Big emotions in the world of comics after the censorship by an American school of one of the most important comics of the 20th century. Explanations.
A decision that caused outrage
With comics occupying a dominant place in American popular culture today, it’s hard to understand that a comic, and legendary at that, would be censored by an American school today. And yet that’s exactly what happened when the board of trustees at McMinn County Schools in Tennessee decided to remove Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus from their library.
Published from 1980 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, “Maus” is one of the most important comics of all time, along with “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, “The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller and “Sandman” by Neil Gaiman. Originating from Art Spiegelman’s conversations with his own father, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, Maus deals with the passing on of the Shoah. It’s set in an animal universe where the Nazis are cats and the Jews are mice.
What prompted the board members to vote unanimously for their removal from the library, they explained, was the vulgarity and rudeness of Spiegelman’s portrayal. The school’s director, Lee Parkinson, therefore condemned his “rude and reprehensible language”. More telling are the words of another board member, Tony Allman, on the reasons for this decision:
We don’t have to promote this kind of vulgar and inappropriate content. The book shows hanged people, massacred children. Why should the education system encourage such events?
Finally, a third board member finds the presence of nudity in Maus d’Art Spiegelman reprehensible.
We’re talking about teaching our children ethics, and this book begins with the father and son talking about when the father lost his virginity. We can teach history to the students, we can tell them exactly what happened, but we don’t need nudity and all that other stuff
The vote obviously did not fail to respond to Art Spiegelman himself, who came to the table. Speaking to CNBC, the 73-year-old author, to whom we have to thank for In the Shadow of Dead Towers, expressed his deep disgust at what he believes to be “Orwellian” decisions:
I was speechless and thought: “What?”. I can not believe you. I met so many young people who learned something from my book. Something really crazy is going on in Tennessee. Things are getting really, really bad over there.
The move also sparked outrage from another comics giant, Brit Neil Gaiman, author of Sandman, who commented on the board’s decision on his Twitter page.
There’s only one kind of people who would vote to ban Maus, whatever they call themselves these days. https://t.co/fs1Jl62Qd8
January 26, 2022
There is only one type of person who would vote to ban mice, no matter what their names are today.
There’s no doubt that this affair will continue to draw a lot of ink. On the other hand, it is not known if the outrage that has been sparked will cause the board of directors of this Tennessee school to overturn its decision.