No, really, it’s not! Fungirl: Tales of a Grown-Up Nothing by Elizabeth Pich was one of the offerings for Free Comic Book Day last Saturday. A public library on Long Island in New York mistakenly included the mature title with their handouts for kids. Below is the catalog description of the title.
Experience the passion and the pleasure of the Fungirl! Delight in her exploits, demolishing the patriarchy while almost burning the house down masturbating, showing teenagers skateboard tricks, and scheming a job at the funeral home. And, a Llama? Chaos reigns supreme. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s find out.
After a parent alerted the library director to the mature material in Fungirl, the book was pulled along with two other titles. (Ed. We reached out to the library, and they were unable to identify the other two comics.) From all reports, the library was quick to remove the mature titles from the all-ages selection.
To be clear, pulling Fungirl from the selection for kids is not an act of censorship. Fungirl was intended for mature audiences by the publisher and distributor. The issue was a matter of making sure the right comic is in front of the right audience. According to the library, in the past six years, they had never received mature material on Free Comic Book Day. Diamond Comic Distributors, who handle the event, stated, “Each participating library orders the age-related titles they would like to receive (All Ages, Teen, Mature) and then receives an assortment of titles based on the requested age-ratings.” It is unclear if this was a miscommunication about the comics received or a misunderstanding of the comics medium that caused the issue.
Last week, Coca-Cola, the sponsor of the FCBD this year, announced it would be pulling its advertisement from Fungirl because of the mature content. Bleeding Cool speculated that the “simple, engaging art style” of Pich led to the assumption it was an all-ages book. It seems like more than a coincidence that the same comic can be mistaken for an all-ages comic when it is listed as mature.
In the case of the library event, the offending comics were removed and thrown in the trash. This indicates that the event was intended only for kids since the items were not relocated to the adult section or given to adults who were attending FCBD. However, the library has not confirmed if this is the case.
A separate issue also came up in regards to the mix-up on Saturday. The original reporting source ABC 7 Eyewitness News describes the material as a “pornographic comic.” The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pornography as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” By definition, reading Fungirl in context is not pornography. Is the comic mature? Yes. Does it include nudity and sex toys? Yes. Is it pornography? No. The accessibility and visual nature of comics often result in single still images taken out of context. A work of literature must be viewed in context.
At CBLDF, we will continue to advocate for the use of comics in education, their inclusion in libraries, and an awareness of them as a visual and literary medium capable of tackling complex adult subjects and containing mature humor. A mistake was made, it was quickly corrected, but…it was not Fungirl’s fault.