As reported last week a mother in Nebraska is trying to have a Spider-Man trade paperback removed from her six year old son’s school library. Originally there was no mention of what storyline or issue was being referenced; we only had the mother’s comments:
“My son looked at this and goes, ‘Ohhhh!’” said Physha Svendsen.She said the book that her 6-year-old son brought home is not age-appropriate for Norris Elementary School students and wants it removed from the library.
“It has a lot of sexual undertones in here, as far as sexuality goes,” she said. “They can learn this through any other place, but it’s not something I allow them to learn, in my house at least.”
Eventually it was discovered that the offending story was Amazing Spider-Man Vol.2: Revelations by J. Michael Strazynski, which contains panels of Mary-Jane Watson in a bikini at a photo shoot.
Now I in no way presume to know what’s best for this or any other person’s child, nor do I think that she’s being unreasonable. She has the right to know about and approve of any kind of information being given to her six year old son. If she thinks this comic is too risque for her child than that’s that.
I guess I’m more just generalizing, then, when I say I’m not sure why an image like this is considered taboo for kids in the first place. There seems to be an outrage any time a little bit of skin is depicted in a comic book (or even in a collectible statuette) that is marketed to a child, or that a child has easy access to. Now we all understand that we’re supposed to think these things are inappropriate for children but I don’t really know why. Is a woman in a bikini that offensive? Is sexuality really something that needs to be hidden from children? I’m not saying graphic images of sexual acts are appropriate for children– sexuality and sex are two different things– but a picture of a grown woman in a bikini is not really inherently shocking or offensive. I doubt it would turn a child into a sexual deviant, nor would it be the (or even “a”) cause of rampant underage sex. Hell, comparatively speaking from birth through adolescence children explore their sexuality much more than adults do.
I suppose it might just be a generational difference in morality, and maybe these things will change. Or maybe I’m just a heathen whose child will grow up to be a sick freak, who knows? What I do know is that I’d seen Playboys at a relatively young age, and grew up reading comics during the nineties– the golden age of busty heroines. Seeing these things didn’t damage my psyche, or steal my innocence, or whatever else it is that parents are afraid of. They may have shaped me in some way, as anything will, but I think the idea that images of “sexy” women in a magazine are in some way hurting kids is as antiquated as the idea that Marilyn Manson makes kids hate their parents.
Am I going about this the wrong way? Would you let your six year old read this comic?
There were tons and tons of things I loved about Comic Con; the panels were excellent (more on those as the updates continue today and through the week), all the deals on books made my wallet cry and my bookshelf smile, and meeting and talking to creators and panelists was loads of fun.
The one thing that I got a kick out of the most, however, was the sheer amount of children enjoying themselves. There’s a ton of talk about how “comics aren’t for kids anymore”, and how “kids aren’t interested” in comics these days but seeing all of these children with their parents, on line to buy books and in the audiences of panels — some even asking engaging questions to the panelists! — was a refreshing sight. Every Wednesday in the shops all I see are men in their late twenties through their thirties and even into their forties, hording books like it’s going out of style (guilty as charged). Its comforting to know that something that started out as a kid’s medium is still enriching to that demographic.
There are a few arguments I’ve heard when I tell people this. One friend theorized that, this being New York, kids are more exposed to art and literature at an early age, and thus are more inclined to be interested in comics or graphic literature as a whole. Indeed, one panelist talked about her three year old daughter who is obsessed with Owly. My friend went on to say that, in his small town that he grew up in, you would be less likely to find as many kids interested in comics.
Another theory someone had was that these kids were in fact “forced” to go to the Con with their comic/sci-fi/whatever fan parents. And it certainly seemed that way in some cases; at one point I saw a man carrying his daughter kicking and screaming from booth to booth. However, I’d like to believe that this was a small minority, and that the bored parents with their enthusiastic children I saw wandering around were the majority.
In any case, and whatever the exposure, at least its there. And its something I wish I had the opportunity to be a part of when I was younger. Who knows? Maybe there’s now a future writer, artist, or just plain comics fan, where there otherwise wouldn’t have been one?