By Pang Xue Qiang
Another banned book has come under the spotlight in Singapore: Archie The Married Life Volume 3 has been removed by Kinokuniya.
“We regret that Archie The Married Life 3 is deemed to breach the Content Guidelines for Imported Publications, and removed from sale by notice of MDA. We are not able to sell this title,” said a spokesperson from Kinokuniya Singapore.
Archie The Married Life is a comic series in five volumes. It features a gay character in Riverdale named Kevin Keller. The character gets married in Volume 3.
Only volumes 1, 2, 4 and 5 are sold in the bookstore.
Sonny Liew, a comic artist based in Singapore, discovered the ban when he made an inquiry at Kinokuniya.
His probe came in light of NLB’s controversial decision to remove two children’s books from its shelves after it received complaints that the books were not “pro-family”.
“The Archie comic was one I had been vaguely aware of [that raised LGBT issues], just by being involved in the comics industry.
“I had an intuition that the pressure groups sending out letters to public institutions might not just stop at libraries.
“It seemed logical that they would want books with objectionable content removed from other sources, including commercial bookstores,” he said.
However, it is unclear if the ban was due to public complaints (as with the NLB) or a unilateral decision by the MDA.
Under the Content Guidelines for Imported Publications: “Publications that encourage, promote or glamourise sexually permissive and alternative lifestyles and deviant sexual practices are generally not allowed.”
At this point, there is no official statement from the MDA yet to explain its decision.
“I’d long thought that there was public access to a list of banned media, given the reports you always see on titles or screenings being blocked by the MDA.
“It seems, however, that there is no such list available – we can only find out what’s restricted by asking about specific titles in an ad hoc manner,” said Liew.
Archie The Married Life 3 may be unavailable at Kinokuniya, but a search of the NLB catalogue shows a surprising result.
The libraries only have copies of Volume 3 and none of the others.
“I’m not sure what this means – maybe that the NLB makes its own decisions, whilst commercial bookstores have to deal with the MDA.
“It’s a sign that the system is not entirely consistent, which may be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it,” said Liew.
“Apparently in the next issue of that Archie series, Archie gets shot while trying to save his gay friend’s life. Not sure what the MDA will make of that,” he added.