And So It Begins
both link to an
from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
being pulled from Scholastic Inc.'s sales list due to
complaints about the anthology's "questionable material." The
The magazine, "Shonen Jump," an
offshoot of the Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards and television cartoon popular
among elementary and middle school students, showed a hero crediting
his defeat of an opponent with the power he gained from smoking
Other story lines included mild profanity, violence, a character with a
swastika on his forehead, and a female character who asks readers to
pick up the next issue to see which "hot guy" would be the next to die.
"This is a fifth- and sixth-grade building. These are 10- and
11-year-olds. It's against what we're teaching. It's against our DARE
(Drug Awareness Resistance Education) and the St. Vincent College
prevention program," [Hillcrest Intermediate School Principal Rosemarie
Dvorchak] said yesterday.
Suddenly Marvel's "No Smoking" policy starts to make more sense.
I've been wondering for a while when something like this would
happen. Back when I compared
the first issues
of Shonen Jump
, I wondered how fanservice elements like the ubiquitous
"panty shot" would go over with conservative American parents. To
be honest, I expected complaints, but I didn't expect companies like
Scholastic to back down so easily:
"Certainly we're concerned.
We're pulling the magazine," said Teryl McLane, meritor of publicity
for Scholastic Inc.'s corporate office in Lake Mary, Fla.
Maureen Burkey, sales consultant for the Scholastic's Pennsylvania,
Ohio and Michigan region, which is based in Cleveland, apologized for
the comic book's content.
"These are not the type of phone calls we want. We are definitely
pulling this. We are not about this. We are about promoting reading and
good literature," she said.
Apparently Scholastic is not
about promoting freedom of expression, however. Seriously, did
anyone consider any other alternatives besides removing Shonen
from Scholastic's sales list? The article states that
complaints were made about the "Captain Underpants" series in the past,
but those books were made "available upon request" instead of removing
them from the catalog completely. Why couldn't something like
that be done for Shonen Jump
, perhaps even requiring
parental permission in order to purchase the comic?
Part of me is wondering how much of this is because the comic is
Japanese. If it were an American comic with an American character
smoking, would there have been such an uproar? There's no way to
know for sure, of course, but statements like this make me uneasy:
"We do have an editorial board,
and it's a very lengthy and challenging process. We try to be thorough,
but there is a challenge with cultural differences. In Japanese
culture, some of these things are acceptable," she said.
For example, McLane said, to the Japanese, the swastika is an ancient
Hindu symbol of good will.
Then why not use the comic as a "teachable moment" about cultural
differences instead of banning the book altogether? After all,
it's not like Shonen Jump
isn't available in other
outlets for children to purchase. At least that way educators could
address the content they find "troubling" instead of having students
stumble upon it on their own.
I wonder how this will affect Shonen Jump
The cynic in me also wonders if American comic book publishers would
ever use tactics like this to undercut their manga-publishing
competitors. ("Did you know your children may be reading Japanese
comics that feature scenes of questionable moral character?")
Isn't that how some publishers allegedly went after EC's popular horror
comics in the Fifties?