Sunday, 26 September 2010

CAN COMICS HAVE A HARMFUL INFLUENCE?


Harmless fun - or harmful influence?

Notice I ask "can" - not "do".  There's an obvious reason for this
subtle but important distinction, so I needn't elaborate.  However, per-
haps it's the wrong question - it's a bit like the old saying: "Guns don't
kill people - people do", in that it's not so much the medium per se
which can be potentially harmful, but the content.

Whether it be movies, books, magazines, records, television, comics -
or even newspapers, if inappropriate content is made available to minors,
or anyone for which it isn't suitable, then it's likely to have some kind of
negative effect on those who are exposed to it.  Will it make someone pick
up a gun or a knife and go on a killing spree?  Will it turn someone into a
sex pervert or even a rapist?  Well, that's not quite what I'm suggesting,
so let's not get carried away with ourselves.

Of course, there are those who dogmatically claim both those extremes.
Some say definitely yes, others give a resounding no.  For myself, I prefer
to allow for the possibility that certain comics - in the same way that certain
movies, video games, records, etc. - could be part of the problem we face in
the ever-increasing hedonistic, materialistic, sexualized and violent society
we live in today.  Notice that I said "part" - I'm not one of the so-called "anti-
comic brigade" castigated by those who feel that comics are exclusively
and uniquely beyond the possibility of having any kind of negative
effect on their readers.

Consider the influence that society and the culture we live in can have
on us.  Muslim cultures tend to produce Muslims; Catholic cultures tend
to produce Catholics.  Once upon a time, cannibalistic cultures produced
cannibals.  And you can multiply the examples many times over.  It's a simple
case of cause and effect.  (And I should here add that I'm not equating either
Muslims or Catholics with cannibals.)  If we live in a culture which embraces a
steady diet of murder, sadism, rape, violence, promiscuity, criminal activity,
coarse language, blasphemy, etc., through all forms of entertainment (and
that includes comics), is it any wonder that - as a society - we become
inured to it all, to varying degrees?

Sure, most kids know the difference between fantasy and reality,
and I'm not claiming that someone watching a violent video game (or
reading a violent comic) is going to turn out a maniacal murderer because
of it.  (Although neither am I saying that it couldn't happen - in extreme cir-
cumstances and in conjunction with other factors.)  However, doesn't the fact
that millions of kids regularly view ultra-violent video games without flinching
at explicit scenes of mutilation, mayhem and murder for the purpose of enter-
tainment - and see nothing wrong with it (and some might argue that this fact
in itself is evidence of harm) - not perturb you in the slightest?  Wouldn't you
concede that this is perhaps an example of the harmful and negative
effects that certain aspects of popular culture can have?

When it comes down to it, inappropriate content is inappropriate
content, regardless of whatever format it's presented in.  If it's material
which could have a harmful or negative effect on its audience, then surely
it doesn't much matter whether it comes in the form of a book, a movie -
or a comic.  The danger is in the content - not the carton.  That's why, to me,
those that assert that comics couldn't ever have - and haven't ever had - any
kind of negative influence on any reader, are not on as secure ground as
they might think.  The simple truth is - nothing's ever that simple.   

One thing I do know - while the question is at least being asked,
discussed and debated, the chances of things getting out of control are
kept in check to some degree.  It's when we forget to be vigilant about the
possibilities of declining standards in what is being disseminated amongst
our young that we are most at risk from the ills which may infect
our culture.

Feel free to give me your views on the matter.

(FOOTNOTE:  The above BUSTER COMIC LIBRARY issue
was pulled from distribution at the last moment due to fears that some
children might get the idea (even subconsciously) that it was okay to hold
lighted fireworks.  It would be foolish to dismiss the notion that IPC also
had concerns about being sued if some kid got hurt following Buster's ex-
ample, but the primary motivation was out of a genuine consideration for
children's physical safety.  Shouldn't we also be as concerned about the
possible psychological effect that some comics may have?  Incidentally,
I Googled "violent comic images" to find illustrations for inclusion -
most were of a sexual nature and far too inappropriate to use.)

1 comment:

Mr Straightman said...

The only time I copied some comics behaviour was when I saw Pink Panther sleeping in the top drawer of a chest of drawers in an old TV Comic. I tried to do this myself and the chest of drawers fell on me. Lesson learned!