Drawing the line on bigotry

Posted by

classic novels

I read something online recently where this guy was ranting about one of my favorite scifi writers, Orson Scott Card. This guy considered the author a bigot (actually he used a very colorful adjective to describe him) and even though he wanted to read his books (Ender’s Game series) and watch the movies based on those books, he wouldn’t because he didn’t want to spend his hard-earned money of an effing bigot.

I don’t know if Card is a bigot, or what he said or did that made this guy think he was, but the rant did get me thinking – what responsibility do we have as consumers to know the character flaws or contrary beliefs of various authors, musicians, artists, actors, and other celebrities, that we patronize?

How much do we tolerate before we act on our convictions, and stop supporting public figures whose behavior we condemn?

My mind then went to Phillip Pullman, another author whose writing I love. His Dark Materials trilogy was the basis for the movie “Golden Compass.” After reading that trio of books I wanted my own dæmon.

Apparently, he is an atheist whose ideology is supposedly rampant in those stories. When I’m reading a book, I’m not constantly analyzing the subtext. Besides, I don’t care if Pullman is an atheist. If reading some YA fiction topples any religions beliefs I hold, then those beliefs couldn’t have been very solid to start.

C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia Chronicles, was a prolific Christian writer. Unless you were totally lacking in any religious exposure, you would have to be brain-dead not to pick up on the God allegories in that set of seven novels. If you refuse to read them, solely on your rejection of Christian values, you would miss out on some of the best children’s literature ever written.

What about actors, musicians, or political celebrities? Do we buy their music, attend their movies or watch their TV show if we find them reprehensible? Can we admire their talent and still abhor their actions?

Wife and girlfriend beaters, homophobic bastages, political nutcases, racists, bigots, serial adulterers, drug abusers… assholes ad nauseam.

There are celebrities and musicians whose public persona is so vile to me, that I won’t pay to attend their movies or listen to their songs, and refuse to watch their television programs. My boycott won’t bankrupt them financially, nor will they even notice, it’s my personal preference to not support them. I can still appreciate their skills.

My daughter refused to watch the new Oz movie because she felt the film makers took a story which had a strong, intelligent female lead and reduced it to an overly sexualized piece of fluff. And, don’t get her started on Disney Princesses.

How far back do we go? What about William Faulkner, Hemingway, Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, Sylvia Plath, Dali, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec – raging alcoholics, adulterers, racists, wife beaters, sexual deviants, drug abusers. Also some of the most revered writers and artists in history.

Is drug abuse okay, but domestic abuse a deal-breaker? Can we accept racism and bigotry when the music is amazing? If our favorite comedian’s political diatribes make our blood boil do we pay to watch his latest movie?

Where do we draw the line, can we separate the artists from their art? Should we?

20 comments

  1. I started thinking about this when the whole chick-fil-a thing hit the fan…I don’t know that I could possibly have time to research everyone’s views before making a decision…nor do I want to…and like you said, look what you might miss out on!

    Like

    1. I don’t frequent CfA either, but it’s more because I just don’t like their chicken. I am in a tug-of-war about the anti-gay stance of the owner. He bases his decisions on his religious beliefs, and I strive to not reject anyone on things like that, even when I vehemently disagree with it. He’s living his convictions, just as I am.

      Like

  2. My approach to goods and services is pretty simple; as much as possible, my money follows my conscience. Art and entertainment is a little more complex, but it kind of boils down to whether or not I have to like YOU to enjoy your work. The example that comes to mind is Tom Cruise. Ever since he spouted off his views on mental health, I haven’t been able to tolerate the man. Therefore, I avoid his movies. Ya know, for my mental health.

    Like

    1. Cruise is one of those who I won’t go to a theater to see. People like him are part of the problem of perpetuating the stigma attached to mental illness.

      Like

  3. Card is very anti-gay I believe? Anyway, my stance varies and appears to need a lot of paragraphs to iterate. Often, it depends on whether I find the work or the author first. Would I reject a book solely because the author’s views diverged from mine? No. Would I reject a book because I felt that the author was using it as a platform to project from a soapbox or proselytize? In a heartbeat. I don’t like Narnia, never have, but it’s got nothing to do with religion. (I’m agnostic, for context) I actually greatly enjoy some of Lewis’s overtly Christian adult works. He’s a cool guy – J.R.R Tolkien actually convinced him to convert to Christianity, by the way. I never got into the tone in Narnia. It was a bunch of kids playing pretend to me, never a real world that existed beyond that wardrobe. But it was excellent literature that I just happened to dislike. In contrast, I refuse to refer to that one Tim LaHaye series as anything but trash, even though I’ve read nary a book. It’s fearmongering bullshit at its tripe-iest.

    I think there’s a difference between an author interweaving a viewpoint into a story (like Pullman and Lewis – and here’s another tangent, I will NEVER forgive Pullman for the ending of the final book of that trilogy. He had something awesome going, and then, enTIRELY to fit the fucking thing into some tragic hero life-must-go-on-without trope, he split Lyra and Will up. Seriously? They can save the fucking multiverse, but can’t figure out a way to see each other without dumping souls? Implausible as fuckall.) and an author manipulating the reader with a story.

    Oz? I agree with your daughter. Those books are amazing. My mother read them to me, and I’ve read them with my daughter who flipped her teacher out this year when they read the Wizard of Oz for reading class. The teacher kept telling her, “It’s not the one you’re familiar with”, and Caroline kept saying. “I know the wizard of oz by heart” They went back and forth for awhile before I met with the teacher about something else and she mentioned it. And I said, “It’s not the L. Frank Baum classic?” And she said, “It is, it’s just nothing like the movie.” I said, “Caroline won’t watch the movie. Sam will watch it with me. But put Elmira Gulch on the screen for ten seconds in the opening credits, and my duckie is Gone baby gone. She’s read the book. She’s going to be spewing spoilers every chapter.”

    And this new movie? No. Just …. no. My mom and Auntie Em, and yes, I HAVE an Auntie Em, which should tell you something about my relationship with the wizard LOVED it, and I thought, “shit, if THEY liked it, it must be good.” And I finally saw it, and I was crushed. I couldn’t put my finger on WHY, though, as I only just saw it and hadn’t had time to fume enough. Your daughter nailed that one on the head. But then, I’m also the person who stalked out on the second LOTR movie when Eowyn started throwing herself at Aragorn’s feet in even worse form than in the book. I BARELY survived the addition of Liv Tyler’s Arwen to the first one, but she was a huge strike against it, and I didn’t see the third at all, because… fuck. I have no idea how people can like that film series. It is NOT the story I know and love. I rarely like book to movie adaptations.

    How the fuck did I get there?

    Oh. When to reject an author due to differences in viewpoint. And the answer is multifold. If it’s a mere difference of opinion – political views, religion, and the like, then it’s a non-issue. I consider those a chance to learn about something I’m not familiar with. If it’s a situation where I feel preached at (irony much? said the woman writing a six paragraph essay-rant-response-to-a-blog-post), I’ll reject the author even if I agree with every word being said. And if it’s something like bigotry, then it depends. Mostly, if I loved the work before I found out something about the author or artist, I’ll set aside my dismay about their bigotry and acknowledge that we all have good and bad in us or some bullshit like that. But when I see a celebrity figure abusing a position of power to say influential words than can and will harm others, I do not pretend to condone it. And there’s a good chance I won’t want to support anything that person does. And I do not consider the loss mine if I fail to be connected to the words of a person who horrifies me.

    Like

  4. Deep topic. I have to be honest, when I’m watching a film or reading a book, the author or artist doesn’t come into play in my mind. Hopefully it’s a good source of entertainment and I’m too wrapped up in the story to think that it was created by an individual until after it’s been viewed or read.

    That said, if I happen to know something about the creator that I find distasteful or revolting, it’s likely that I’ll skip on reading or watching it. Religion is not one of those distasteful or revolting categories, no matter the view point. Something distasteful or revolting would be a person who puts dogs into a vicious dogfight or someone who murders a person and then wants to sell the book about it. They don’t deserve my time or money.

    Like

    1. It’s all about choice. I can disagree with someone’s beliefs, and still enjoy their art, but I also have the option of not reading their books or listening to their music.

      Like

  5. Good post but let’s stop comparing drunks, cheaters, and immoral cads and cards to bigots. Because our favorite may have been self-destructive that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t admire their art. Bigotry is hurtful to others. While Hemingway may have been a drunk, an adulterer, and a poor father, there’s no evidence he gave money to hate groups like Card has apparently done with his anti-gay cash.

    You make a choice. If you like someone’s work, then you decide if you honor the person, too. Most musicians are horrible people, at least from a role model standpoint. For every Joe Strummer or Lou Reed, there’s a Keith Richards or a Mick Jagger. But we decide to compartmentalize and love the art, not the person.

    Bigotry is different. It shows small mindedness and a hateful heart. I don’t read Card because I find him boring. I had no desire to see Ender’s Game so I’m good. I don’t eat Chick Fil A, buy Citgo Gas or wear Abercrombie & Fitch clothing. But those are my choices.

    While I wish people would be as diligent in their causes and choices, I respect them thinking a sandwich is just a sandwich and a sci fi series is just a sci fi series.

    Like

    1. If someone wants to be self-destructive, I say, “knock yourself out,” but for some people, those actions are still deal breakers, and are on the same level as bigots and wife-beaters. I’m simply wondering at what point does it matter to me when deciding which writers, musicians, politicians, et al, I will support.

      Chick-fil-a and Citco are also on my “blacklist,” as are Kanye West and Madonna.

      Like

  6. I draw a line and I draw based on what I am willing to support. There is a difference between believing in your freedom to express yourself and my freedom of choice in supporting it. I can accept difference of opinion/lbelief/and lifestyle as long as it does not harm, compromise or diminish another human being.

    So yeah, I don’t listen to R Kelly, sorry girls peeing on you and marrying a child doesn’t sit well with me. And that recent fiasco with Deen, honestly my first thought was, “She wasn’t smarter than that.” I don’t enraged about every idiotic behavior or views, but neither am I silent when what is needed is open opposition.

    I think before we react we need to be sure we understand the difference between biogtry, racism, prejudice and intolerance because there are differences and before you object be clear what or who is you find offensive and unacceptable.

    Like

    1. That’s it… “what I’m willing to support.” I can appreciate that someone else’s beliefs can be very different than mine, and while I may not agree, I won’t judge.

      Like

  7. Normally, my judgment of a writer, performer, politician, etc. is based on his or her product. If I like the book, movie or whatever, that is what drives my support. It’s when the person’s character or behavior becomes so publicly bad or counter to what I think of as “acceptable,” and I feel that it’s “in my face,” that I drop him or her from my roster of favorites.

    Like

    1. That’s where I am too. I’m sure there are writers, whose books I frequent that someone else would find flawed, but I’m more interested in their writing. But, like I mentioned to Lou, sometimes, the behavior, in my opinion, is beyond redemption.

      Like

  8. I never thought it was supposed to be my job to look into the lifestyle and habits of someone whose book I might be contemplating reading. I never thought that reading Walt Whitman was possibly something I should not do because I don’t happen to subscribe to his sexual choices. To me, I judge and assess by the work I see – by the talent and worth of the art displayed – be that Art performance, paint or word. What they do in their private lives – even private lives made very public – is not for me to judge. I wonder how well *I* would fare if every minute and nuance of my existence became fodder for the public.

    Like

    1. I’m not going to do a background check on authors or musicians I like either, and for the most part, I really don’t care what they do since in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t affect me or mine. But… there are some things certain celebrities do that are so abhorrent to me that I can’t easily ignore it, and choose instead to ignore them.

      As for my own life.. I don’t have a stone small enough to throw at anyone.

      Like

  9. Good questions..I think that we are not always the same..sometimes we just do whatever it is that we want to do..and why not…healthier lives need diversity and living for the moment is not always a bad thing

    Like

    1. I’m pretty much a live and let live kind of person too. I welcome hearing different ideas and beliefs, but there are some people who act so counter to what I think is civilized, that I can’t support them in any way.

      Like

      1. That is ok. too…we definitely do not have to agree with everything. I am like you…I am make my own opinions and cannot support those who’s views are totally different than mine

        Like

Join the discussion...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s