Kevin C Pyle and Scott Cunningham's non-fiction, book-length comic Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun! is a marvellous and infuriating history of censorship, zero-tolerance, helicopter parenting, and the war on kids.
The comics form turns out to be just perfect for presenting this material. The book opens with a history of the fight over comics publishing in America, where the liar Frederic Wertham and his Seduction of the Innocents hoax led to a harsh regime of comics censorship, book banning, book burning, and decades of pseudoscientific vilification and dismissal of artists and the young people who loved their work. Presenting this story in a comics form only drives home how wrong Wertham and the Comics Code Authority were.
Bad For You covers many other subjects, from the demolition of America's playgrounds to the panic of Dungeons and Dragons; from fearmongering over Internet predators and cyberbullies to the demonization of gaming and gamers. The final section, on zero tolerance and the conversion of American schools into police-states where children are arrested by armed policemen for sassing, possessing over-the-counter medication, and having "disruptive" hair colors, is the most frustrating of all. The authors aren't shy about drawing the connection between the authoritarian schools and race and class politics in America, pointing out that the poorer and browner you are, the more likely your school resembles a prison.
But this isn't just an outrage-generator. The authors make a point of connecting modern panics with their historical precedents (like this timeline of the war on fun, excerpted from the book, which I posted last December), and presenting clear and cogent articles for an evidence-based, humane and proportional approach to fun, new things, technology, and individual expression. Plus, they close the book with a great appendix listing good organizations working to restore fun to daily life, giving you somewhere to put any upset you've felt along the way.
Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun!
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