Where do I begin?

Honestly. I was going to happily post about having a story shortlisted for an Aurealis Award (which is very shiny!) and then I hear about a news story telling me that 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. Ludicrous, infuriating and depressing … trifecta! Here’s the full report from The Age:

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.

However it was also to deter the production of other material, including cartoons, that could “fuel demand for material that does involve the abuse of children.”

He dismissed the appeal and ordered each party to pay its own costs as it was “the first case dealing with [this] difficult issue.”

So this poor guy has to shell out three grand plus costs and wear a good behaviour bond for four years (what, he isn’t allowed to go and see Disney movies?) and have this vile charge on his criminal record all because he had some smutty Simpsons porn on his hard drive? Fuck, I think I have some smutty Simpsons porn on my hard drive. I know I remember getting some emailed to me by someone at some stage so it’s probably still cached somewhere. Or maybe that was the old computer. The point is, in what fucked-up Salemesque world is smutty drawings of fictional cartoon characters the equivalent of kiddie porn? What fucktard was responsible for taking this guy to court in the first place? How on earth can this be considered a “difficult issue”?

Kiddies and cats, you better burn all your manga and hentai now. Especially your hentai.

On Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope last night, he interviewed Wendy Whiteley, ex-wife of the late artist Brett Whiteley. Andrew asked about when Wendy first met Brett and sat for him, nude, at the age of 15. “Oh, we can’t talk about that,” Wendy chided. “That sort of thing is illegal. Let’s just say I was 16.” She was being slightly-but-not-really flippant and slightly-but-not-really funny but the point was well taken. The grey area of sexuality, the even greyer area of artistic freedom.

A few years ago I wrote a story, called “Louisa”, which would now quite probably be considered either tantamount to child pornography or an apologia for paedophila. Naturally, I would consider it be neither.  After being bounced back by several editors (providing a couple of the most vitriolic rejections I have ever received), the very brave Trent Jamieson published it in his now defunct Redsine. It’s a good story. A nasty and horrible story, but a good one. It presses uncomfortable buttons and it’s a piece of which I’m still very proud. I have the very sad feeling, though, that if I were ever to have a collection published, “Louisa” might not be included. Certainly not if it was a mainstream publication.

I used to be rabidly anti-censorship. I still am, actually, but I no longer bore friends to the point of tears with my rants and I no longer go out of my way to acquire material which has been “refused classification” (the sanitised way we Australians have of saying “banned” so we can pretend we don’t do that sort of thing here) just to for the sake of it and I no longer hiss beneath my breath when the OFLC classification advisory comes up before movie previews. I got very sick of being angry and frustrated over this shit all the time and so I very deliberately tuned out. I stopped keeping ultra-close tabs on the Wowsers and the Fucktards. I unsubscribed to the Eros Foundation newsletters. I no longer read OFLC reports. I tried to be a grown up. It worked, for a little while.

But lately, with the Bill Henson case and other bits of fucked-upedness surfacing all over the place, the old familiar anger and frustration has started to bite again. I’m not sure what to do with it yet, but I’m not ready to pack it away this time.

Suddenly, being an Aurealis Award finalist doesn’t seem quite so important in the grand ole scheme o’ things. But it’s still very shiny.

6 Comments

  1. Every now and then Xian societies have moral panics and unfortunately a lot of more or less innocent people get hurt. Savonarola has a lot of memetic descendants.

    We *should* protect children from predators but unfortunately most of them are family members and religious instructors and those categories of people in the too hard basket for governments.

    The only time I ever happened upon kiddie pics of that nature in a Usenet group, it physically sickened me and I wrote a rant that ended up being incorporated into Lucy Sussex’s “Black Ice”. The idea of hard drives full of things that nauseate me is abhorent, but there needs to be some clearer legal definitions to work from here.

    • Both the police involved, and the smarter anti-censorship campaigners I’m involved with, tend to use the term ‘child abuse material’ to make it clear that the real problem here is the abuse of actual children.

      • Good differentiation there and very important. I think I was just given a new phrase to use.

        • […] Family Association: Oh and you know the AFA press rleaese I was telling you about. The gist of it is the same as their ABC Online article today: Online filtering recognises […]

  2. I’m an anti-censorship campaigner myself (I’m on the board of Eletronic Frontiers Australia, an online civil liberties group that does a lot of anti-censorship work and is leading the campaign against the ALP internet censorship plan).

    And yes, there does seem to be a Wowser Fucktard upswing of late.

    In a cynical, pragmatic way, I’m kind of pleased that this court case was the one to bring up a legal issue I have been worried about for a while (its been legally explicitly plausible in our Federal child porn laws for a few years now). I’m kind of glad that its over stupid crap about the Simpsons, that many many people have probably seen mailed around, rather than over slash or anime or furry porn or something, which is just about as harmless, but enjoyed by a weird minority ripe for demonizing.

  3. It’s all rubbish. Realistically, if they want to follow this line of thought, all the Simpson’s DVDs and TV episodes need to be rated at M or above, for violence, graphic content, and child endangerment.


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