The organization last week withdrew from libraries the books and Tango Makes Three, which has been covered previously, and The White Swan Express because of the inclusion of LGBT characters. The action prompted strong disapproval worldwide from outraged people, including an open letter and a petition, calling for the books to be put back.
Gay sex is illegal in Singapore, where a recent gay rally drew a huge backlash in a rare unification of Christian and Islamic groups offended by the rally’s message of tolerance and equality.
In a statement on the NLB’s Facebook page, they defended their position with the argument that it takes “a pro-family and cautious approach in identifying titles for our young visitors”, and announced plans to pulp the books despite the opposition.
Singapore’s government took a fainthearted stand on the controversy by saying that while it will retain the law to reflect (read “appease”) mainstream society’s beliefs, it will not be “actively enforced”.
A Forbes contributor, Ruchika Tulshyan, who grew up in the country, criticized the decision. “Singapore has long upheld religious tolerance and racial harmony as a core tenet of the country, but to pretend a section of society doesn’t exist reeks of intolerance to me,” she said.
The removal of the books has brought attention to some of the more repressive policies in place in the region. According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the treatment of LGBT people in Asia includes electro-shock treatment as “aversion therapy”, threats of rape to “make you straight”, police kidnapping, family violence, and media harassment.
Now they’ve set their eyes on the classic Archie comic book character because a recent issue featured a same-sex marriage.
Archie: The Married Life Book Three was removed from store and library racks following a complaint by another national organization, Singapore’s Media Development Authority, which claims that it violates content guidelines.
The ban on Archie actually happened earlier this year, but it only became known after the backlash over last week’s incident.
The controversy resulted in a “read in” of the books in the national library’s atrium and three authors resigned as judges from Singapore’s top literary prize in protest.
It also adds fuel to the media fire over the longtime Archie comic strip character, which began in 1941, because next week in heroic fashion Archie Andrews, himself, will die. The United States publication, Life with Archie, will show him taking a bullet for a friend- an openly gay veteran-turned-senator, Kevin Keller, campaigning for gun control- and dying from the wound.
Since its beginning in 2010, Life with Archie has become one of the most unique books to grace the graphic novel industry, with classic characters that address current issues in an intelligent yet manageable way.
“It isn’t meant to be a sob story,” Archie Comics publisher, and co-chief executive officer, Jon Goldwater, said.
“Actually it’s inspirational,” he continued, “because Archie does what you would want Archie to do. He would do that for anybody.”
“Archie taking the bullet really is a metaphor for acceptance,” Goldwater said, adding that the assailant did not agree with Keller’s personal life or political stance.
Jono Jarrett, a founder of New York-based Geeks OUT, an organization that supports gays who enjoy comics, said Archie’s death was surprising.
“I was impressed by the boldness in the storytelling.” Jarrett said.
“Maybe what Archie Comics is saying is that in order to get the world you need, sometimes you have to sacrifice something of the world you have,” Jarrett added. “Archie Andrews is a very iconic all-American hero. To have him literally take a bullet for the ideas of diversity and equality in a comic book is a very powerful statement.”
Whether you take the position that these literary turning points and political statements are marketing stunts or marketing genius, one thing is certain- comics aren’t for kids anymore.
Actually, they haven’t been for a while now, but some people just can’t seem to let go of their idealized yearnings for a yesterday that never was.
These issues have always been there and they’ve always been talked about. The only difference between the literature of 70 years ago and that of today is that the subjects are no longer hidden between the lines with innuendo and code words.
It also takes a certain level of mature comprehension to appreciate the history of literary characters while also adapting them to the multicultural world of the 21st century and shifting societal paradigms. Thor is now a woman; Spiderman is a multiracial teenager; Wonder Woman wears pants; and Archie has left behind the after school activities of sock hops and malt shoppes.
These seemingly shocking changes to beloved characters reflect the truth that the adult world is anything but black and white, cookie-cutter, or easy to explain and our youth will be better prepared for the world and how to deal with complex issues by exposing themselves to these subjects in clever and entertaining ways.
The Life with Archie series is a spin-off that centers on adult interpretations of Riverdale. The provocative issue will be followed by one showing how his friends cope with his death a year later.
Indeed, Archie has also come a long way from the days when his biggest problem was choosing Betty or Veronica.
For more information on the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project and the complete list of titles covered, please visit the official website at http://bbark.deepforestproductions.com/