I still remember the day someone took my copy of Watchmen and waved it in front of my math class claiming I was reading pornography. I was lucky to have a teacher who knew what Watchmen was and explained to this student that, no, it wasn’t pornography, it was literature. If it had been another teacher or administrator, I would have gotten in trouble. Yet a year later, I had to read Oryx and Crake which involved drug use and child pornography. It made me wonder, and I still wonder today, why we look at sexual content differently in Graphic Novels.
There are a variety of reasons why Dr. Manhattan chooses to be naked, but one theory that makes sense involves some discussions we have in class. Whenever Dr. Manhattan wears clothes, he’s “playing human” in a sense. He wore a costume when he went to Vietnam and he wore a suit to The Comedian’s funeral. Whenever Dr. Manhattan is doing anything that distances him from humans, he’s naked. It’s an effective visual device that gives the readers more of a view into his character, and it gives invasive high schoolers something to yell about.
Now moving onto the topic of sexual content in literature (or just books, some of the books I’m going to mention aren’t literature at all.) The thing with graphic novels, is that you can look inside them and see the sexual content. It’s not always that way with books. Sometimes when I bought books, my dad would do a quick flip through to make sure they were appropriate and despite those flip throughs, sometimes I would be reading a book only to find I was not reading a novel about young business women, but…something else.
It might just be that we find visual sexual content to be more inappropriate than text. It explains the 50 Shades of Grey phenomena. People were reading porn out in public, but because it was in the form of text instead of pictures (and it was horribly written). The conclusion to this is kind of sad, that we write off a graphic novel on something so simple as a little bit of nudity. But then again, we ban books for stupid reasons as well.