Saturday, April 15, 2006

Dirty Picture Show? Censorship and Manga

There’s an interesting story being followed at MangaBlog about Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics being pulled from the San Bernadino Co. Library System. The book was pulled due to its inappropriate nature for children when a parent complained, despite the fact that the book appears to have shelved within the adult section.

I sell Manga for a living; its one of the fastest selling sections in my store and one that grows in popularity each day as my Manga-intelligent coworkers add new titles to the section. We don’t separate the kids Manga from the adult though. Since the section is alphabetized by title the only way to tell if a Manga is explicit is if it is wrapped in plastic (that is if someone doesn’t unwrap it at some point). To avoid irate parents we’ve posted signs that say some of the comics contain adult themes suitable for older teens and grown-ups, but I’m sure someday I’ll have a mother busting my chops because her precious found an open copy of Sensual Phrase and “Oh Sweet Heavens, there’s sex in there!”

And, from what I understand, that’s a tame one.

Personally I think that the board member that ordered the book removal (in a time where Manga continues to grow in popularity and acceptance) was not only short sighted, but stepped beyond the bounds of his power. When we discussed books and store censorship here before, many expressed the belief that libraries had the responsibility to be the ultimate higher ground, accepting of all, while bookstores could be whatever they wanted. Do you think that the San Bernadino Co. Library System has gone too far?

Do you think this was an overreaction to a situation that could have been fixed simply by moving the children appropriate comics to another place?

Should this form of censorship be practiced by libraries at all?

Or is this just a little situation being blown out of proportion by the internet?


lady t said...

They should've just put the book in the adult art section of the library-the major part of the probelm is that people automatically assume if it's a cartoon,it must be for kids. Not so,especially with manga(which seems to be spreading faster than kudzu in many stores).

People really need to broaden their view of the comic book/graphic novel as it is today and developing towards in the future.

UNSURE said...

If people do not want their children looking at certain material, then they need to personaly screen that material. If you're a parent and your kid's looking at a comic book, just because it's a comic book doesn't mean it's for kids. This is the information age and there's a lot of material, too much to keep track of, especially since graphic novels are becoming so popular, but if you want to monitor what a children sees, read, then parents need to monitor what they see and read.

Doug Hoffman said...

I think what they did is offensive -- speaking as one who, as a kid, rifled my library's shelves for any and all material on sex, what will our kids do if they can't find it in their libraries? Okay, I'm being facetious, but isn't it a good thing to have our children spending time in the library?

I've never been able to understand the mindset of such parents. "Keep 'em ignorant, keep 'em safe." Yeah, right.

sherri said...

There was a similar situation in our local library over a kid's book "King and King," about 2 men who marry. Much was made over this before the book was re-catalogued and put in the adult section.Books are in the adult section for a reason, usually because they are too long and dreary for most younger readers but sometimes its because there's grown-up stuff in there. Kids can buy manga or CDs or whatever in our store, except fot the items with parental advisory labels. I refused to sell a rap CD with a parental advisory label to a 10 year old kid and sold it to his mom, who was irate she had to leave the car and come inside. Most of the manga has age labels as well, the main gripe I hear from parents isn't about content it's the price.

jmc said...

This reminds me of the local brouhaha over Robin McKinley's last book, Sunshine. The library shelved it as YA because it was Robin McKinley, without reading it. It is NOT a YA book, despite the relative youth of the heroine (early 20s) and was not marketed as such. A parent read it while her daughter had the book checked out and was appalled. As a result, the library reclassified the book as adult fiction, where it belonged.

While in that case, the library had clearly misclassified the book, the San Bernardino sounds more like parental carelessness to me. Parents can't assume that just because a book looks innocuous and like other YA/kid stuff that it is. SB's buckling is an overreaction and is lame, imo.

Eileen said...

I haven't seen the comics to comment fairly. If it is "porn" then I don't see the libary as needing to carry it. My library doesn't have a porn section (or perhaps it is always checked out?) However, if it is simply "graphic" then it belongs in the adult section and parents have to monitor. The question becomes what is porn versus graphic. The old "I'll know it when I see it" becomes difficult to measure. This is why I believe there needs to be a range of people involved in these kinds of decisions. When in doubt- they should carry it.

Noelle said...

The mother of a friend of mine is a librarian at a school. A parent of a student once asked her to remove her vacuum from view because the name printed on the side (dirt devil) was offensive to her faith. There is no reasoning with people are offended by brand names.