An Australian Supreme Court justice says yes:
Simpsons cartoon rip-off is child porn: judge
December 8, 2008
A NSW Supreme Court judge has ruled an internet cartoon in which lookalike child characters from The Simpsons engage in sexual acts is child pornography.Graphic novelist/comic-book author Neil Gaiman pointedly disagrees:
In a landmark finding, Justice Michael Adams today upheld a decision convicting a man of possessing child pornography after the cartoons, depicting characters modelled on Bart, Lisa and Maggie engaging in sex acts, were found on his computer.
The main issue of the case was whether a fictional cartoon character could "depict" a "person" under law.
"If the persons were real, such depictions could never be permitted,"Justice Adams said in his judgement. "Their creation would constitute crimes at the very highest end of the criminal calendar."
Alan John McEwan had been convicted in the Parramatta Local Court of possessing child pornography and of using a carriage service to access child pornography material, the latter of which has a maximum penalty of 10 years' jail.
The male figures in the cartoons had what appeared to be human genitalia, as did the mother and the girl depicted in the cartoons.
The magistrate had said that had the images involved real children, McEwan would have been jailed.
However, he was fined $3000 and required to enter into a two-year good behaviour bond in respect to each of the charges.
McEwan appealed the decision arguing that fictional cartoon characters could not be considered people as they "plainly and deliberately" departed from the human form.
But Justice Adams agreed with the magistrate, finding that while The Simpsons characters had hands with four fingers and their faces were "markedly and deliberately different to those of any possible human being", the mere fact that they were not realistic representations of human beings did not mean that they could not be considered people.
Justice Adams said the purpose of the legislation was to stop sexual exploitation and child abuse where images are depicted of "real" children.
The idea that you could be arrested in the Western World for having [similar images] in your computer is mind-boggling, let alone for owning Lost Girls, or for doodling members of the Peanuts gang doing things they tended not to do in the Schulz comics, or for reading Harry Potter slash, or owning the Brass Eye Paedophilia special. And, I should warn members of the Australian judiciary, fictional characters don't just have sex. Sometimes they murder each other, and take fictional drugs, and are cruel to fictional animals, and throw fictional babies off roofs. Crimes, crime everywhere.Feminist comic book fan Valerie D'Orazio, responds to the ruling on her blog Occasional Superheroine, and it's on:
The ability to distinguish between fiction and reality is, I think, an important indicator of sanity, perhaps the most important. And it looks like the Australian legal system has failed on that score.
I don't know if it's something that they can further legally appeal, or afford to appeal, but I hope they can. If not, I hope that a bunch of Australians will get together to change the law.
For example (I've decided to totally edit this description of one of the Simpsons images out at the last minute, as it's just too disturbing). This is different, in my humble opinion, from Daisy Duck and Mickey Mouse having passionate sex against a wall. Daisy and Mickey are consenting adults sowing their wild oats in the usual way -- albeit by committing adultery and unfaithfulness to Minnie and Daffy!Good question! And several people reply on the subsequent thread, as Valerie clarifies:
So I shed no tears for the absence of porn based on underage cartoon characters on the Internet. Nor will I miss feeling like a party to an illegal act every time I do an image search for cartoon and comic book characters.
However, there must be a rather sizable number of people actually visiting these XXX cartoon parody sites -- not just those who get off on such images, but just regular people looking for some gross-out humor. Will the latter category find themselves roped in with these crackdowns, even arrested? Would having an illustration of a "Peanuts Orgy" on your hard drive be enough to convict you as a sex offender?
As for defending free speech, I hope when somebody comes out with a comic book that Gaiman and the rest find personally hateful and offensive, they will step up to the bat and defend that too. Not an art book with beautiful Melinda Gebbie illustrations. But some sort of over-the-top extremely religious comic book full of hate for a variety of topics -- like Jack Chick on speed. If a book like that gets published, and prosecuted for "hate speech," I want to see all these free-thinkers defend their right to be hateful. Because when I see a cartoon image of a little child being sexualized and engaged in carnal acts, I consider it hateful, and "hate speech."Predictably, the contentious follow-up thread on Occasional Superheroine drew 80 comments before finally being closed.
I realize I'm just a big square (draws polygon around her head for emphasis)
Valerie D’Orazio writes:
When you champion this sort of porn, you run the risk of taking all porn down with you. People outside of the quaint aesthetic bubble you are living in look at you making this passionate case for illustrated child porn and...they can't even identify with you, can't even understand what you're saying. And then in turn you make fun of these people, call them all puritanical maniacs, religious nuts. Nothing gets accomplished. There is no middle-ground. There are just extremists on both sides: extreme liberals who fight for the right to publish child porn, and extreme conservatives who put fig leaves on the penises of statues.And frankly, I feel like I am occupying another universe than the one she is in. My First Amendment absolutism comes into play, and I am once again a feminist at odds with traditional feminism.
But there is a whole lot of people who are on the middle in this debate. In the end, you have to stop preaching to the choir and start addressing them. Understand where they are coming from, stop turning your nose up at them. Try your explanation on them about how harmless images of Lisa Simpson having sex with her dad are, and see how well that goes.
I like the CBLDF a lot, but if they were fighting for the right of a publisher to print images of little children having sex, I'm not interested in supporting that fight. I'm not. I know I would be more popular if I did. But I just can't do it.
I read stuff like what Neil Gaiman wrote, and it's like I'm living in a completely different world from him. I can't relate to it. I'm all for eroticism. I'm not here to take away Playboys, Witchblades, and your assorted avant-garde pornography. But...
It's a bubble. It's a big bubble. And it's a bubble in which I feel I do not have the complete freedom to speak my mind. It's a bubble all about "freedom" -- in theory. But it really isn't. It's only about the freedom to agree with the majority view within Bubbleland. I feel as oppressed by this bubble as I do by people I feel who are sexist, probably more. I mean, I don't really give a damn what the sexist people think of me. But to come up against the Bubble -- I don't have the guts to do it. Honestly, it scares me to death.
I ain't the only one. Collateral Damage blogger rattsu writes:
I'm sorry. I love this blog. I really do. I've never minded the snark or the battles. I've read it for the insights into the industry, and being a woman, for the views that it offered on what sometimes went on behind the scenes.And thread contributor Will speaks for me:
However, I can't continue reading it anymore. I know that this doesn't really matter, but I wanted to explain why.
You see, I don't want to continue reading the blog of someone that looks down on me. That thinks I might be dangerous on the level of people carrying around loaded guns in their bags. That thinks that the things I like eventually might seep into my mind and make me enact things in real life. Hell, I'm 37 years old. I've been through a lot of censorship debates. I've been a part of the underground video tape trading where we dealt with third and fourth generation copies taken from the countries where the movies I liked managed to sneak through uncut. A lot of the things I loved back then, who was dead illegal and forbidden (especially in sweden where I live) are now shown in every movie theater.
This is not about loaded guns. This is about morals and the public consensus. It is ALWAYS dangerous. It must ALWAYS be stopped. Whether comics or music or porn, the difference is where you draw the line. And if that line is drawn to include art? With things drawn on paper? With figments of your imagination? With fictional tales of word in stories?
Then I'm sorry. Like it or hate it, if that's turned illegal, then I am a criminal, and support criminal activities. Sure, Simpsons porn for me is about as daft as furries and not my thing, but seriously...
Comparing reading what I assume to be hardcore SM porn to carrying a loaded gun? *facepalm*
I'm sorry Val. You have lost all my respect there. Goodbye.
As for defending things I don't like (i.e. religions or groups I agree with), well, that's the whole point. If we only defend those things that we agree with, that's not much of a freedom of speech.Indeed, where DO we stop?
People are arguing that this case is a thought crime are not watering down the meaning of the words, because this case is a thought crime. This guy hasn't done anything. What if it so that erotic novels about vampires were declared obscene and owning one would get you tossed in jail (banned for promoting an unnatural attraction and sexualization of the dead). You didn't actually have sex with a dead person, just owned a story about someone who did.
I know, I know, vampires aren't real (neither are the Simpson's though) and child molesters are, but I hope you at least understand where some of us are coming from. Once you start jailing people for possessing drawings, no matter how distasteful, where do you stop?
What do you think?