R18: contains explicit sexual material
This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this graphic novel.
Date registered: 15/06/2014
Lost Girls is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and drawn by Melinda Gebbie. Early chapters were serialised in a comics' anthology in the early 1990s. The finished work appeared as a three-volume set in 2006. The three books were collected as one volume in 2009 by United States publisher Top Shelf Productions. The single-volume publication submitted for classification consists of three "books", each with ten eight-page chapters.
The three main characters in Lost Girls are the heroines of classic works of fiction from the 19th and early 20th century: Alice, from Alice's Adventures In Wonderland (1865) and Through The Looking Glass (1871), Dorothy Gale from The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz (1900) and Wendy Darling from J. M. Barrie's (1904) play and (1911) novel Peter Pan.
Lost Girls is set in the period immediately before the outbreak of the First World War. The story follows Alice (a grey-haired aristocrat), Dorothy (now in her twenties) and Wendy (thirty-something and married to an older man) as they meet by chance at an Austrian hotel. The other women are drawn into sexual activity by Alice. Prompted by the emergence of similar dream/memory fragments, they begin to share stories about their childhood sexual awakenings and this becomes a regular part of their meetings.
In the framework set by New Zealand's Bill of Rights, classification decisions must be reasonable and demonstrably justifiable. The potential for injury to the public good if the availability of the book is unrestricted lies in its explicitly sexual subject matter, particularly the inclusion of images of incest and the abuse and exploitation of children and young people. This material is difficult and challenging.
The majority of adults are presumed to have some kind of moral compass and to know when they are dealing with fantasies built around taboo topics. By the end of the book, with war closing in, the sexual scenarios have become perverse and somewhat overwrought, as if the participants are responding to the pressure of the events about to overwhelm Europe.
The book has been acclaimed for its literary and artistic significance. In Lost Girls, Moore and Gebbie have produced a work that has a serious purpose: they intend it as "good" pornography that re-asserts pornography's potential as art and therefore, its socio-political possibilities as an antidote to repression and violence.
Given these considerations, to ban Lost Girls would be neither reasonable nor justified. Nevertheless, the book is clearly intended for adult readers. There is a consensus amongst the public of New Zealand that children and young people should not be exposed to explicit sexual material intended for adults until they reach a level of maturity and experience that would allow them to cope with such material. In particular, young readers should not be exposed to images and text that they would be likely to find extremely shocking and disturbing.
The availability of Lost Girls is therefore restricted to adult readers. The classification interferes with the right to freedom of expression set out in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. However, this is an outcome that is consistent with Parliament's intention and is a reasonable and justified limitation on the freedom of expression.
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