Pages

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Saga #12: Gay bukkake robot mess blows up in everybody's faces

One of the big stories in the Nerd World this week was the fact that Apple had apparently banned sales of the latest issue of Brian K Vaughan's Saga from its online store, because of panels showing depictions of gay sex. I first saw the story on the AV Club, which also noted that Apple had removed the first issue of Joe Casey's new series Sex the previous month; so, being the inquisitive individual that I am, I went straight to the Forbidden Planet in London to see what the big deal with these comics was.

Verdict? Yep, both pretty explicit.

But on the other hand, on the page opposite one of the offending panels in Saga #12, a character explodes into a bloody mess. This death is particularly horrific, because the character in question appears to be some kind of adorable talking hamster.

I won't be the first person to say it (hell, it was in the AV Club  news article), but I continue to be surprised at the double standard regarding depictions of sex versus violence. It isn't just Apple being Apple (and apparently it wasn't rejected by Apple at all, but by Comixology, so go figure), it's something that appears to be endemic in all of American culture. As a general rule, you can sell all kinds of violent content to kids, but the minute you throw full frontal nudity into the mix (because that's really the problem here, as I see it, not the fact that both Sex and Saga are depicting same-sex, er, sex), well, time to call in your First Amendment lawyer.

To be clear, I'm not saying Vaughan and Casey (and their artist collaborators, Fiona Staples and Piotr Kowalski) shouldn't be allowed to depict violence either. Both Sex and Saga are clearly aimed at adult readers, who presumably won't get irredeemably corrupted by glimpses of gay bukkake robot face or girl-on-girl hooker action (this week's post is going to have some fun SEO). What is worrying is that, particularly in the digital world, these adult readers are being told they can't have access to certain content.

The irony is that both of these comics were displayed at eye level for kids at the Forbidden Planet; they also put a disclaimer on the shelf beneath Saga #12 that it's even more "mature readers only" than usual, which is just going to get more people to pick the damn thing up. So we potentially have a situation where consenting adults can't access certain content digitally, but children can grab the physical product off store shelves.

There has to be a better fix for this stuff, frankly. Apple's pretty full of clever people, so I figure they could come up with something that would actually stop kids from accessing objectionable material. But longer-term, American culture needs to sort out this double-standard of sex-bad-but-gruesome-violence-okay.

Anyway, I'll close here with Vaughan's own statement on the kerfuffle, which was released before the word emerged that Saga #12 had been banned by Comixology. He has subsequently apologized, and Comixology is saying the comic will actually be available soon.

Oh, and sorry for the title, but frankly, I couldn't resist.