Monday, June 14, 2010

Joyce’s Ulysses Banned Again—by Apple, Not the Government

Somewhere, James Joyce must be laughing at Steve Jobs.

As everyone who took a modern lit class in college knows, Ulysses was banned from publication in the United States because of a scene in which Leopold Bloom masturbates on a beach while fireworks burst nearby. The courts eventually decided the episode wasn't obscene because it didn't promote lust.

History is repeating itself again as Bloomsday approaches, this time in Apple's (AAPL) App Store. Sarah Weinman at the Daily Finance says that a Webcomic adaptation of the book, Rob Berry and Josh Levitas' Ulysses Seen, has been banned from iPads and iPhones because of cartoon nudity. Here is a picture of an offending panel (courtesy of Robot 6), in which stately, plump Buck Mulligan dives nude into the sea.

Shocking, isn't it?

Now, I understand Apple's arguments against sexual content on the iPhone and iPad. For every developer who objects to the censorship, there are a number of parents who welcome it. The First Amendment doesn't bar a company from banning porn from its products, just as they can ban it from the workplace. And besides, you can still see the uncensored comic on the Web, even through an iPhone browser.

But, honestly. This isn't porn, or even sexual. It certainly doesn't promote lust. The drawing of Mr. Mulligan's genitals is too abstract to titillate. Why, we can't even tell if they are stately or plump. I've seen stick-figure graffiti on the walls of public bathrooms that is more explicit.

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