Comic Books cause lewd thoughts. Video games cause violence. Heavy Metal music causes suicide. Scantily clad women in comic books cause sexism. 

This delusion: that fiction causes fact, is an American creation — though it seems to have spread to other cultures. In America, we blame our problems on other people, on inanimate objects, on simulations, on anything but ourselves. I didn’t do it, the book made me do it! The game made me do it! The song made me do it! It wasn’t me!

I’ve been in the middle of this argument in comics and roleplaying games and video games, and it comes down to this: people choose their own path. A work of fiction; a game or comic or film does not dictate an individual’s actions. Anyone who suggests otherwise is insane or wrong. 

The easy escape of saying: that book is filth, it objectifies women, therefore it must be eliminated, is weak-minded crap. The book itself may be filth, it may be garbage, but it is a work of fiction. If your life is so empty, and your mind so not your own that you cannot resist the siren’s call of emulating behavior found in a story, how did you ever survive to read this?

Do not mistake me, sexism is real and pervasive, but eliminating it — or any other concept — from fiction and art is a pipe-dream, and would require the death of free thought to truly achieve. Even worse. Even if it was eliminated, the feeling would not be. Neo-Nazism thrives in Germany, despite the entire concept of Nazism being outlawed for almost 70 years. How’s that going?  

If you dislike a piece of fiction or art, don’t pretend it is rending the world in two and brainwashing people, it is just a piece of fiction or art. If you dislike violence, don’t spend money on things that promote violence, be vocal of your dislike for violence, write articles or create art as a counterpoint, but don’t pretend that such a concept can be eliminated — that’s not going to happen, just like the restriction of violence is never going to happen.

There will always be pain, suffering, hate, intolerance, violence. Outlawing any of these concepts in art and fiction because they exist in the real world eliminates one of the most important things in the human experience, the freedom and peace to reflect upon an issue. And only a simple minded person believes that eliminating a concept from fiction will eliminate it from the world. That’s not a realistic thought. 

Worse yet, restricting such expression is one step away from restricting all free thought. 

If there is an issue, it is that Americans are taught that ideas can take control of people without their consent. Ideas are indeed powerful, and they can shape the world, but not without the willing consent of the person absorbing them. Every person makes a choice. 

We need to educate our children that the responsibility for their actions and thoughts are their own. That the choices they make have an impact, and that reading or experiencing fiction and art is a great method for assembling a world view that is more inclusive and expansive than might be achieved without it.