Pini’s “Red Death”: Facebook censors sex, not violence.

LezGetReal's hilariously censored version of Bunchh

LezGetReal’s hilariously censored version of Bunchh

The Controversy:

It’s not an East Coast/West Coast Thang: In a perfect example of the age-old argument over the American censorship bias that considers sex somehow more heinous than violence, Silicon Valley based Facebook censors (or at least the computer programming that represents them) tagged as inappropriate an ethereal, innocently-posed topless cartoon of the blue-skinned androgynous  character Bunchh from Wendy Pini online animated comic, “Masque of the Red Death.”

There is quite a bit of thought-provoking dialogue occurring on gay-and-lesbian websites about the somewhat gender-neutral character, whether or not she (he?) is a pre-op transexual, and what Facebook’s decision to ban her pink nipplyness might mean.

You can see aforementioned toplessness on the artfully designed poster available at the Masque Cafe Press Shop:

Wendy Pini says on the Masque Facebook Page:

“[L]et’s get one thing straight…Bunchh is an hermaphrodite, NOT transgender. Both are cool, but Bunchh is perfectly happy being “just a little bit of everything.”

Regardless of what Bunchh’s gender is, we have to ask ourselves why cartoon breasts are considered objectionable? I know from personal experience that many kinds of fictional depictions of violence are perfectly acceptable on Facebook. Look at my “I, Stammer” ‘Meatface’ artwork and the any-number of zombie depictions I keep posting over there.

The Comic

Me with my signed Masque print

Me with my signed Masque print (Anton)

“Masque of the Red Death”, based on the Poe story of the red plague, is a beautifully rendered ride through an apocalyptic event occurring in a dystopian future.  Stephan is her Prince Prospero, son of a wealthy magnate of biotechnology. Much of the future revolves around biotechnological attempts to extend life, but at a monetary cost. The availability of extended life but only for the rich leads to an extremely beautiful yet superficial society for those who are able to pay.  The story’s central characters are a gay couple, Stephan and Anton. Stephan is broody and demanding, Anton is romantic and giving, but they compliment each other.

Bunnch’s role in all of this is as party planner, publicist, and moral compass. Her bubbly personality and love of the fabulous make her an usual figure to choose as moral compass: yet she is. She is the balance that bookend extremes Anton and Stephan lack. She is the Cassandra in Stephan’s Troy, because she is the only one who seems to sense, almost intuitively, that death will arrive on their door.

I was extremely excited when I first learned that Wendy Pini, half of the Richard-and-Wendy Pini team responsible for the popular fanfic spawning comic book and graphic novel franchise “ElfQuest”, had published an apocalyptic work of science-fiction horror based upon Edgar Allan Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” It was as if two of my most closely held memories of adolescent joy had met and combined somehow in a collaborative work of art. I spent the entire eighth grade sitting around the school library reading the collected works of Poe, and one of my first activities upon reaching adulthood was sitting in my dingy hotel was reading through the entire first five books of the ElfQuest graphic novels, lent to me by a friend.

The “Red Death” in Poe’s Masque is most likely based on Tuberculosis, a condition that affected his wife at the time he wrote it. The Pini retelling of Masque has a lot of the Tuberculosis type symptoms, but for many such as myself, who lived through the many deaths in the American AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, it also evokes memories of that dark chapter in our young lives.  We were coming out of the 60s and 70s sex revolution and free love when we came of age, and we didn’t know that in a little while, the party would be over and death would be at our door. Many of my friends died: including a young man named Robert Bunch.

When I see the Bunnch character, I always think of him.

The Links:

You can watch Wendy Pini’s wonderful online comic here:

Two other takes on this controversy can be found here…

~ by Sumiko Saulson on July 31, 2012.

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