Bandit's Banter

A little while ago, ther was quite a lively discussion among Keenspot members about the Newsboxes you see on the front pages of all our sites.  The Newsboxes are rotated every day so that a different Keenspot strip gets its day in the sun.  Anyway, a few recent Newsboxes featured some rather suggestive content, mainly in the form of scantily-clad female characters.  Not surprisingly, these Newsboxes managed to generate a higher-than-average number of hits for their sites than a regular Newbox would.   There was quite a controversy among us Keenspotters.  Should these types of Newsboxes be allowed to continue?  If so, should alternate Newsboxes be offered, to those site that don't wish to display PG+ content?  In my case, I've no intention of going with a G rated Newsbox, as I figure that you guys can handle seeing a Newsbox with PG+ rated content inside it.

As for me, don't expect to see any upcoming Bruno the Bandit Newsboxes with half-naked ladies in 'em.  I have generally avoided including a "cheesecake factor" in my strip, so it would be rather dishonest of me to suggest to new readers that this is the sort of thing you will find when you visit my site.  A ploy like this may get you a bunch of hits, but these new readers may not bother to come back once they realize that they've been misled.  Plus, you may also alienate potential readers who won't click on your Newsbox because of the suggested racy content, even though they may have given your strip a chance otherwise.  So, to my fellow Keenspotters reading this: the Newsbox is a great idea, and an opportunity for you to introduce yourself to thousands of new readers.  Use it wisely.

This whole controversy got me to thinking in general about how we define "mature content" in our entertainment, and how truly ironic that definition actually is.  What does "mature content" mean to you?  It generally means graphic depictions of violence, sexuality, and foul language.  Yep, that's real mature content, folks!  I'm sorry, but just because there's content in a book, movie, TV show, comic strip etc., that's not suitable for children, that does not make it mature content!

And generally, I find that the more a book, movie, etc. is hyped as being for "adults only!", or having "mature content", it isn't!  Think about it:  which TV show truly has "mature" content: Nova, on PBS, or The Jerry Springer ShowNova is far more likely to teach you something, to expand your world, to make you think.  It never tries to be offensive: you can watch it with your kids.

And there's a real race on between creators of what is commonly known as "mature entertainment" to outdo one another, or so it seems.  How do we make our stuff more violent, more offensive, etc.?  In other words, how low can we go?  I roll my eyes whenever I hear that some artist "pushes the envelope" in his/her form of entertainment.  Generally, it's something along the lines of a song that contains the "f" word more times than any song before it.  Wow, how innovative, huh?  "Pushing the envelope" usually means an extra dose of the same boring negative crap that's gone on before.

By now, some readers may have concluded that I am a prude, and perhaps even a hypocrite, especially as Bruno the Bandit is not, I admit, the cleanest comic strip you will ever read.  It can get pretty tasteless sometimes, and will probably continue to do so.  However, I am not against "mature entertainment" per se.  I do not oppose it, and am not trying to stop it.  As the old saying goes, I may not like what you say, but I'll defend to the death (or at least, having my hair pulled) your right to say it.  If I don't like what someone has to say, I can just ignore 'em (hmm, I wonder how many readers I just lost?)

Hey, I'm a Monty Python fan, and they could get pretty lewd and offensive when they wanted to.  One of my favorite shows was The Larry Sanders Show, where the "f" word was used quite frequently.  However, that was never a selling point of that show, i.e., "watch The Larry Sanders Show, and you'll hear the "f" word!!"  Whereas, that is the main selling point for a lot of today's "mature entertainment".  I guess that's what you gotta do in lieu of providing any true mature content.

I've a hunch that something with truly mature content is something that children just wouldn't be interested in anyway, because they wouldn't understand it.  Larry Sanders may have the "f" word in its scripts, but as it's a searing satire of the late-night talk-show wars, few children would truly know, or care, what it's about.

The bottom line: I'm not opposed to any form of "adults-only" entertainment whatsoever.  I just don't agree with having excursions into vulgarity advertised as "mature content".  It gives maturity a bad name.  Or maybe I'm just too immature to know better.  Cartoonists aren't known for their maturity, after all.

What are your thoughts on the matter?  Am I full of it, or what?  Don't hesitate to e-mail me, and let me know what you think.  Or, you can talk about it on the Bruno the Bandit Message Board.  I'd quote a certain analogy about opinions, and how everybody has one, but after this essay, I'd probably get in a lot of trouble! :-)