The famous comic Mouse by Art Spiegelman is banned from a Tennessee middle school because he contains nudity and vulgarity. Why this decision is chilling and why it is important to know the horror of the Holocaust.

Content Warning: This article talks about the Holocaust in explicit language.

The news of a Tennessee school that decides to ban Mouse it is not shot as much as other news.
for contrived controversies on the (non-existent) crusade of the "politically correct" against snow-white, to Peter Dinklage's words about the seven dwarfs, to the Caribbean Little Mermaid and for Billy Porter as the Fairy Godmother all national newspapers spend rivers and rivers of words. When Gone with the Wind received a disclaimer explaining the distorted view of slavery in the US, yelled at the censors.

Well, this time the censorship has really been done. And it is not the work of "politically correct", or "woke culture" (whatever it is). It is the work, let me tell you clearly, of the only people who have really censored something up until now: the conservatives. And specifically, the republican, racist and anti-Semitic right of the United States, we also had the displeasure of talking about geek information.
Let's see briefly what happened this time and why we are facing a very serious situation.

Art Spiegelman, author of Maus. Photo by Bertrand Langlois / AFP
Art Spiegelman, author of Mouse. Photo by Bertrand Langlois / AFP

What it is and what it is about Mouse?

For those who do not know him, Mouse it's a comic written and drawn by Art spiegelman.
Spiegelman is a Jewish cartoonist and illustrator who to write Mouse interviewed her father, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust. In this sense, Mouse it is a work of non-fiction, ie not centered on a plot, as the comic unfolds as a dialogue between Spiegelman and his father.
The story alternates between the story of the present, and therefore of the difficult relationship between Spiegelman and his father, and the story of the past, in which the father remembers the XNUMXs and his own experience in a Nazi concentration camp.

Mouse it is characterized by a very precise and careful design style in the representation of the environment and places, which contrasts with the abstract representation of human beings, rendered as anthropomorphic animals.
Mouse, Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize and several other awards. The comic is today recognized as one of the most important works of the last 50 years and is considered a classic not only of contemporary comics, but also in contemporary literature in general.

Neil Gaiman's comment on Maus' censorship
Neil Gaiman's comment on the censorship of Mouse

Why ban Mouse?

On January 10, 2022, a school in Tennessee, la McMinn County School, he banned Maus from his school. The decision was made by the Governing Council unanimously, with 10 votes in favor of the announcement.
The reasons revolve around the presence of "bad words" and nude images.
You will find one transcription of the board meeting at this link. Here we will report the most salient parts.

What Tony Allman said

"Why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff, it is not wise or healthy. [...]
I am not denying it was horrible, brutal, and cruel. It's like when you're watching tv and a cuss word or nude scene comes on it would be the same movie without it. Well, this would be the same book without it… If I had a child in the eighth grade, this ain't happening. If I had to move him out and homeschool him or put him somewhere else, this is not happening.

“Because the education system promotes this stuff, it's neither wise nor healthy… I'm not denying that [the Holocaust] was horrible, brutal and gory. It's like when you watch TV and swear words and nudity pop up, and the movie would have been the same without them. Here, this would have been the same book even without these things ... If I had a kid in middle school, I wouldn't make it happen. Even if I had to move him or educate him at home or put him somewhere else, I wouldn't make it happen. "

What Mike Cochran said

"I never had a book with a naked picture in it, never had one with foul language […] So, this idea that we have to have this kind of material in the class in order to teach history, I don't buy it. [...]
A lot of the cussing had to do with the son cussing out the father, so I don't really know how that teaches our kids any kind of ethical stuff. It's just the opposite, instead of treating his father with some kind of respect, he treated his father like he was the victim. [...]
We don't need this stuff to teach kids history. We can teach them history and we can teach them graphic history. We can tell them exactly what happened, but we don't need all the nakedness and all the other stuff.

“I've never had a book with a nude photo, I've never had one with foul language. […] So, this idea of ​​having to have this kind of material in the classroom to teach history, I don't buy it. [...]
Much of the foul language had to do with the son insulting his father, so I don't really know how that teaches our children about ethics. Quite the opposite, instead of treating his father with respect, he treats him as if he were the victim. [...]
We don't need this stuff to teach kids history. We can teach them history and we can teach them graphic history. We can tell them exactly what happened, but we don't need the nudity and all that stuff. "

The "nude scenes" of Maus
The "nude scenes" of Mouse

Some personal impressions on the story

For my part, reading the excerpt of the session in which it was decided not to use Mouse in the curriculum, I had two main impressions.
The first was that board members had the don't get in trouble with their pupils' parents. He who knows if some parent did not decide to take school to court because he "teaches children to swear" and "shows them naked pictures". It would not be an impossible situation in the US.
However, I do not want to justify the board of directors, as I also believe that the members present there were so obsessed with enforcing frivolous rules of conduct that they can't read Mouse contextualizing it. In this case, it is clear that form is far more important to them than content.

An example of true "cancel culture"

When I find myself talking about the supposed "cancel culture", I often find myself saying that what newspapers perceive as a "cancel" is usually just a request, by some marginalized group, to consider the point of view of a minority, or to reflect on how certain stories treat minorities.
In this case, however, we are witnessing a true "cancel culture": the (real) testimony of a person belonging to an oppressed minority is silenced, for a totally frivolous reason.

The horror of the crematoria
The horror of the crematoria

Why Mouse is it right to tell the Holocaust in a graphic and crude way?

Because the Holocaust is not a fairy tale. There is nothing polite or polite family friendly in the Holocaust. The Holocaust is a chilling part of our history, which should give us goosebumps when we study it.
It is okay to try not to traumatize elementary school children when it comes to the Shoah. However, already in eighth grade, there is no reason to censor the Holocaust.

The "boys" are more mature than we think

E if some eighth grade boys and girls are able to conceptualize the image of a gas chamber in which they kill children, then we can also rest assured that they will be able to digest a "fuck" said as a curse. Or the vision of a page in which humanoid rats stand naked for showers in a concentration camp.
When I happened to teach in junior high school and I showed some videos on Remembrance Day, it happened that in the videos a “dick” appeared used as a curse in a heartfelt and heartfelt speech. When one pupil laughed because "ooooh, he said 'fuck'!", The other pupils said "eh, why, have you never heard of 'fuck'?" and went back to listen to the video.

Horror is needed

As with any work, too Mouse can be introduced with the appropriate ones content warning (like this article), and surely it is good that the end of the lesson is used to talk about how the pupils felt while reading the comic. È It is essential that the topic be treated by giving psychological support to the students (which is obviously difficult to do in one of the usual cattle classes, unfortunately).
But that doesn't mean we need to sterilize the horror of the Holocaust. Because if we can experience even one twentieth of the true horror felt by its victims, then we can understand why, really, such a thing must not happen again.
(Or it shouldn't. And we shouldn't be indifferent to the Libyan concentration camps, or the tents of Lesbos, or the refugees on the border with Poland.)