Thursday, October 31, 2013

Artist and Art

Ender's Game comes out this weekend. I'm not going to post a link, not going to post a picture, nothing. No traffic to it. No help at all. I hope it flops spectacularly and is held up as one of the biggest failures in cinematic history. I'm not really thinking that's going to happen, but my fingers are still crossed. It's not that I don't like the product, though. Probably I would. I loved the book as a youth when I first read it, and over the five or eight following years I read it and its two immediate sequels many times. I liked it so much I read almost all of the author's other stuff: the Prentice Alvin series (started good, got bogged down in complications, still don't know if it's been finished); the Homecoming Saga (good stuff, I thought); the short fiction, the minor works. Again, no links. If you're interested, you can find it. My problem isn't with the product. My problem is with the creator.

Orson Scott Card is a gifted writer and a bigot. He produces amazing fiction (with problematic messages) and is apparently a wonderful teacher and mentor to scores of writers past and present. But he's also racist, homophobic, and has advocated the violent overthrow of the nation if things don't go the way his narrow-minded creed would prefer. This creates a problem, of course. There's the art (which is good) and the artist (who is bad.) How do you separate them?

There isn't one answer. Some people can't divorce the two in any way, and once they find out a creator is a bad human being, they drop all connection to everything that's been produced by that person. Some people can completely remove such concerns from their mind; they aren't friends with people like Card, they just read his books. But of course it's more complicated than that. When an artist has money and influence, they can use it to shape discourse. Card certainly has done so; he is a notable political donor to his pet causes, and further he tithes to his church which then used its money to support...the same causes. So when you decide that you can buy a Card book, or see a movie that he's getting paid for (even if the payment's already been made, there are a great number of Ender books, and he'll get more money for each if they're made), you're giving his personal opinions (the ones you think everyone is entitled to, most likely) political power.

Which is why I'm not linking to his books. Not buying anything he produces, though I've greatly enjoyed much of his stuff when I was younger and knew no better. Why I'm not going to see the movie, though it promises to be lovely and possible even good; and why I'm advocating not seeing it to everyone I can.

He's not the only one of course: Roman Polanski is a child rapist who fled the nation to avoid charges; I don't watch his stuff; Woody Allen has a problematic relationship with his ex stepchildren, who allege a great number of things against him, and one of whom he married (apparently happily) when she was barely an adult and he was forty years older; I don't much care for his movies, so he's easy to avoid, and the issues are more tangled with him in any case. It's of course easier when the person is dead. There are hundreds of horrible people who produced great work (Leni Reifenstahl was quite probably a Nazi, and certainly something of a racist, but she made beautiful movies and took amazing photos, and fortunately, she's dead now) and it's possible, once they've left the mortal coil, to consume it without much issue. Because to me the problem is, and always will be, validating the person. When you give Card money, you validate him; and further, he spends it to make the world run the way he wants it to. When you support a Polanski movie, you tacitly accept that because he's talented it's okay he drugged and raped a 13 year old and fled prosecution. When you watch a Woody Allen flick, you put yourself in the gray area of supporting what is obviously a man who desires only much younger women, but does he desire them too young? Well, it's hard to say, and so that's up to you. But awareness is important.

Everyone has to draw their own lines, of course. Here, or there, or way over there, but they are drawn, even if you don't mean to. Mine are pretty strict, though they're fallible. I don't spend a lot of time investigating every person involved with every project. Nor should you, really. But if you find out that some raging jerk is benefiting from the art, and you still go to see it even if you disagree with that benefit, you're a bit of a raging jerk yourself, don't you think?

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