July 27, 2015

Comics Aren't Just Comics

One of my favorite TV shows growing up was Boy Meets World. It ran from 1993-2000 and followed Cory Matthews and his friends throughout school and straight into college. It was an excellent show that currently has reruns on MTV daytime and once in a while I'll re-watch an episode or three.

Recently the Disney Channel has created a continuation of Boy Meets World in the form of Girl Meets World. I've watched the episodes. They are fun and silly and sometimes they hit a little serious, but it has so far been a lot of fun to watch. 

In season two of Girl Meets World in the episode titled "Girl Meets The New Teacher" Riley, the daughter of Cory and Topanga Matthews, gets a new English teacher. Riley's teacher decides that on her first day of school she is going to have the class read the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns written by Frank Miller. 

Gif Credit 
The principal of the high school tells the new teacher that she can't teach a comic book. He cites school policy stating that comic books aren't allowed in school. The whole episode ends with the new teacher getting praise for using an out of the box teaching method to get the kids to understand and possibly enjoy classic and modern literature. In this case they were also connecting viewers to the book To Kill and Mockingbird by Harper Lee with the English teacher's name being Harper. 

As much as I loved that Girl Meets World and their writers are advocating for graphic novels as a form of literature I am also saddened that the way it is approached is with the idea that graphic novels are an innovative approach to getting kids to understand literature. 

I'm not saying that graphic novels aren't a great way of teaching students to love literature. I'm saying it should become a normal part of curriculum. Not the exception. 

Graphic novels should be as much apart of learning as any other form of story telling. Graphic novels should be taught because there is more to graphic novels then many people think. Graphic novels can range from the well known superhero comics to difficult and autobiographical stories like Art Spiegelman's Maus.

One college student recently learned this when she opposed the syllabus that her professor used for his semester concentrating on graphic novels as literature. 

The college student, named Tara Schultz, objected to four of the graphic novels on the syllabus stating that they were pornographic and that she'd "expected Batman and Robin" instead. At best Schultz and her parents expected the university to remove the books completely from the university. She would have settled for a label on the books warning students of the potentially objectionable content of the books. 

She didn't want other students being subjected to such "garbage". 

Of the four books challenged I've only read Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. Yes, there is drawn nudity in the novel, but the book talks about the adolescence and teenage years of Satrapi during the Islamic Revolution. I read it and learned from her story. The nudity wasn't the focal point of the story. It was a method of expression. What made Satrapi's story even more interesting was that it was told from a female's point of view in a very biased environment. 

Personally, I don't understand removing something from the shelves just because you don't like it. As a librarian, I can't get behind the idea of labeling a book. You may find it objectionable, and someone else may not. I understand wanting to guard yourself or your child from what you find objectionable, and you are always right to do so. However, how you feel will not be how everyone feels. 

You find it personally objectionable.

Someone else may not.

Someone else may find something else personally objectionable that you do not. 

I commend this professor, and the university, for attempting to help his students to understand that graphic novels have their place in literature as well. Maybe it is Batman and Robin, but that doesn't lessen the ability of the story teller to create an interesting and thoughtful experience for the reader. 

I'd love to see more colleges and universities follow suit. 

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