This blog post is in response to this article published yesterday. I got so angry that Twitter didn’t have enough characters to adequately vent my rage about this.
The issue for me here isn’t really the Archie comic itself; it’s great that there are gay characters, it’s great that one of those characters is black and that one is a serviceman. That’s all very politically correct and encouraging. For me, the issue at hand is the gross lack of willing on the part of the parents involved to have conversations about “difficult” subjects with their children.
Here is a quote from the letter that made me so angry.
This is the last place a parent would expect to be confronted with questions from their children on topics that are too complicated for them to understand. Issues of this nature are being introduced too early and too soon, which is becoming extremely common and unnecessary.
Here the true nature of complaint becomes clear; these parents don’t want to field questions that are too complicated for them to answer. If you support gay rights, the question is easy to answer, “It’s ok for two men be in love in the same way as a man and woman”, but if you’re a parent who doesn’t and says “Don’t look at that, two men getting married is wrong” you will be confronted with the most frightening question in a child’s artillery: “Why?”
Seeing two men getting married on the cover of Archie will not mean that children will raise- to quote the letter again- “a premature discussion on sexual orientation”. What it means is that they will raise a timely discussion about same-sex love. Sexual relationships are a separate issue, and if your child is very young you can still talk about romantic love between two men or women without having to go there.
This is a conversation that parents need to know how to handle, the idea that the world should just tip-toe around children so that parents don’t need to answer any hard questions is madness. As a child I had all sorts of questions that my parents were not fourth-coming with answers to, but one area where they actually fared pretty well was same sex relationships.When Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer was lesbian, my dad ‘s cool lack of reaction reaffirmed my understanding that two women being in love was normal, healthy and acceptable. When watching The Simpsons with my mum (Homer’s Phobia) she took the time to check that I understood what the word gay meant (it was a little late as I was probably about 11, but I still appreciated the effort). What I want people to notice about these anecdotes is that both of these conversations were triggered by television, they were not instances of my parents sitting me down to have a long serious talk. Therefore I think it is a necessary for pop culture and even children’s culture to provide opportunities for children and parents to have these discussions.
And let’s say, for example, that you are a parent who doesn’t approve of homosexuality. That still doesn’t give you the right to take away your child’s right to ask about it. Taking away the opportunity to ask (in this case the presence of an Archie comic on a shelf in Toy’R’Us) is the same as taking away the right to ask.
Another example of parents executing this pattern of behaviour is that of the treatment of CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell, who has no arm below the elbow on one side. In 2009 several parents made complaints saying that their children might be scared of her disability, or that such young children (CBeebies is aimed at children under six) aren’t ready to learn about disability issues. Had this weird censorship taken place these parents would have succeeded in taking away their child’s right to ask “Why hasn’t that lady got two hands?”. And really, how hard is it to just say “Because not everyone is born the same and that’s ok.”
Anyway, I feel better having typed all my rage out. Any thoughts?