Jensen, Helle Strandgaard: "Why Batman was Bad. A Scandinavian debate about children’s consumption of comics and literature in the 1950s." In: Barn 3 (2010), S. 47–70.
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|Resource type: Journal Article
BibTeX citation key: Jensen2010
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Keywords: Children’s and young adults’ comics, Denmark, Kulturpolitik, Norway, Sweden
This article contains an analysis of public debates about children’s consumption of comics in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) in the mid 1950s. With this analysis I aim to contribute to the understanding of how adult public ‘consumption politics’ regarding children’s consumption of cultural products has been articulated at a specific time and place. By historicising adult debates about children’s consumption of cultural products (e.g. films, comics, books) from a cultural history perspective, I attempt to make the arguments of the 1950s debates appear coherent and logical, rather than old-fashioned and disproportionate, as they seem to us in a modern context. “We do not want our children to be raised in the name of violence, race-hatred, gangsters and pin-ups as it is the case in the inappropriate comics of mostly American origin. We want our children to be reared as good, harmonic and optimistic human beings with respect for their fellow humans, tolerant and able to live their lives in peace. Inappropriate comics encourage the first and hinder the last.” This quotation is from an open letter to the Swedish government, written at a public meeting in Malmö May 13th 1954, organised by the Malmö Peace Committee and Swedish Women’s Left Union (the letter was published in the Swedish newspaper Ny Dag, 13 May 1954). The letter was published on behalf of the couple of hundred parents who had attended the meeting hoping to encourage the government to stop importing American comics into Sweden. Today it can seem ridiculous that Swedish parents, as well as the vast majority of other Scandinavian adults in the 1950s, assumed that the consumption of comics such as Superman, Batman and The Phantom would hinder children from growing up as good human beings. Nowadays toys, films, comics and many other products featuring these almost ‘classic’ American superheroes have become a natural part of Western childhood, and no Scandinavian politician, teacher or librarian would argue that the consumption of these comics could be the ruin of democracy as many did in the 1950s. So how can we understand the consumption politics that dominated the Scandinavian public fifty/sixty years ago (‘politics’ here means a set of notions shared by a specific interpretive community, see below)? What were the premises that created a fertile ground for the consumption politics that deemed comics an inappropriate cultural product for children in 1950s Scandinavia? This article contains an analysis of public debates about children’s consumption of comics in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) in the mid 1950s. With this analysis I aim to contribute to the understanding of how adult public “consumption politics” regarding children’s consumption of cultural products has been articulated at a specific time and place. By historicising adult debates about children’s consumption of cultural products (e.g. films, comics, books) from a cultural history perspective, I attempt to make arguments that could otherwise seem old-fashioned and disproportionate, appear logical and coherent from the point of view of the 1950s debaters.
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