behind mantras like “support the troops” and “as long as it doesn’t look like an animal, I can eat it”.

You have to get ’em while they’re young, before they become part of the problem, and anything that forces kids to understand that justice and goodwill are things to be striven for rather than taken for granted or redefined until they fit snugly over this dank floor of Hell is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

So, uh, yeah, consider that my vote against “labelling for content”. How ’bout making sure that your kids’ heads have content! As much as their little crania can handle–and preferably more! Load ’em, but don’t lock ’em! Enough with the teflon guardianship!

“Next Stop, Santayana City!” Squadron Supreme fans! Soon as I present my seminar paper on the historiography of the Civil War and perform a few touch-ups later tonight!

Good Day friends!



  1. Um, Dave? Why the “new pal” comment? I didn’t see anything in Johanna’s link that provided tacit approval (or any other qualifier, really) to the site linked.


  2. Dave,

    Steven read me some of that site this morning, and I’m basically of two minds (as usual) and this is something we were discussing earlier. I do think some kind of rating system is useful for parents and other arbiters of taste for kids reading comments, but I don’t think the ones we have now work.

    I don’t think having no ratings at all is the way to go, but I’m not at all convinced this guy is the one who should be deciding what constitutes “depravity.” And the problem is that then you get into a quota system where you can show so many punches or so much blood before things get kicked up to the next level, which is not necessarily useful.

    I think it would be good if comics did what tv shows do, showed whether there would be violence, sex, “language,” “adult situations,” or whatever so that individual parents can make sure this corresponds to what they approve of for their kids.

    Of course, I’m going into this assuming that kids don’t have their own income to spend on comics, which is probably not as true for people now as it would have been for me, and that the main purpose of having ratings is to protect retailers and libraries from angry parents.

    I think you’re going to disagree with me on the extent to which this is useful, but I know I’ve had concerns about buying books I haven’t read for my littlest brother, knowing that my parents have at least some concerns about what he reads or watches, although they aren’t particularly (or consistently) restrictive.

    I think Marvel’s restrictions have been stupid and unsuccessful, but perhaps only partly because the ratings were so poorly enunciated. It seems that DC is moving to a model that is basically creates three groups of books:
    –Mature/18-Up (for sex or language, presumably, and also maybe explicit violence)
    –Under 12 (marked by Johnny DC)
    –Other/in-between, and it’s this last section that’s the problem area. Some of the books are Code approved and others aren’t, and I don’t know whether buyers even understand what that means (and I’m not sure I do).

    I’m not saying there needs to be major censorship or that teens need to be carded or have notes from their parents saying what they can read. I read all sorts of age-inappropriate things, some of which enriched me and others of which horrified me, and that’s what I’d assume most readers do.

    I think the problem is that maybe you should be able to tell from looking at the cover of a book whether it’s going to have, say, explicit depictions of sexual assault. This isn’t because I think it’s an inappropriate topic (although I think it’s bad when handled badly, as in the title I’m thinking of) but because it’s an important and meaningful one and different in many ways from straight beating people up, which has problems of its own.

    Some kind of labelling for content would be useful for me, since my local store has all its TPBs wrapped in plastic so I can’t flip through to get a sense of whether I might like something, and plenty don’t have any sort of useful back blurb. I wouldn’t mind knowing whether something is going to be a gun-toting blood romp, in which case I won’t want to read it, or deal maturely with gay sex, which is fine with me. I know this is never going to happen, but I don’t think it has to be as dire as you imagine.

    I do, however, think the Dead Chicks blog is.


  3. Although a theoretical ratings system as a guide sounds good, I don’t see any way it works well in practice. It will likely wind up being run by/used by people for purposes other than what is appropriate for my children. Or worse, result in company policies that restrict the creative subject matter. And even if it doesn’t, stuff like this is far too subjective for me to rely on someone else’s label. So, I’m with Dave on the side of being completely opposed. If you’ve got kids (and I’ve got 8 and 6 year-olds) or youngsters on a gift list, you’re going to have to invest the effort to make your decision on what is appropriate for them to read or watch.

    I suppose we could go on all day about the issue of people who demand that others absolve them of that responsibility or of people who assume such responsibility for the rest of us, but I want to address the immediate cause of this discussion – Greg’s awful blog. I suppose his blog is a sign that comics blogging has reached a new developmental level now that the “you are destroying our children” crowd has staked out a claim on our turf. Hooray for comics blogdom.

    What got me the most about the site was his mission statement. “You can’t market a product to children and then sell a similar product meant for only an adult audience. Its wrong.” This falls into the category of arguments that are so ludicrous that you lose simply by spending time showing why it is wrong. So I’m going to force myself to stop here. I think I’ll cool off by reading a depraved comic. Maybe that filthy one where the Scarlet Witch marries a machine.


  4. Ah, cripes…People like that make my job as a retailer miserable. If you don’t like the content, don’t buy it. If you don’t think the content is appropriate for children, DON’T BUY IT FOR CHILDREN! I’m sick to death of this attitude that all entertainment must be watered down to the level that is appropriate for the most senstive people in the population. It’s almost as if people feel that all of the entertainment industry somehow owes them the right to view their products, rather than acknowledge that different people have different tastes and that the products are there in response to all those varied tastes.

  5. good comments everyone, and, Ed, you’re right, I may have read some tacit approval into Johanna’s post that isn’t really there, and, if so, I’m happy to stand corrected…

    Rose–I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the TV-style disclaimers, and I can see how that might be a good idea, when you’re the one doing the talking… Sadly, I would bet money that the person who gets the job of making decisions on these matters won’t be nearly as developed a human being as you are, and problems will ensue… The thing that got me going, more than anything though, is this attitude that people have about protecting their kids from art/entertainment (which, to me at least, is always problematic, to say the least!), rather than any specific labelling policies that might be implemented (which might not have any relation to this concern)…

    gotta run to school!


  6. I actually oppose this to a level even more strident than Dave does. To my mind, censorship and labeling lead to a mindset where we have hundreds if not thousands of complaints coming out of one watchdog group with an axe to grind: if kids get their hands on a comic book where someone gets shot or sexually abused, it’s negligible.

    To be honest, kids experience violence and sexual situations. They’re not going to be scarred or driven mad by seing them in a comic book: if anything, comics are almost always behind the leading edge of what’s actually going on in our culture. I have yet to see a comic book (not even comic books marketed for adults or as erotica, etc) that’s half as disturbing as my summer job when I was twelve. (I worked in my family’s slaughterhouse on our farm.) Reality isn’t clean or sanitized and all that this urge to shield the children does is raise children unprepared for what’s actually going on in the world and their lives: taking a moment to actually explain to a child what they’ve read or seen on television is a million times more effective in helping to raise strong, self-aware adults who can deal with what’s really happening. (Perhaps the rush to forbid pictures of the caskets coming home from Iraq is because the generation now in its late 20’s and early 30’s is the first generation to be so coddled and protected from ‘filth’ – I still remember reading comics from the 1940’s where people get mowed down by gunfire and their lifeless corpses flung into the harbor)

    I likened this to the difference in violence between Three Kings and the Matrix: the stylized violence of the latter film is bloodless, while the violence of the former is realistic to the point where I almost think it should be required viewing for everyone. Yet the two are considered the same by the MPAA.

    This kind of rating system is pointless and a band-aid slapped over the problem of trying to educate kids about the art they input and the context it should be placed in. Instead of dealing with it openly and honestly, we try and filter it, and I think it ultimately backfires.

    – Matt Rossi

  7. I have no problems with labels reflecting content, provided that it’s done as objectively as possible. I don’t like this guy’s use of “depravity” at all, but I wouldn’t be terribly offended at seeing “Violence, sexual situations, and drug use” on something any more than I would be seeing “superhero” or “autiobiography” in the section listing. Beyond labels reflecting content, though, which I feel have a purpose in regards to commerce, I’m staunchly opposed to any kind of label that sets an arbitray age limit on the work.

    I know Kurt Busiek has said it somewhere, but the best way around whatever content/”how-dare-these-funnybooks-be-<>mature<>“/age-appropriate shit pops up is to have intelligent trade dress. If a comic/GN/trade is designed for an audience primarily comprised of adults, then design the book as such (easy example, if stretching – I think a kid would be more likely to pick up a random Peanuts collection with Snoopy doing a happy dance on the cover than s/he would the new Fantagraphics Peanuts collections with the Chip Kidd covers).

  8. I always forget to sign my name. Damn your too-complicated-for-Ed’s-technoligically-impaired-brain Motime comments system thing.

  9. I should probably have said that the kind of system I was advocating would be what I’d choose for the imaginary world I would rule or something like that. I assume in our context it would be as idiotic as the MPAA, if not worse.

    I do still think that the only way a rating system can work is by being content-based, saying there’s this much sex, this much violence, this much profanity on a consistent rating scale available to the public (which is to say entirely unlike the MPAA’s workings). I don’t imagine anyone would actually go through with this, but it’s the only solution I see as being workable if there’s going to be any ratings system implemented.


  10. Rose, I think your imaginary world sounds like it’s run intelligently and has a functioning, ratinhs system that informs without censoring.

    What are the taxes like? Rent? Cost of insuring a VW?

  11. the lack of an edit function on blog comment-threads is a source of great pain to me, as I’m sure it is to many of us out there! (which never seems to stop me from filling the internet with gibberish at a breakneck pace! why don’t we proofread? I don’t know… It’s the same with my blog posts proper, but at least there I get to fix the wackiness, if I have time to reexamine what I have wrought…which isn’t always the case! )


  12. Well, here I am, late to party as usual. The idea of giving parents a heads up on content is a good enough idea in theory (cue Homer: “In theory? In theory, Communism works. In theory”). I’d want some quick and dirty way to find out what my kids are into, and frankly, given the disparity in free time between kids and adults, most adults probably don’t have time to screen every TV show/CD/Comic book for content. A simple ratings system is a useful time saver. The devil, as Rose notes, is in trying to determine how that system should work.

    But there’s no logical way to go from the above to “there should be no gradiations in content among comics”; the old “but these are for the Children!” argument. Because a) perhaps my kids can better handle imaginary carnage than can yours, and b) as H says, this argument is stupid on its face. Not to mention the fact that what many, many kids want is the thrill of the vaguely illicit–that perhaps this is a natural urge, and comics a safe way to indulge it. I didn’t get into comics reading Archie; I got into them reading about Wolverine’s crisis of conscience in deciding whether or not to kill his brood infected friends.

    Dave Intermittent

  13. When I was a kid, no one monitored anything I read. When I read something with graphic sex or violence, it often offended me, so I put it down and didn’t return to it. I made my own judgements. It’s not like the material compelled me to read it against my will. Ratings systems should not be designed for parents to use to filter what their kids see; ratings systems should be designed for people of all ages to use for themselves.

    “Innocence is dangerous, both to the innocent, and to those around them.”—John Barth

    Jesse Berry (satchel)

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