Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ratings on Comics

People off the street do not understand the ratings on comics and graphic novels, mostly because there is no uniform system in place across the market. Marvel rates some of their comics, DC rates some, and most of the other publishers don't note anything on the cover.

What are parents suppose to do? They ask me, the retailer, but to be honest it is not for me to decide what is and isn't appropriate for their children. It amazes me how concerned parents are about content of comics. Do they do the same thing when they buy their children books (i.e. novels) at Barnes and Nobles or Borders? I'm betting they don't. There is something about the comic book medium that makes parents extra careful. I find it infinitely amusing because these are the same parents that buy their kids Grand Theft Auto and other mature rated video games. Of course, I really can't make a blanket statement like this, but it does amuse me when some parents are more concerned about violence than sex. But I'm not a parent, so I guess I should be quiet. (But I really can't at least not for a few more paragraphs).

We just have to remember that violence is OK, but sex or even a suggestively sexual cover is a NO NO. Oh my, there is a girl on the cover in spandex suit, how different is that than seeing girls at the beach in bathing suits? I can understand parents wanting to be careful about what they expose their children to, but sometimes it seems like some people take it too far.

I had two parents in the shop the other day, and they looked at EVERY comic and commented on many of them, that they looked "too scary" or "too racy." I'm not sure what else we as a retail store can do. We have a children's section of comics and graphic novels in the shop, but I'm not going to police children and tell them they must NOT set foot outside of their designated area. They should be free to roam, and by all means, parents please roam around with them, but to find something to be concerned about with most everything in the store is going too far, imo. Again, I understand the need to be concerned, all good parents should be involved in their kids's choices of entertainment. I'm not sure what these parents were expecting. Perhaps a store of nothing but Archie, Disney, and Sonic comics?

The comics medium seems to come under extra scrutiny when it comes to content. I've already discussed the problems that a library had with the content of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen a few months back. Again, I understand being concerned about that book, it is very adult, along with the Vertigo line and the Max line.

What I would like to see is a ratings system adopted across the board for comics and graphic novels, including Manga. Most manga GN do have an age or rating, but they are not uniform, and if we could have the same ratings on regular comics and graphic novels that would help. Why not just use the ratings already established with the movie industry? G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17. Seems to cover most everything. At least then when potential new customers walk in the store they can easily understand what comics and graphic novels are intended or at least intended to be appropriate for their children. This would leave the ball in the parent's court, where it should be. If a parent decides that their 10 and 12 year old kids could read PG-13 comics then they could do that easily, just by looking at the covers, or if for some reason they decided that their 10 and 12 year old children could only read G comics, then they could easily find those comics and graphic novels without a problem. It would be up to the parent, and that is the way it should be.

To be frank, I don't understand why there isn't a rating system in place for regular novels. There are a lot of books out there classified as "Young Adult" or "Teen" and I wonder how many parents have actually read those books to see if they find them appropriate for their OWN children. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, parents SHOULD be active in their kids' lives. They should take an interest in what they viewing, reading, playing, etc. If publishers don't spell it out easily for parents to see, then those same parents could potentially get upset with the store that sells what they deem as "inappropriate" to their children.

All I'm saying is, it would be nice to have a uniform rating system for the entire industry.
I am reminded of this periodically whenever potential new customers come in the store and they stand in the shop, rather bewildered by the sheer selection. I feel for these parents, I really do, but at the same time, it would be nice if parents didn't feel the need to Disney-fy everything in every aspect of their children's lives. Some day these children will realize that the world is not the happy shiny place they believed it to be. Wouldn't it be better to sit down with your children and explain the good and the bad in the world, so these same children can be better informed. In theory, this should help insure that these children will make better choices, not worse. Granted, not every child can understand everything going on around them, but to deny the existence of say "death" or "violence" or god forbid "sex" for these kids seems like a bad idea, but I digress.

I'm just a retailer. And no I am not a parent, so perhaps I could never understand the need to shield your child from the world. I just want the publishers to make life a little easier for retailers and consumers. Give me a uniform ratings system and I can stop these periodic rants. Am I asking for that much?

1 comment:

  1. Can't actually use the movie ratings, as they're owned by the MPAA. I think Marvel ran into trouble with that when they first ditched the Comics Code.