Popular Bookstore shelves 'bromance' comic book

Parents with young children objected to sexual references in comic that is rated for adults

A comic book was taken off the shelves on Wednesday at Popular Bookstore after complaints that it contained inappropriate content for young children.

Pictures of the book, My Bad Bromance, had spread among parents with young children on social media on Wednesday. Several objected to scenes in the book, such as boys chasing each other naked or baring their backsides.

Or a boy telling his friend to eat more so that his "gugubird" would grow. The friend is later seen moping in a corner after realising that his private parts had stopped growing.

Madam Jeanie Tan, who has two boys aged seven and five, said: "Maybe it's a joke to adults or older boys, but not for children."

The book is based on a webcomic series by the author about his experiences with his housemates in Malaysia. It is not meant for children.
The book is based on a webcomic series by the author about his experiences with his housemates in Malaysia. It is not meant for children. PHOTO: POPULAR BOOKSTORE

The 30-year-old who does accounts administration added: "My Primary 1 boy likes comics and he would want to read the book because the pictures are quite inviting."

The second and latest in a Malaysian series called "Bro Don't Like That La Bro", the book is based on a webcomic series by 30-year-old author Ernest Ng about his experiences with his housemates in Malaysia, from pushing each other in supermarket trolleys to asking a girl out.

Yesterday, a Popular Bookstore spokesman said it took "immediate action" to remove the book from its shelves. She added: "Popular takes any feedback from the public seriously and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused."

She said that the book, the only one in the series that was brought in, is meant for ages 18 and above. It was put under the "local interest" category in the adults section. Each copy also came with a label indicating its mature content.

Mrs Pamela Tan, 37, said her Primary 3 son borrowed the book from a classmate, and two others by the same author, about a month ago. "He found the toilet humour and Singlish very amusing and shared them with his siblings," said the entrepreneur who also has two six-year-old twins.

"What I don't like is that some parts trivialised words or situations like being sodomised, or asking friends to show each other their private parts," she said.

"Parents should take this opportunity to talk to the kids about such issues and reiterate that private parts should remain private, no matter who asks to see them," she noted, before adding that the books should not be too "readily available" to kids.

When contacted, a spokesman for the Info-communications Media Development Authority said that it had received feedback expressing concerns about the book.

"Publications which contain mature content should be treated responsibly by retailers and distributors to avoid accidental exposure to young children."

The National Library Board stated that it has only three copies of the first book in the series in its libraries' adult collection.

The book's author, Mr Ng, said via e-mail yesterday that the characters in his book are college students, and the book is not meant for children.

Ms Jolene Tan, head of advocacy and research at Association of Women for Action and Research, said: "Parents should know what material their kids are exposed to in storybooks or other media.

"Some parts in the book have homophobic messages and seem to trivialise sexual assault - that's questionable - but children's books also should not totally avoid references to genitals or body parts.

"It is good for such topics to be mindfully treated and presented."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2016, with the headline 'Popular Bookstore shelves 'bromance' comic book'. Print Edition | Subscribe