Toon Musings: Banned Dessinée
(See, the title is a play on words– the french phrase for comic strip is “bande dessinée”, or literally: “drawn strip”. I suppose I could have gone with ‘stripverboden’, since “stripverhaal” is dutch for comic strip and “verboden” is dutch for forbidden, but I think the french works better…but let’s just move on, shall we?)
Comics are more susceptible than prose to drawing the ire of sanctimonious scolds for a couple of reasons; they’re shorter and their content is more easily scannable for offensive content, and the commonly perceived audiences for comics are impressionable groups of people that bluenoses think require protection— children and the feeble-minded. For whatever reason they fail to recognize that comics can do nuance quite well, thank you, and that the apparent simplicity of the medium does not dictate that only the simple can, should, or do enjoy them. I previously wrote about just such a work.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) maintains a list of comics that have been sanctioned, along with the details of each incident and the parties involved. It’s enlightening, frustrating, and occasionally heart-rending reading. Usually the problem is sexual content of some sort (Yeah, So Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen shows drawings of a naked little kid, dingus out, having adventures. Imagine the sort of pervert who would consider that “sexual”?). Coarse language and depictions of violence are prominent, too; it’s the usual litany of Puritan bugaboos.
Comic strips, at least syndicated ones that appear in your local papers, don’t generally have a problem being banned, because syndicated cartoonists reaally want to keep their rare and getting rarer jobs and are for the most part very well trained; self-censorship is the very best kind! But last July 27th, there was an Incident. Stephan Pastis was attempting to post an image of the latest installment of his strip Pearls Before Swine to Facebook, but try as he might, the resulting image was this:
The syndicate had pulled that strip and replaced it with a rerun, and he was attempting to show his fans the banned installment on his FB page. For some reason, he could not. Perhaps it was an issue with how he posted it. Or perhaps Facebook and the syndicate have formed an unholy alliance to prevent unacceptable content from sullying the tender sensibilities of their respective readerships. Well, in the interest of Making Trouble, I’m going to share with you the banned strip. You might want to don some pearls (no pun intended, though it is ironic, no?) to clutch and position yourself adjacent to the nearest fainting couch:
There’s no smutty language. No violence. Some naked pigs, but tastefully drawn. I can understand (but deplore) the banning of politically sensitive content, however mild, but it does truly demonstrate the profound spinelessness of the syndicate in question, Universal Uclick (who also distribute Ann Coulter’s column!). The implied synergy with Facebook is fuel for any number of conspiracy theories, though. I only hope that by showing this image to you, I have not condemned you all to the seventh circle of Surveillance Hell, to be observed, harassed, and no doubt eventually murdered by shadowy government operatives when you least expect it. So read banned books: democracy is dead, so we’re doomed anyway!
Phil Maish is a freelance cartoonist of no repute. His modest efforts may be viewed at myth-fits.com. He has worked for the Government, the Press, the Opera, and a Soulless Corporation. Self-taught and beholden only to his formidable wife and amazing son, he spends his free time gadding about in his vintage autogyro and, with his faithful manservant Nicopol, exploring forgotten ruins, discovering hitherto unknown animal species, smashing spy rings, and regaling fellow members of the League of Intrepid Adventurers with tales of his intrepid adventures.