Let’s be honest. As Americans, we allow nudity to scare us. It’s an inevitable truth; it’s hard to even debate. All you have to do to confirm it is visit a European country and turn on a television there. If you dare to risk it, you will most likely encounter more skin during prime time viewing than you’ll find on the late late late shows of premium cable channels.
And so it appears that this philosophy of selective censorship (which we invoke only to save our children from corruption!) has extended into the book industry.
U.S. publisher Boyds Mills Press recently refused to print a German children’s book because of questionable illustrations. The picture, which was part of one of Rotraut Susanne Berner’s best-selling Wimmel books, depicted…are you ready for this…art in a museum. I’m not sure you can get much more scandalous than that. The images that worried the publishers included a nude woman in a painting and a minuscule statue, or what one article terms “cartoon breasts and a half-millimeter-long willy.” But I urge you to make your own decision about whether or not these pictures would have scarred our children. Here’s a close-up of the woman in question, and then of course the tiny man.
Boyds Mills Press requested that Berner remove the illustrations from her book, along with pictures of people smoking. The author refused, forgoing the chance to distribute her book to American children (at least for now). Berner disliked the idea of “invisible censorship,” with no black bars over the disputed images. She believes that, “if you’re going to censor something, then the reader should be aware of it.”
Berner’s books portray children and adults in their normal, day-to-day activities. The Wimmel stories have been published without protest in 13 other countries, reaching best-selling status in nearly all of these locations. Hmmm…is it possible that we overreacted? Or is overprotective, overbearing, and over-the-top just how we do things nowadays? I think so, and a headline from today’s BookNinja blog introducing this story (”Mini-penis scares North America almost as much as liquids in suit cases and nail clipper”) echoes my point.