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Chad
6th March 2009, 00:52
Tomorrow the long-awaited film Watchmen opens in movie theatres nationwide. For comic-book fans, this is a dream come true, as it will finally bring to the screen the series' embattled lead character Rorschach,

http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/features/watchmen_trailer/Watchmen2-31.JPG

the noblest, most uncompromising, and most genuinely heroic character ever created in popular fiction.

http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/features/watchmen_trailer/Watchmen2-67.JPG

For those of you who don't know, comic books were roundly dismissed as a juvenile medium until two men turned it into an art form in the 1980s: Frank Miller (whose graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns provides the thematic and stylistic underpinning of last year's Dark Knight movie) and Alan Moore, whose Watchmen series set the bar for all future work in the genre.

Why is the subject of comic books relevant to this forum? Because of an article that I came across a little while ago.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0325/p13s02-bogn.html

It describes how comic books in the 1950s precipitated a truly horrifying witch hunt in the U.S., with real-life book burning (something that you wouldn't think could ever happen in America), a public hysteria over the belief that comic books were causing an "epidemic," and corrupting the youth.

(Sound familiar?)

The article tells the whole improbable-but-true story:

For more than a decade, countless parents and teenagers made bonfires of comic books, reducing everyone from Captain Marvel to Archie to ashes.

Psychiatrists, politicians, and editorial writers feared the most extreme comic books filled with crooks, monsters, and voluptuous women would drive innocent children into the clutches of juvenile delinquency.

Amid the outcry, millions of 10-cent comic books vanished from store shelves and 800 people lost their jobs. "[All] they did was tell outrageous stories in cartoon pictures, a fact that makes their struggle and their downfall all the more strange and sad," writes David Hajdu in his revealing new history The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America.

Today, comics like "Tales from the Crypt" which inspired Stephen King and Steven Spielberg wouldn't raise an eyebrow amid explicit entertainment like "CSI." But back then, many so-called experts found it no coincidence that comic books became popular as horrible stories of youth-gone-wild-filled postwar America.

A psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham stirred the flames in a notorious 1954 bestseller called "Seduction of the Innocent" about the dangers lurking in comic books. "I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry," he inanely warned...

As Hajdu notes, Wertham and his cronies often based their much-touted "research" on nothing more than assumptions and a lazy understanding of causes and effects. Yes, some delinquent kids enjoyed comic books. So did almost all other kids. Where was the proof of a link?

But the media believed a rise in juvenile crime was "directly traceable" to the reading habits of kids. In a 1948 editorial The Christian Science Monitor bemoaned the "cheap and lurid sensationalism" of comics. It didn't help matters that many comic books really did revel in crime unlike censored Hollywood movies, they could let crooks go unpunished and featured plenty of shapely females.

Once Congress and state legislatures got involved, it didn't take long for the comics world to collapse. Sales dwindled amid tight censorship that required Archie's Betty and Veronica, among others, to stop looking so curvaceous.

In an appendix, Hajdu presents a stunning list of hundreds of comic writers and artists...who were never heard from again after the 1950s "purge."

One artist, now in her 80s, still bears the scars. "I couldn't go back out there I was scared to death," she says of her choice to stop illustrating. "Don't you know what they did to us?"

Journalism professor and biographer Hajdu does a fine job of bringing a forgotten chapter of 1950s hysteria back to life...

Nowadays, of course, comic books and graphic novels often have dark themes but seem positively tame compared with TV and movies. Teachers even use comic books as a tool to encourage reading.

And what of those generations of impressionable kids exposed to dastardly and dangerous comics? Contrary to the dire predictions of the past, most grew up to be as mild-mannered as Clark Kent.
The reason why this is so very relevant is obvious. It's identical to the childhood weight hysteria that has gripped society today. Just as the media has fabricated an ob----- "epidemic" among youth today, so did it fabricate a violence "epidemic" among kids in the mild-mannered 1950s. And it was all a fiction.

Today, once again, self-appointed "experts" paint ridiculous pictures of doom, with no basis in fact. Young girls are stigmatized about their weight, schools undertake humiliating "weigh-ins" (something that you would think could only happen in a communist country), and popular restaurants that have served America for decades are suddenly treated like poison producers.

And it's all rubbish. All nonsense. Girls today would be fine if they were left alone and allowed to eat what they want, just as the youth of the 1950s were not somehow "corrupted" by comic books.

But the same twisted impulse to control something trivial about youth behaviour (instead of addressing more substantive concerns, like the quality of education), the same kind of mass hysteria and public panic, eagerly fuelled by the media, is happening today. Once again, "psychiatrists, politicians, and editorial writers" are trying to make a name for themselves with this cheap, scare-tactic populism. In the '50s, it was comic books; today it's weight.

In a few decades, people will look back upon this time and ridicule the absurd fiction of a weight "epidemic," just as today an article like the one above scoffs at the 1950s comic-book hysteria. But that will be of little comfort to the girls whose body image is being destroyed by these misguided (and frankly sadistic) social crusaders, whose curve-o-phobia and anti-plus prejudice is being legitimized by the media.

Christine
8th March 2009, 10:32
Thank you for this interesting article. I have noticed that "All plus size people suffer for ill health" is mantra frequently used by those who openly hate the full-figured. Such hate-mongers are merely sewer-mouthed human waste polluting the world with their vicious school-bully tactics toward curvaceous women.