Banned Books Week: Comic Books and Literary Censorship

An interview with Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund


HD Download

"Comic books are being challenged with greater frequency than they ever have been," says Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. "We are still fighting age-old stigmas that comics are low value speech."

Reason TV's Tracy Oppenheimer sat down with Brownstein at San Diego Comic-Con to discuss challenges to comic books today, and the history of censorship over the medium.

"Sixty years ago, this year, the United States government actually placed comics on trial in Senate subcommittee hearings around a moral panic that said that comics were a leading cause of juvenile delinquency," says Brownstein. "When you look back at that history, you see that it mirrors what has happened with video games, heavy metal, and other aspects of popular culture in recent years."

Comic books are the focus of this year's Banned Books Week, which runs from Sept. 21-27. The website describes the event as the following:

Banned Books Week is the national book community's annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2014 celebration will be held September 21-27.

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 307 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2013, and many more go unreported. The 10 most challenged titles of 2013 were:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence

  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit

  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
    Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

About 7 minutes. Produced by Tracy Oppenheimer. Camera by Zach Weissmueller and Alexis Garcia. Music byEric Skiff, "All of Us."

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube Channel for notifications when new material goes live.