Big controversy right now. Acclaimed science fiction book “Ender’s Game” is going to be made into a movie. But the personal views of its author, Orson Scott Card, about homosexuality have made many people want to boycott the film.
So that makes me wonder: Is the artist the same as the art?
Throughout history, there have been controversies surrounding the creator of something and it’s creation. Should they be one in the same? If the art is not a reflection of the artist, should it be considered as such?
Many creative people have been part of controversial issues: Oliver Reed and his views on feminism, Tom Cruise and Scientology, Mel Gibson and Catholicism, Edgar Allan Poe and his marriage, Roald Dahl and antisemitism, the list goes on. These individuals have their own viewpoints on life that many do not agree with. Does that mean their work/movies/writings should be connected to their personal viewpoints?
I feel that a story/song/movie/etc. is what it represents. If it displays a viewpoint that I don’t agree with, I will not support that piece of work. I personally love the book, “Ender’s Game”. When I first read it years ago, I didn’t know anything about the author’s personal viewpoints. I never found anything in the book to indicate I SHOULD have known. I’ve reread it since the controversy came out, and still I can’t find any of those views in the book. I still think it’s brilliantly written, a wonderful story, with a superb twist and an amazing way to get non-science fiction readers interested in science fiction.
What do you think? Do you find you don’t go to movies because you don’t agree with an actor’s point of view? Or do you ever boycott buying music if the singer was involved in something scandalous? Or refuse to read a book because the author believes something you don’t?
As a writer, I really want to know! Will who I am as a person determine how my books will be perceived?
PS- Coming soon! Release date for HOLLOW’S PRISM: “Aftermath”!
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Already some good comments (skim read, I admit). To add to the discussion, I offer up Mr. Oscar Wilde:
“The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.
The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things…
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope… The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own faith in the glass. The nineteenth century dislike of romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in the glass…” — A picture of Dorian Gray, Preface.
I believe these comments need no further commentary. An interesting discussion, though. I’ll be flicking through your other posts. Congrats on the coming book!
Thank you for sharing such a beautiful quote, Iain. Such interesting thoughts. And thanks for the congrats!
“Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid.” (Francis Bacon: Of Praise)
Strange how people will decide to like a person based on the entertaining material they produced then chose to dislike the material when a personal view comes to light.
In an “Author’s Definitive Version” of Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card goes into some detail about his religious background in the introduction. His background shows through if you’re paying attention, but it doesn’t hinder the quality of the story. Far more annoying than any religious themes was the constant use of Portuguese. That became tedious. I didn’t find any reason not to like that novel, but that’s the last OSC book I’ve read. Other people have told me that he gets really preachy in subsequent novels. That said, I don’t see any reason to dislike what I’ve already enjoyed simply because the author has used fame from the only medium available to him to express personal views that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day.
Though, to be honest, I don’t foresee reading The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels anytime soon. Frankly their political views seem so dreary to me that spending a week on it would be murder.
Thanks so much for your thoughts Alienissimus! This topic really interests me, and I’ve heard both sides. Some people say they can’t help but put the person with their art, others can separate it completely. I tend to agree with you–I look more at content. If I’m not interested, I won’t read it, regardless of the author, and vice versa. Though I can’t promise I’ve never been biased if I find out something about the author I really detest, but usually only if it’s supporting their personal views/ attitudes/ behaviors.
I believe Art and the Artist are separate things if the artist can avoid inserting themselves in it. As you said, you can re-read Ender and not find any hint of his beliefs. As John Byrne has suggested, read the first hundred issues of Spider-Man and tell me what Stan Lee’s hobbies and interests were. On the other hand, you’d have to look harder to find something Mark Gruenwald wrote where you didn’t note his interest in wrestling and snakes. Does anyone really know what Shakespeare’s beliefs on practically anything were, and not his characters? Is it probable that many of his personal views would likely be at odds with the Modern American POV and more 1500ish? I’d astonished if they were not.
Every last Human on Earth is flawed, which for a writer is a good thing or it’d be hard to find anything to write about. I mean that only slightly facetiously. Some artists hide their flaws well, some have them front-and-center, some are only guilty of failing to keep up with the rest of us and being a loud-mouth about it. While I believe Orson Scott Card is wrong, he is also a 62 year-old Mormon and was brought up and lived as such. Ten years ago, more than half the population would have agreed with him on his issue. He’s a smart guy. He may yet see the illogic of his position. Maybe not. Religious upbringings are tough to overcome. Coming to terms with our darker selves has driven more than one writer to drink. Art can be a grim mirror indeed.
I have noted before the inevitability of Human Failings mean we are as much the sum of our flaws as our features. Art, however, can be the best of us. The beauty that remains when the ugly is shaken free. The part that survives long after anyone knows if “Shakespeare” was really our name. It has the potential to elevate not just the audience, but the artist too when we realize the things we intellectually know are true and logical, may be at odds with irrationality of our feelings.
Very interesting thoughts on human frailty related to art. Thanks for commenting!
This is why I try not to find out too much about artists whose work I like! I don’t want the artist to spoil things, as they so often do.
I swing both ways on this one (shh…don’t tell Orson Scott Card!). For example, I think Michael Jackson was a pretty messed up guy, but I really like some of his music.
On the other hand, I can’t see a Woody Allen movie without thinking that Woody Allen is a pervert, or look at a Picasso painting without thinking about Picasso having been a wife-beater. But I didn’t like their oeuvre to begin with. I don’t boycott Woody Allen films because I think he’s a perv, but because I don’t think he’s funny anymore and I can’t stand his characters or style. I’m not sure how I would feel about it if I loved his work.
I guess these are things I take into account:
1. How dear to my heart is the cause/group that the artist is insulting/oppressing/etc.?
2. Does the art form require me to look at their stupid face? (If not, maybe I can ignore them.)
3. How violent/exploitative is their behavior? Are we talking beliefs I disagree with or actual physical assault/rape/molestation/murder? I don’t really care about Tom Cruise being a Scientologist. I’ve heard stories about him trying to convert people and stuff, but it’s all hearsay to me and at worst he’s an annoying twit with a wacky religion. I still like some of his movies. Mel Gibson, on the other hand, is so hateful and rageful, which I find disturbing.
4. What time period was the artist alive? Poe’s marriage was no big thing in his time and place. It’s always cool when someone was way ahead of their time, but we can’t expect people to exist independent of their cultural milieux. That’s kind of how I view Dahl’s antisemitism too. I consider it really unfortunate, wish it hadn’t been the case, but it was commonplace in his world. The unfortunate thing about modern media is that whereas if Jane Austen was a raging homophobe or anti-Semite, I will never know it and can go on enjoying her works–but with Orson Scott Card, EVERYBODY knows ALL ABOUT IT. And then people of conscience feel they have to do something to oppose it.
5. To what extent does their art actually proceed from/depend upon their specific bad acts? Are their paints made from the blood of sacrificed virgins? Not ok.
6. And, as I said above, how much do I love/hate their art?
It does seem difficult sometimes to separate the two. But it sounds like you have a pretty good system of figuring out what’s important to you in the art/artist.
I guess it works for me. But it is very subjective and biased, i know. 🙂
Yeah, but art is so personal, so it kind of SHOULD be biased. 🙂