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Whap! Thud! Kick! Kill! Shazam! Hey, mom, what’s for dessert?
A U of M study of juvenile couch-potato-derangement-in-the-making blames adult violence on TV programs that feature heroes who are admired for bravery but imitated for violent acts. (Watch now. Wallop later.)
Not everyone agrees. Dennis Wharton of the National Association of Broadcasters says, “Other studies find just the opposite of what this report concluded.” Perhaps Mr. Wharton is myopic.
Or, maybe it’s all in the eye of the beholder, after all.
Fifty years ago a shrink named Fredric Wertham, claimed the bitter seeds of crime were sown by comic books. His study “Seduction of the Innocent” also said comics helped to turn impressionable kids gay. (In or out of capes and leotards isn’t specified.)
“I have never come across any adult or adolescent who had outgrown comic-book reading who would ever dream of keeping any of the ‘books’ for any sentimental or other reason,” Wertham wrote. (Let’s see, “Action Comic #1; 1938” markets for $38M to $350M.)
I’ll admit as a kid I admired Captain Marvel. I knew that his alter ego, dot-eyed Billy Batson, was an ordinary runt like me. That was encouraging. With exercise, Wheaties, eight hours of sleep, and Brilcream — “a little dab’ll do ya” — life held possibilities for real rooftop soaring.
But Wertham’s darts weren’t directed at Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, Superman, Plastic Man, Submariner, The Flash, or Mr. Tweedle Dee Dee. (All heroes of mine.) They were aimed at closet queers Batman and Robin and crypto-dyke Wonder Woman.
Yes, the Caped Crusader had a “ward” (guardian, not prison) and Wonder Woman, well — as plump sidekick Etta Candy woo-woo’d it, “Aphrodite be praised” — she hailed from an island of Amazons, and they weren’t selling books online in the forum, either.
“At home they lead an idyllic life,” observed Wertham. “They are Bruce Wayne and ‘Dick’ Grayson. They live in sumptuous quarters with beautiful flowers in large vases. Batman is sometimes shown in a dressing gown. It is like a wish of two homsexuals living together.”
(Under 30s, please note: A dressing gown is not drag. Large vases are House & Gardens optional. But, as everybody knows, ‘Dick’ is dick.)
“For boys Wonder Woman is a frightening image,” warned Wertham. “For girls she is a morbid ideal. Where Batman is anti-feminine, the attractive Wonder Woman and her counterparts are definitely anti-masculine.”
Wertham may have been on to something about the Wayne-Graysons. DC Comics, which drives the lucrative Batmobile to the bank, refuses to grant permission to use any illustrations of the crusading pair — gardening or fisticuffing — for psychological gossiping about the their sexual orientation.
As far as gays and real-time violence is concerned, David Nimmons, in his book “The Soul Beneath the Skin” (St. Martin’s Press, 2002) says instances of lgbt street or public violence are remarkably few.
His data are taken from police records, notably those of Greenwich Village, Province Town, Boy’s Town, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., where, of five large-scale gay events held in one year, with 1,400,000 attendees total, only 10 disturbance arrests occurred.
“Oddly enough,” says Nimmons, “America has a vast peaceable kingdom in its midst, yet has scarcely noticed.” (Too busy duct-taping Gotham City, no doubt. Holy Oil Wells, Batman!)
Brilcream me at firstname.lastname@example.org