A Look at the Comics Book Code

A post at LuaraVent69’s blog got me thinking about the role of the entertainment media in the violent, scary state of modern life.  I advocated in a reply that maybe the media needed to dial things back just a bit.  THAT, in turn, got me thinking about the ever present conundrum of “where do we draw the line”.  People rightfully have some concerns about restrictions of any sort of rights being a gateway to a total denial of said right.  It happens all the time in totalitarian systems.

Before I wander off into a tangent though… one past option came to mind and I began wondering if it would work today.  That being the now defunct “Comic Books Code”.

Approved_by_the_Comics_Code_Authority

Now, for those who aren’t familiar with it, I’ll start with a little background.  I’m running from memory, so if I goof a fact, it’s not intentional.  The code got it’s start in the the 1950s.  1954 if I’m not mistaken.  Some grown ups were concerned that comic books were becoming an increasingly bad influence on kids.  More adult content, etc…  Back then, kids were the only buyers too.  Anyway, the outrage got to the point that the major comic publishers were worried that Congress was going to take some heavy handed actions to regulate them.  Their alternative to head this off was a self-imposed code of conduct about what would appear in comic books.

The code essentially established that comics wouldn’t have any overtly sexual material, that the good guys would always win in the end, criminals wouldn’t be glorified in any way, and that things like drug use would be avoided also.  Gory violence was to be avoided, etc…   Well, heck, here’s the whole code for those who are interested:

The Comics Code of 1954

Some of it gets a bit silly, like the prohibition against vampires and werewolves.  ANYWAY… the code was enforced by a review board called the “Comics Code Authority”.  The whole thing came crashing down when rebellious comics writers wanted to do stories related to the drug trade.  They planned on portraying the effects of drugs in a negative manner, etc… but that didn’t matter to the Authority.  Net result; one by one the publishers pulled out and did their own thing.  If I recall correctly it started with a story Marvel wanted to run in Spider-Man comics but I might be wrong.

NOW, everything but hardcore porn seems to go in comic books.  How much of that is a good thing is open for a bit of debate.  For example, we wouldn’t have Power Girl’s massive mammaries if the code was still in effect.  Boys and lesbians love them, some women scream objectification and unrealistic body standards.

OK, let’s state the obvious…  Some of the code is silly in the modern world:

Policemen, judges, Government officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority

Really??  Is there a single reader out there that thinks all government officials are above reproach?

But in terms of some of the rest of it… Are we really in a better place in the world for books, films and TV shows that do glorify crime and criminals?  Is excessive gore in movies REALLY anything more than a crutch for poor story telling?  Alfred Hitchcock is considered a master of suspense and early horror, but never had to show anyone getting mutilated.  Is all the violence and glorification of gunplay as a way to resolve the plot really necessary?  Yes, I could by a hypocrite and ask the same questions about sex scenes also.

My personal opinion here?  Going back to something as restrictive as the Code probably isn’t a real answer.  Maybe taking a voluntary step back in that general direction wouldn’t hurt though.  There’s something wrong when a show like Breaking Bad that glorifies a man selling meth and ruining peoples’ lives, is a huge hit.  Before anyone argues that with me, they should google up pictures of what meth does to people.

methface

That’s what the poison Walter White was selling to people did.

Would the alternative work?  Just look at the original Star Wars trilogy.

Maybe if we quit glorifying all the darkest elements of society, we’ll get less of them in real life.

 

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