Saturday, December 24, 2011

Book Review: Seduction of the Innocent Revisited: Comic Books Exposed

Seduction of the Innocent Revisited: Comic Books Exposed by John Fulce
Lafayette Louisiana 1990: Huntington House
Reviewed 1/31/99  with minor editing 12/24/10

The oddest thing about this book is its title. Oh, the main implications are accurate enough. It's a modern day pro-censorship book about comics. However the central argument of the book seems to be that comics (aside from undergrounds) were pretty wholesome until around the 1980s. In order to make this argument he completely avoids any of the more controversial books of earlier eras, and accordingly does not mention Frederic Wertham or the original Seduction of the Innocent from the 1950s anywhere in the text. [2011 note: so he seems to have it both ways: he wants to have the connotations that the original Seduction of the Innocent provides, but he apparently disagrees with that original work in terms of when comics “went bad”.]

In fact throughout he avoids rather than addresses evidence that might hurt his claims. For example he classifies comics as rate or not, with the titles stating "Suggested for Mature Readers" being the ones he feels are rated for the benefit of younger readers, and everyone else as not rated. However, many of the ones that he labels "not rated" are in fact rated "Approved by the Comics Code Authority," which of course is not a point in favour of his arguments. [Note: at the time the book was written and at the time this review was originally written, the Comics Code was still in effect.]

Essentially, unlike Wertham, who tackled censoring comics from a psychiatrist point of view, Fulce does so from a religious point of view. Fulce was once a comic fan to the point of running a comic store, so part of his attack seems to emanate from disillusionment with his hobby.

In fairness to the book, it does have some good points to it. It is nicely formatted, breaking down his areas of attack into occultism/new age, anti-Christian, sex, negative role models, violence, and profanity. And it cannot be denied that comics do go overboard at times in these areas, so I have nothing against tackling some of those issues when they do arise.

Also, most of the book consists of examples illustrating his points, with things he finds objectionable covered up. One irony that occurs here is that "bastard" is made to look like "batard" which is in of itself a French swear word with the same meaning as the English word.

However he does, again, avoid looking at aspects on the other side (e.g. pro-Christian role models). He also doesn't provide overly strong evidence in favour of his points beyond a minimum of research. He also plays "guilt by association", sometimes stating that comics can lead to pornography, sometimes stating they are pornography, at which point he launches into studies that don't necessarily reflect comics themselves

He is also selective in explaining his reasoning. Sometimes it is clear why he has a problem with something (e.g. his argument against pre-marital sex), other times, as with homosexuality it's less clear (I think he lumped that into his explanation of things like sex with robots and animals but I'm not sure).

As a final point, I think it speaks volumes when he admits that if you follow his suggestions, even other churches (though his own denomination is never clearly stated) might oppose you. While he does present his own rationalization for this, it does point out how extreme his views are.

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