Vietnam Censorship Fuels Interest in Banned Comics

by Betsy Gomez

Early comic book censorship in the United States was fueled by fears many adults had over a burgeoning youth culture that they could not understand and that they perceived as violent. Even today, would-be censors continually — and incorrectly — argue that comic books and other media are bad for children, something that has yet to be proven by valid scientific study.

The fear of youth culture as a driver for censorship isn’t unique to the United States, as a recent AFP article over at The Raw Story makes clear. The article relates how the banning of books in Vietnam, in particular books and comics aimed at youth culture, has actually driven sales of the books rather than keeping them out of readers’ hands. AFP interviewed a comic book creator about the banning of his book:

Nguyen Thanh Phong, whose collection of comic rhyming slang was recently banned, said his illustration of two gormless-looking soldiers kicking a grenade to each other may have caused the censors’ ire.

The caption reads “Being a soldier you must always get noticed”, an attempt to poke fun at the inflated, heroic image of the country’s military.

“I just thought it was funny,” said Phong.

The 26-year-old artist said censorship only increased people’s desire to read the book, entitled “The murderer with a pus-filled head”, which aims to reflect the street patois of Vietnam’s youth.

Phong went on to tell AFP that illegal copies of his book are now selling for twice their cover price. Edmund Malesky, Associate Professor at the University of California, San Diego, and an expert on Vietnam, further explained that many people who would have never looked at the book picked it up because of the controversy over its content. This is a clear case in which censors tried to keep books away from readers only to end up driving more people to the material. For more, visit The Raw Story here.

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Betsy Gomez is the Web Editor for CBLDF.