A 20-year old Crafton Hills College student, Tara Schultz, and her parents want four graphic novels that are currently included on an English course’s syllabus to be “eradicated from the system” because they’re obscene, pornographic, and violent.
As Schultz, herself, has said, “I didn’t expect to open the book and see that graphic material within. I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.”
Cue pearl clutching and cries of “WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN FULLY-GROWN ADULTS!”
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
- Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (volume 1), by Brian Vaughan
- The Sandman: The Doll’s House (volume 2), by Neil Gaiman, and
- Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
For the record, I’ve read three out of the four graphic novels in question and while they aren’t meant for children, they hardly meet the criteria of adults only. Yes, they contain sex, violence, and naughty language but so does life, the universe, and everything. What is this woman and her parents expecting? That she’ll never encounter these things in the “real world”?
To be fair, her initial reaction, in itself, isn’t surprising to people who have never read a graphic novel before. When I was doing my Master’s in comic books, I had the opportunity to TA a class that had a couple of graphic novels on the syllabus. I don’t remember which ones specifically, but I think they included a volume from the Sandman series, The Dark Night Returns, and Maus. For students whose only frame of reference was Archie (or your all-ages run-of-the mill superhero stuff), they were a little surprised that something as “low-brow” as comics could also be a form of literature that often deals with adult situations but no one was outraged or offended by the material.
Schultz took the course (English 250) as part of her course requirements for an Associate’s Degree in English and was unable to drop the course without academic penalty by the time that she realized how objectionable she found the content to be. She also raised her concerns with her instructor, Ryan Bartlett.
(Bartlett, an Associate Professor of English, has taught the course three times and this is the first time that a student approached him about the material. His aim in studying graphic novels was to demonstrate that it’s a “viable medium of literature.”)
Schultz claims that if she had known how objectionable the course’s materials would be, she would have never taken the course. She’s especially angry that no one warned her that her college course might deal with adult issues and that she might be exposed to obscenities, nudity, sex, and violence in the materials that she was studying. She fully expected that “The professor should have stood up the first day of class and warned us.”
Because, you, as an adult, need to be warned that your college course may contain material that is adult-appropriate.
Jesus fuck. Pro-tip to parents everywhere, if you find yourself using “we” to describe things that your adult children do – such as take a college course – you’re doing parenting wrong and probably should think about your overprotectiveness and helicopter parenting style as the reason why your child is so sheltered, naïve, and innocent that she thinks that these particular graphic novels are absolute filth. (Or that adults need to be warned that their college course might contain adult situations.)
Schultz is also outraged that the books are sold in the campus’ bookstore because “there are under-aged kids here at this campus.”
Sadly, the Schultzes did achieve one victory, Crafton Hills College promises that they’re warning students about the course’s material going forward. Which is utter and complete bullshit.
I’m very curious how the Schultzes would have reacted to the knowledge that there are college/university courses out there that *gasp!* screen actual pornography in class. In my undergraduate gender and sexuality course, we actually watched Beyond the Green Door at 8am on a Friday morning as part of our course syllabus. Hell, I’ve studied the cultural significance of hentai/tentacle porn and have presented those findings at an academic conference!
College/university should not be G-rated. LIFE is not G-rated. And people like the Schultzes need to realize that censoring “objectionable” material in this environment isn’t appropriate and that they’re doing a disservice to those who are at that school for an actual education. These people do realize that the internet exists and all the not-safe-for-life shit that you can find on there, correct?
Perhaps I’m just rankled because I’m one of the people who fought to get graphic novels recognized as a form of literature. The fact that I’m profoundly anti-censorship is also another bias that I’m bringing to this table.
In an email, Ryan Bartlett described not only why he chose the graphic novels in question but also why those graphic novels are important:
I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition. […] The characters in the chosen graphic novels are all struggling with issues of morality, self-discovery, heartbreak, etc. The course in question has also been supported by the faculty, administration, and approved by the board.