Saturday, April 2, 2011

Seduction of the Innocent

Written by Dr. Frederic Wertham and published in 1954, this text draws a straight line from comic books to juvenile delinquency.

The books of EC were obvious targets, their line of horror, disaster and war comics depicted some pretty wild and grotesque images of violence and savagery, and Dr. Wertham was not afraid to point out that horrid and gruesome illustrations were printed across the page from advertisements for bowie knifes and air rifles.

However, the good doctor also liked to point out the subliminal messages present in the graphics, with disguised images of phalluses or breasts, or the to-this-day question regarding the exact relationship of Batman and Robin.

Wertham also called Superman a Fascist. He reports, you decide.
I would like to point out to you one other crime comic book which we have found to be particularly injurious to the ethical development of children and those are the Superman comic books. They arose in children phantasies of sadistic joy in seeing other people punished over and over again while you yourself remain immune. We have called it the Superman complex. In these comic books the crime is always real and the Superman's triumph over good is unreal.

Moreover, these books like any other, teach complete contempt of the police. For instance, they show you pictures where some preacher takes two policemen and bang their heads together or to quote from all these comic books you know, you can call a policeman cop and he won't mind, but if you call him copper that is a derogatory term and these boys we teach them to call policemen coppers.

All this to my mind has an effect, but it has a further effect and that was very well expressed by one of my research associates who was a teacher and studied the subject and she said, "Formerly the child wanted to be like daddy or mommy. Now they skip you, they bypass you. They want to be like Superman, not like the hard working, prosaic father and mother."

Dr. Frederic Wertham
Senate Subcommittee Hearings into Juvenile Delinquency
Wednesday, April 21, 1954


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