Mark McLelland is Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Wollongong and author or editor of ten books focusing on issues to do with the history of sexuality, popular culture and new media, most recently, Love, Sex and Democracy in Japan during the American Occupation (Palgrave Macmillan). He is currently an Australia Research Council Future Fellow working on a project looking at the implications of Australia’s media classification system for user-generated online content.
“Governmentality and Fan Resistance in the Japan Pop Culture Sphere”
Comic books have been an intense site of surveillance and anxiety since the 1954 publication of Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent: The Influence of Comic Books on Today’s Youth. Wertham’s text set off fierce debates in the United States, and in Australia raised concern over the deleterious impact that American culture was thought to be having on Australia’s youth. In recent years a new panic has emerged in the media, this time focused on pop culture materials originating in Japan. However the terms of this debate are somewhat different, focusing not so much on the negative effects that Japanese manga and anime are supposedly having on young readers but on the illegality of the depictions of young people that appear in these media. An increasing number of manga and anime titles are being banned as “child abuse publications,” and fans given fines and in some instances prison sentences for possessing this material. This paper looks at the banning of one such title in New Zealand as a “child abuse publication” – a title which happens to be freely available in Australia with just an MA 15+ rating – and discusses failed fan attempts to have the New Zealand ruling overturned. In doing so I point to potentially fatal flaws in a classificatory system that insists on reading a text against the “interpretive community” for which it was intended.