Monday, December 08, 2008

the word 'person' included fictional or imaginary characters ...

Dear Neil

I'm one of your many fans from Australia. Today in my country a judge made a ruling that could set a dangerous precedent, particularly for readers of adult oriented comics and (especially) the retailers who supply them.
A New South Wales judge has found that a man found with crude, fan made pictures depicting Simpsons characters Bart, Lisa and Maggie having sex.

Apparently these drawn images are "people" in the eyes of the law and there is no distinction made between this and actual photographs of pedophilic acts.

This worries me for a number of reasons. First of all, I own a copy of Lost Girls. By this definition, I'm in possession of something that could put me in jail and have me registered as a sex offender. Also, this has the potential for a slippery slope that could lead to censorship/ the banning of some of my favorite works, not to mention jail for the proprietors of Australia’s few and far between dedicated Comics shops. To the best of my knowledge, Australia has nothing like the first amendment and I'm not sure if the CBLDF operates outside of the US.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Thanks for your time and please, do not stop writing.

Peter M

"In my view, the magistrate was correct in determining that, in respect of both the commonwealth and the NSW offences, the word 'person' included fictional or imaginary characters ...," the judge said.

And I suspect the Judge might have just inadvertantly granted human rights to cartoon characters.

I think it's nonsensical in every way that it could possibly be nonsensical. The Simpsons characters aren't real people. They definitely aren't real children. (Given that they first appeared in the late eighties, they're also all over eighteen now...)

The famous 1967 Wally Wood "Disney Memorial Orgy" poster (>(possibly not safe for work, might prompt embarrassing questions from small children, do not click on this if a small reproduction of cartoon characters doing softcore filthy things upsets you)is a parody of Disney's image, an attack in cartoon form on the idea of consumerism and the innocence of cartoon characters, as the Disney characters let their hair down and indulge in a memorial orgy for the late Walt Disney. The idea that you could be arrested in the Western World for having that image in your computer is mind-boggling, let alone for owning Lost Girls, or for doodling members of the Peanuts gang doing things they tended not to do in the Schulz comics, or for reading Harry Potter slash, or owning the Brass Eye Paedophilia special. And, I should warn members of the Australian judiciary, fictional characters don't just have sex. Sometimes they murder each other, and take fictional drugs, and are cruel to fictional animals, and throw fictional babies off roofs. Crimes, crime everywhere.

The ability to distinguish between fiction and reality is, I think, an important indicator of sanity, perhaps the most important. And it looks like the Australian legal system has failed on that score.

I don't know if it's something that they can further legally appeal, or afford to appeal, but I hope they can. If not, I hope that a bunch of Australians will get together to change the law.

I'm sure the CBLDF -- and many other organisations who have concerns about the barriers between art and life, expression, freedom of speech, and, possibly, now, pension plans for cartoon characters -- would offer advice and information. But this is something that Australians will have to sort out.


The full version of the Boston Metro interview from the other day has just gone up on AICN.

The Wall Street Journal extracts Laura Miller's excellent book on Narnia.

Douglas Adams' short story The Private Life of Genghis Khan (if memory serves, a rewrite of a TV sketch he wrote with Graham Chapman done for the Comic Relief Book, with an additional Hitchhiker's gag at the end) is up at

And I promise I'll do one of those posts where I round up mail and answer lots of things soon. Very soon.

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