Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Why are college students afraid of comic books?

With Banned Books Week coming up later this month, the focus on literary censorship is mainly on grade school and/or high school level reading, which happens more often than we'd like to see.

However, there seems to be a lot more calls for blocking books from students that is coming from college these days. And, sadly enough, these protests are coming from the students themselves. To make things even more odd, the books in question are graphic novels, which many consider to be the more grown-up version of the comic book.

One of the targets has Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, an autobiographical look at a father-daughter relationship in which both of them find that they share more than hair and eye color. As Alison realizes that she is gay, her father's closeted sexuality comes to the surface but not in time to prevent his untimely death.

Both freshman students at Duke University (who had this book as an optional title on their recommended reading list) and Crafton Hills College in California have raised objections to Fun Home, complaining that the book is "pornography" and shows "naked women". Trust me, kids, if you think this is that graphic, you have lived very sheltered lives indeed.

I happen to have read Fun Home earlier this year(part of my goal to read more comics) and this book is a humorously heartfelt story about growing up and learning that your parents are less than perfect yet that's what makes them and you a full human being.  Not only is Fun Home an award winning title, the Broadway musical adaptation has just won top honors at the Tony awards. You are depriving yourselves of a wonderful reading and visual experience, you know that thing a college education is supposed to be all about?

The Crafton Hills complaint also includes an objection to Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, one of the four graphic novels assigned to the incoming English class. The student spearheading this campaign to get these books removed has been quoted as saying "I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography."

Well, first off, Batman comics are much deeper and darker in content than you might think there, young lady(the Christopher Nolan films alone should have clued you in on that one) and for another, who do you think you are to dictate to your other classmates what they should and shouldn't read?

The irony of you claiming that Persepolis is offensive, when that particular memoir has as one of the struggles that it's female protagonist going through is trying to get an equal and decent education in a repressive society, just floors me:

The other two titles on the Crafton Hills College hitlist are Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn and Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: The Doll's House, both of which are sci-fi/fantasy titles with complex story telling and sociopolitical elements, all of which are subjects that one would reasonably expect to explore in a college course.

Is that these stories are being told in comic book form, where the artwork brings the inner workings of the characters to vivid life along with the actions of the plot, or that you just don't like books that make you think? If so, then perhaps college is not for you. Believe it or not, the works of Neil Gaiman and Brian  K.Vaughn are heralded as ground breaking material and if you are quick to dismiss them simply due to format, you are not as smart as you think you are:

 Back in my bookseller days, we did order books on a regular basis for a local English Lit course and that professor assigned both volumes of Art Spiegelman's Maus every time.

The only complaint that I or any of my bookstore co-workers got regarding that duo was the price and why didn't we buy back books(that wasn't something we did there)? So, having graphic novels as assigned reading for college classes is nothing new.

Look, if you don't want to read these books, you do have the option of dropping the class. And don't give me that nonsense about not being warned about the material, I know full well that those reading lists are handed out way ahead of time before the first day of class begins. There's no shame in switching courses but it is shameful for you or any other student to demand changes to the assigned reading based on your own personal bias.

The freedom to read also includes the freedom to be taught properly as well and by hindering other students, both present and future, you are abusing that privilege. This protest does not make you sound like an adult, instead you're coming across as a playground bully. So, reassess your educational priorities there and keep in mind that there are more scarier things to deal with both in and out of college than a book:

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