Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Time Travel Tuesdays - Dr. Wertham Speaks Out on Romance Comics!


Crime and horror comics bore the brunt of Dr. Fredric Wertham's attack, but did you know that he wasn't too keen on romance comics either? Below are a few of my favorite quotations on the love genre from Dr. Wertham's infamous book, Seduction of the Innocent!*


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The experts had said that what the children need is aggression, not affection -- crime, not love. But suddenly the industry converted from blood to kisses. They tooled up the industry for a kind of comic book that hardly existed before, the love-confession type. They began to turn them out quickly and plentifully before their own experts had time to retool for the new production line and write scientific papers proving that what children really needed and wanted -- what their psychological development really called for -- was after all not murder, but love! (p. 37)

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In many of them, in complete contrast to the previous teen-age group, sexual relations are assumed to have taken place in the background. Just as the crime-comics formula requires a violent ending, so the love-comics formula demands that the story end
with reconciliation. (p. 38)

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Studying these love-confession books is even more tedious than studying the usual crime comic books. You have to wade through all the mushiness, the false sentiments, the social hypocrisy, the titillation, the cheapness. (p. 38)

Fawcett
"Trail to Romance"
Cowboy Love #10
(June 1950)

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It is a mistake to think that love comics are read only by adolescent and older children. They are read by very young children as well. An eight-year-old girl living in a very comfortable environment on Long Island said, "I have lots of friends and we buy about one comic book a week and then we exchange. I can read about ten a day. I like to read the comic books about love because when I go to sleep at night I love to dream about love." (p. 39)

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Flooding the market with love-confession comics was so successful in diverting attention from crime comic books that it has been entirely overlooked that many of them really are crime comic books, with a seasoning of love added. Unless the love comics are sprinkled with some crime they do not sell. Apparently love does not pay. (p. 40)

Ace
"Impulsive!"
Love Experiences #18
(April 1953)

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False stereotypes of race prejudice exist also in the "love comics." Children can usually pick the unsatisfactory lover just by his looks. (p. 105)

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Love comics do harm in the sphere of taste, esthetics, ethics and human relations. The plots are stereotyped, banal, cheap. Whereas in crime comics the situation is boy meets girl, boy beats girl; in love comics it is boy meets girl, boy cheats girl -- or vice versa. (p. 185)

Fox
"Quicksand Romance"
My Secret Life #25
(January 1950)

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I wonder if Dr. Wertham ever read any post-Code romance comics? I think he would have rather liked their wholesome nature!

*All quotations from Fredric Wertham, M.D.'s Seduction of the Innocent. New York: Rinehart, 1954. Reprint, New York: Main Road Books, Inc., 2004.

2 comments:

  1. That Wertham went on to pen a tome singing the praises of comics fans is just one more contradiction in a sorely misguided individual. Most of all, though, he fully deserves the opprobrium showered upon him: SotI is a poorly-argued hatchet job that merits no serious attention.

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  2. I'm not sure what the point of that first quote is. I guess it's something like "Well if aggression fantasies are healthy and the comics put out anything else, that shows they either were lying or that romance comics are inappropriate!" Because obviously you shouldn't have variety. But as Allan says, it's kind of pointless to make sense of his rant.

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