Bad For You’s special Christmas countdown of twelve of the weirdest, most outrageous, totally craziest bans, blocks, recalls and protests ever over toys. We’re not saying some of them aren’t earned, but do you think ALL of these toys are dangerous? 

WHY IT WAS FUN: In 2002, Barbie’s oldest pal got a makeover, and returned to toy shelves with a bulging belly; curious kids could open Midge up and pull out the baby inside. Pretty cool. Then after playing dress-up with the newborn, they could stick it back inside Midge for easy storage. Even cooler. So how could that be dangerous?

 WHY IT WAS BAD: Some parents worried little girls would be programmed into becoming single teen moms. “There’s enough teenagers getting pregnant as it is,” one (older) mother complained to USA Today. “I think they’re glamorizing it, and it’s horrible.” But Midge was part of a “Happy Family,” sold alongside boy-doll Alan (he and Midge wed in 1991) and their child-doll Ryan. Nikki was the name of the fetus/baby. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, feeling the pressure from protesting parents, pulled the baby – as well as the rest of the “Happy Family” – from their shelves two weeks before Christmas.



OK, maybe just a little comment: we know some people think these things are “Bad For You” but THIS bad!?

OOPS! Looks like it’s correction time here at BAD FOR YOU. After a little checking around, it seems this sign has been debunked! Which just goes to show you, you can’t believe everything you see on the internet (a point we make many times in the book).


Swallowed By The Dragon or Laughter in the Dark? Revisiting the D & D Moral Panic

As followers of this blog may know, has been excerpting chapters from the forthcoming book BAD FOR YOU (releasing January 7th) as part of Banned Book Week. Now that the “celebration” is over, today’s offering at Tor features a section on gaming and is a bit more downbeat than previous ones. This excerpt focuses on how a pair of tragic events led to a moral panic about the Satanic power of Dungeons and Dragons. Since the original panic was over 30 years ago, we’ve decided to post some Youtube clips on just how silly the situation got back then. First off, does Dungeons and Dragons encourage human sacrifice?

If the process of just how D & D ensnares souls is as blurry to you as that video, it is all laid out in graphic black and white by  Jack Chick in his Christian comic:

Hard to believe how scared people used to be about D & D. At least those crazy days are behind us. No one has mentioned how the game could “literally destroyed peoples’ lives.” Actually, that’s a direct quote from Pat Robertson, host of the 700 Club, which claims “approximately one million viewers” daily. A quote from this summer!

So stay away! Far away! Dungeons and Dragons is definitely BAD FOR YOU.

But if you find these warnings unconvincing and even laughable, it’s a pretty good bet you won’t be laughing alone given that comedians Stephen Colbert, Mike Meyers, Matt Groening, Rainn Wilson, Patton Oswalt, Robin Williams, David Cross and Weird Al Yanjovic are all either past or current players of D and D.


And because every claim can use a little evidence, here ours: Stephen Colbert did gave a tribute to D & D co-creator Gary Gygax at the end of The Colbert Report the day after Gygax passed away, March 5th, 2008. “Gary you will be missed,” Colbert said, then asked, “How much…?” Before he answered, he rolled a d20.

“20! May all your prismatic sprays bypass your targets’ Reflex saving throws.”

Proof that Colbert knows his game.



In the excerpt on Friday, “Game Over,” readers learned that once upon a time Scientific American warned kids against playing chess, calling it “a mere amusement of a very inferior character which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements.” Being a “mere” science mag, the editors were limited in what they could do about it, recommending kids in the 1800s partake in “out-door exercises” instead of “mental gladiatorship”. But for such a cerebral game, chess can stir some deep emotions from those in power – leading to outright bans over the years. Here’s a partial list of all the governments and organizations who have outlawed chess since Scientific American‘s lament:

Late 1950s

Is there something about scientists and chess that just don’t mix? Russians in Antarctica had to stick with checkers following the murder of a Soviet scientist at a research station there. His colleague split him open with an ax after losing a game of chess (of course the cold, isolated environment of Antarctica could have contributed to the crime – or vodka).


During China’s Cultural Revolution, chess was considered as bad as capitalism. Ten years later, the Chinese were sending players to international chess competitions!


The World Chess Federation (best known as FIDE, from its French acronym for the Federation Internationale des Echecs) decided to do some banning of their own – barring South African and Rhodesia from certain FIDE events because of the apartheid practices of their governments (in 1977 South Africa gets a full ban from FIDE for 15 more years).


Chess – actually, games in general – have been looked on with suspicion by Islam for centuries. Games can lead to gambling, which is prohibited by Islam; and like many religions, amusements like chess are considered to be time-wasters (time better spent praying). After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Islamic clergy who take control outlaw chess from public places. But chess-lovers continue, going underground during the near decade-long ban. These days, the country’s chess federation has one of the most professional coaching centers in the Middle East and kids there recently won three world titles in the under-10 and under-12 chess categories.


A confrontation between chess players and cops lead to American River College’s ban on the game in their campus library and cafeteria. Campus police are called into action after “disruptive behavior” is reported. When the game-gang at the California college refused to stop, authorities confiscated their board and their pieces.


Taliban edicts proclaim chess off-limits in Afghanistan; imprisonment or beatings can result from playing the game.


Chess was but one of many non-academic clubs banned from Salt Lake City high schools. The game wasn’t the problem – an across-the-board ban was enacted to prevent teens from organizing a separate club for gay students.


Rowdy chess spectators cause the game to be banned at the Minneapolis Public Library.


For similar reasons, the game was banned from malls in Chicago’s Hyde Park.


Game-bangers cause a chess ban in Emercon Playground, New York City; seven adult chess players receive summonses from police later that year.


Games of chance (chess, dice, backgammon, etc.) are still prohibited from entering the country of Saudi Arabia – so don’t pack a chess set if you plan to travel there!


There’s a lot of scary claims out there about video games: that they’re too violent, that they turn kids antisocial, that they’re just plain BAD FOR YOU. But if you’re a gamer who would like to address those claims for yourself, the National Coalition Against Censorship would like to listen. And watch. The NCAC has a new film contest and the theme is “Video Games in the Crosshairs.”

So here it is, a chance for you, the ones who actually play the games, to voice your opinion in a creative and fun way. Deadline for submission is December 13th. It’s free to enter and the top three winners receive cash prizes. Money! For more video games!!! Must be 19 or under to apply. The first place winner will received a free one-week digital filmmaking course at the New York Film Academy, plus a $5,000 scholarship toward any one-, two-, or three-year NYFA program .



If you’ve been following the excerpts from BAD FOR YOU at, you might recall the name Anthony Comstock and the committee he founded back in 1873, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. That’s the group’s seal directly above, and the burning books in the picture should give you some idea of his approach toward the literature which he judged immoral. Reportedly, Comstock was responsible for the frying of over 15 tons of books, printing plates and photographs during the time he oversaw the organization. But book burning didn’t start with old Comstock and it certainly didn’t end with the final demise of the group in 1950. In fact, the year the committee disappeared fell right smack in the middle of a feverish period of torching, documented in today’s BFY excerpt: the Comic Burning map, which highlights the hot spots of comic incineration in the U.S. from 1945-55.

Not surprising, religious leaders were some of the most vocal opponents to comics at the time – much as they have been against the Harry Potter books in more recent years. For instance, in 1949 a collection of crime comics were gathered by girl scouts in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and then handed over to students at St. Mary’s Catholic high school. “Following a script by the parish pastor, Rev. Theon Schoen,” David Hajdu writes in The Ten Cent Plague (a terrific book that served as source material for BFY’s map), “the students conducted a mock trial of four comic-book characters, portrayed by upperclassmen who pleaded guilty to ‘leading young people astray and building up false conceptions in the minds of youth.’” Following the trial, the great comic book campfire was set ablaze and Rev. Schoen “led the assembled group of more than four hundred students from St. Mary’s elementary and high schools in a…pledge to ‘neither read nor purchase objectionable publications and to stay away from retail establishments where such are sold.’”

While it might not seem unexpected that the Catholic Church would have some involvement with book burning, here at BAD FOR YOU we can’t help wondering how many readers are aware of the Church’s history of setting fire to copies of THE BIBLE!!! It sure shocked us when we found out that for centuries, the Bible has been a red-hot reminder of how books deemed unsuitable for burning can shift, depending on the winds of change, to become the fuel for censors’ bonfires. If one steps back to take in the big picture though, it’s easy to see how the smoldering smoke from these glowing flames have a way of blowing back into the faces of the folks who originally set them, illuminating a certain hypocrisy inherent in any act of book burning.

Hmm, have we stretched that metaphor a bit too far? Probably, so how about we just prove our point with a timely time line about the twisted logic of torching, which we have titled…


Before the Catholic Church started burning Bibles, the Pope warmed up with Talmud scrolls (a Jewish sacred text). Only four years earlier, the Talmud was put on trial in Paris for “being harmful to Christian society.” The text was declared guilty and condemned by the court of King Louis IX. Twenty-four cartloads of scrolls were scorched into ash. For his efforts, Louis IX was declared a saint in 1297. Plenty more public burnings of the Talmud by Popes followed, including: Innocent IV (1243–1254), Clement IV(1256–1268), John XXII (1316–1334), Paul IV (1555–1559), Pius V (1566–1572) and Clement VIII (1592–1605).

Hebrew Bibles (i.e. the Old Testament) were burned along with other Jewish texts during the Spanish Inquisition.

Martin Luther, a religious leader who broke from the Church, had his German translation of the Bible burned in Catholic-dominated regions of Germany.

In Protestant-dominated England, it was Pope and other prominent Catholics who found themselves on the other side of the bonfire – or rather, in it…at least as effigies. Along with their writings and Bibles. Since the last person was burned at the stake for heresy in 1612, the public Hangman, who usually dispensed such “justice”, had switched to burning effigies and heretical texts instead.

Once again it was Burnabout time as Protestant books and Bibles were burned by the Archbishop of Salzburg as he savagely persecuted followers of Martin Luther’s breakaway Christian sect living in rural regions of the country.

The world’s most famous book-burners, the Nazis, torched an estimated 100 million books throughout occupied Europe, including Torah scrolls. By burning and looting libraries and censoring “un-German” publications, the Nazis tried to eliminate all traces of Jewish culture (as well as the Jewish people – six million of them were systematically murdered). In his 1821 play, Almansor, German writer Heinrich Heine referred to the burning of the Koran (the key religious text of the Muslim religion) during the Spanish Inquisition: “Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings.” The Nazis burned Heine’s books too.

Adolf Hitler, Germany’s Chancellor and the head of the Nazi party, had his autobiography Mein Kampf (in a sense, the “Bible” of the Third Reich) burned when Allied forces invaded Germany at the end of World War II. The Allied Control Council issued a directive for the confiscation on all media that could contribute to militarism from German libraries as part of the “denazification” movement. Over 30,000 titles were destroyed. “The representative of the Military Directorate admitted that the order was in principle no different from the Nazi book burnings.” Even to this day, there are restrictions on Mein Kampf’s availability in parts of Europe.

First the Fascists in Nazi German burned books…then the Allies burned the books of Fascists…then the U.S. government burned a book titled The Mass Psychology of Fascism written by noted psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prosecuted Reich in 1954 following an investigation of his device called the “orgone accumulator” (which the government dubbed quack science). In March 1960, six more tons of Reich’s books were incinerated.

The Satanic Verses by British author Salman Rushdie is published and almost immediately branded as anti-Islamic by Iranian leader the Ayatollah Khomeini. A fatwā is issued against Rushdie – essentially a death sentence for blasphemy – and the novel is burned in protest in a number of cities in the United Kingdom. The Japanese translator of the book was murdered in 1991.

American troops confiscate and burn Bibles written in the Pashto and Dari languages in Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Mark Wright told CNN “such religious outreach could endanger American troops and civilians because Afghanistan is ‘devoutly Muslim country.’” Using the Bibles to try to convert Afghans to Christianity directly violates the U.S. military rules against proselytizing religion in any country.

2008 (again)
Orthodox Jewish youths set fire to hundreds of copies of the New Testaments in Or Yehuda, Israel after the city’s deputy mayor calls for a bonfire of the missionary-distributed material. The burning is staged next to the town’s synagogue. The deputy mayor said that “he regretted the burning of the books, but called it a commandment to burn materials that urge Jews to convert.”

More modern variations of the original King James version of the Bible (which, it should be noted, is itself a translation of Greek and Latin texts), were originally planned to be set ablaze on Halloween 2009 by The Amazing Grace Baptist Church of Canton, North Carolina, headed by Pastor Marc Grizzard. But destruction of the so-called heretical texts had to be postponed until this later date due to protests, a state environmental protection law against open burning…and rain.

A copy of the Koran is burned by Florida pastor Terry Jones in his Gainesville church and condemned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. At lease 30 people are killed following protests in Afghanistan. Among the murdered were United Nations Assistance Mission employees, who were shot and decapitated (though not burned).




If you’re linking to us for the first time, welcome to BAD FOR YOU!

And to the hearty handful of others who have been here from the start, welcome back.

This is the website for updates on general bad-for-you stuff in kid world. Rather than define what that means, we prefer to simply show it, just as we do in the book that this site is based on (the book, by the way, is set to be released in January 2014 — and available for pre-order with a click on the book’s cover at the right of this page).

Here you’ll find candid shots of school lunches, news about zero tolerance policies, controversies over violent videogames, as well as the latest suspension for flatulence on a school bus. We try to cover all the things that someone out there thinks is bad for kids. 

bookOne of the things we think is bad for kids, and everyone else, is book banning. As it happens, is excerpting sections of BAD FOR YOU for the next couple of weeks as part of its “celebration” of Banned Book Week. Celebrating book censorship might sound a little weird because, after all, who wants to throw a party over a bunch of books getting banned. But what Banned Book Week celebrates is “the freedom to read,” according to the American Library Association (one of the biggest sponsors for the annual event).

But you also can’t celebrate “the freedom to read” without highlighting when that freedom has been challenged by censorship. And those challenges occurred over forty times during 2012-13; challenges to books and graphic novels that were considered bad for kids. Six of which were fantasy or SF, the beloved genre of followers (also popular among censorship-lovers).

This post is a nod to both genres, the hands-down winners for most censored this past year (a perfect segue to today’s BAD FOR YOU excerpt: “Nursery Crimes: Fear And Fantasy”). 

1) Ender’s Game

Leading off with a Tor publication (it’s up to readers to figure out why), Ender’s Game is an award-winning futuristic tale about specially bred, super-smart kids designed to fight off an alien attack. Though originally published in 1994, the book made the news in 2012 when a teacher at Schofield Middle School in Aiken, S.C. read it aloud to his class and one of his students (and more importantly, the kid’s parent), declared the book pornographic – even though a number of review websites deemed Ender’s Game as “appropriate for readers twelve and older”. The instructor was threatened with criminal charges; charges which, happily, were eventually dismissed. Perhaps in the future, specially bred super-smart kids will be used to fight off any censorship attacks.

2) Feed

Another futuristic society story, this time with folks connected to the Internet via direct implants in their brains. Called “trash” and “covered with the F-word,” the book was challenged in a Virginia high school in Green County, even though the teacher had posted on the school web page a warning about Feed‘s mature nature and a consent form was sent home with students to be signed by parents prior to the assigned reading. Among this “trash” title’s many honors: National Book Award Finalist and Junior Library Guild selection.

3) The Handmaid’s Tale

Here’s a pretty well-known title from famed author Margaret Atwood about yet another futuristic society where, due to declining birthrates, a woman’s main function has been reduced to breeding. The book was required reading for a Page High School International Baccalaureate class at Grimsley High School in Guilford County, N.C. – or, at least it was until challenged for being “sexually explicit, violently graphic and morally corrupt.”

4) Fight Club

Like the previous title, Fight Club was popular enough to be adapted into a big-budget Hollywood movie. And violent enough to be challenged by parents in Katy, Tex. Independent School District who were able to get it removed from the required reading list. Too bad it wasn’t called “Hug Club”.

5) Robopocalypse

Despite being challenged for it’s “inappropriate language,” the national bestseller managed to remain on the required reading list at the Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville, Tenn. It also managed to win the 2011 Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association.

6) Neonomicon

We end the 2012-13 list with, appropriately enough, a graphic novel. This Lovecraftian horror fantasy was penned by Alan Moore of Watchmen fame. It was banned from the Greenville County, S.C. Public Library in 2012 because a teenager was able to check it out, even though the comic was placed in the library’s adult section. “The head of the library system overturned an internal review committee’s decision to retain the graphic novel because the pictures gave her pause,” according to an Illinois Library Association article on challenged and banned books – which also served as the basis for this post.

As already mentioned, fantasy and SF are two of the most popular genre’s for book banning. In fact, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five has the dubious honor of being named number four on the Ten Most Banned Books list of all time. Of course, the Harry Potter series (featured on today’s BAD FOR YOU excerpt at is trying it’s best to keep up. And like the Potter books, Slaughterhouse Five has been burned by censors. It was back in 1973 when copies of the book wound up slaughtered in a North Dakota school furnace. In fact, administrators were so determined to see the novel destroyed they assumed a scorched-earth policy, and had students’ lockers searched to make sure every last one of the copies (originally issued for a class assignment) were confiscated and burned. After being informed of the torching, Vonnegut wrote to the school board chairman, “If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.”

Of course Vonnegut isn’t the only famous figure in SF to weigh in such a burning issue. There’s also this guy:

We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, is all ancient history. Then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly, it threatens to start all over again.

Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)




Heads up to followers of the BAD FOR YOU website (both of you):, a hub site for “all the things that interest SF and fantasy readers” will be excerpting sections of BAD FOR YOU beginning Monday, as part of their recognition of Banned Book Week (September 22−28). Never heard of Banned Book Week? It’s an annual event “celebrating the freedom to read,” according to the American Library Association. Though, along with all the celebrating, there’s a big dose of lamenting as well.

Why so sad? Because of all the books still getting targeted for challenging, censoring  and outright banning from book stores, libraries and schools, that’s why. A total of forty-four for 2012-13 (and that’s the Illinois Library Associations short list).

BAD FOR YOU is honored to be a part of the celebration and thanks Tor Publishing for allowing us to participate. The history of comic book and book banning (and burning) is the main focus of the first section of BFY. In particular, censoring fantasy material for the sake of sensitive kids — since they weren’t supposed to be sophisticated enough to tell the difference between make-believe and real life. It’s an old story…one that started with Plato (yeah, that one).

Banned Book Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; the Freedom to Read Foundation; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; National Association of College Stores; PEN American Center and and Project Censored.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.



While the internet offers kids (heck – ALL people) the ability to access an unbelievable amount of info these days, it has also broken down some of the barriers that once stood between children and material that they might find disturbing if exposed to at too young an age. Policing these borders of knowledge is of special concern in places where the internet is accessed by kids: schools and libraries, in particular. To control this, filtering software has been added to computers at those locations to block content deemed as “unsuitable”. Unfortunately, this filtering technology has proved to be far from perfect, as a blogger from England has pointed out in a recent post.

“On Monday, I was sitting in the British Library frantically trying to write my new book…[and] I had to quickly check a particular line in Hamlet, so I Googled Hamlet MIT, because the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has put the entire works of Shakespeare up on the Internet. (It takes 70 mins to order a physical book). I clicked on the link and…

A message came up from the British Library telling me that access to site was blocked due to ‘violent content.’”


The Bard barred for “violent content”?! Why, that’s bloody crazy!!!


This week Chicago public school students were set free for the summer, but when they return to classes at the end of August there will be something missing that was there when the 2012-13 year began (and we’re not talking about the 50 schools that will be shut down for good after being deemed underperforming). The big difference we’re talking about is the absence of the highly-praised graphic novel Persepolis: A Story of Childhoodwhich was officially banned from all Chicago middle and high schools in March. According to an email sent out to staff by Christopher Dignam, principal of Lane Tech High School, the Chicago School Board mandated that all copies of Persepolis be removed from every library and classroom in the network. The autobiographical comic by Marjane Satrapi, which depicts her early years growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution, was first published in France in 2000, and has gone on to become an internationally acclaimed comic. In 2007, it was adapted into a successful animated film as well and even received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. All of which begs the question: what can’t Chicago kids read it in school? According to an email sent out to staff by Christopher Dignam, principal of Lane Tech High School, while he was mandated to “physically” take each copy out of the school and confirm that it was done – he was not “provided a reason for the collection of Persepolis. If I learn more I will inform all staff….”

Later, Chicago Public School’s general counsel James L. Bebley explained that the ban was based on the book’s “graphic images of torture… as well as obscene language.” CPS administrators determined it is not appropriate for use in the 7th grade curriculum and are considering whether or not 8th and 9th graders should be exposed to Persepolis. The Kids’ Right to Read Project, an initiative of the National Coalition Against Censorship, filed a second Freedom of Information Act records request with the district for internal documents on the removal. At this time, they have yet to receive those documents from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Whatever the internal documents say, it will still be hard to explain CPS’s erratic behavior, given the fact that Persepolis served “as a foundational text to discuss violence against women and equal rights in a curriculum developed and endorsed by CPS itself, the Chicago Teacher’s Union and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.” Chicago Teachers Union’s financial secretary, Kristine Mayle, commented on behalf of CTU: “We are surprised Persepolis would be banned by the…CPS system. The only place we’ve heard of this book being banned is in Iran. We understand why the district would be afraid of a book like this – at a time when they are closing schools – because it’s about questioning authority, class structures, racism and gender issues.”

BAD FOR YOU tracks the long history of comic (and book) censorship in America in its opening chapter “Flames of Fear.” Click on the “Book” section of the BFY banner to see the “Comic Burning Map,” which graphically explains the fiery issue comics became in this country in the 1940s & 50s.