To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the long-running television cartoon series ‘The Simpsons’, the mother character ‘Marge’ has appeared as a ‘centerfold’ in the similarly long-running ‘men’s magazine’ ‘Playboy’.
Whilst this can be seen as a harmless publicity stunt, an Australian was recently convicted of the possesion of child-pornography, even though it consisted of sexually explicit depictions of Simpsons characters, rather than images of actual children, or even realistic fabrications.
This illustrates the uneasy relationship within Western society between the medium of cartoons, which is seen as predominantly for children, and topics such as sex or violence that are regarded as adult concerns. Indeed, when these are deliberately combined, the results can be somewhat disturbing.
Indeed, ‘The Simpsons’ itself ironically comments on this situation through its portrayal of
the ‘Itchy and Scratchy Show’, a hyper-violent fictional cartoon that would be unlikely to be seen as suitable for children per se, even though the ‘real’ cartoon it is depicted within is.
Although the desire to separate ‘adult’ concerns from a ‘child’s’ medium can be seen to be driven by such academic social psychology as Bandura’s social learning theory, this view is not shared cross-culturally. Cartoon ‘manga’ comics and ‘anime’ films are immensely popular amongst Japanese people of all ages, and so are routinely available in a wide range of genres, including violent or sexually explicit ones.
Story in the Telegraph
Hodgetts, D. & Chamberlain, K. ( 2009). Teaching & Learning Guide for: Social Psychology and Media: Critical Consideration.
Sunar, D. (2009). Suggestions for a New Integration in the Psychology of Morality