Thursday, February 14, 2013
Separating the Artist From The Art
In the last few days, there’s been quite a dust-up in the world of comic book fans regarding DC Comics hiring Orson Scott Card to write a new digital Superman comic. Full disclosure: I’ve heard of the Ender’s Game series but Orson Scott Card was completely unknown to me until yesterday.
Evan Dorkin, a hilarious writer best known for the comic book Milk and Cheese, went on a Twitter tirade about Card and his public anti-gay stance. From Card’s Wikipedia page:
Card has publicly declared his disapproval of homosexuality and of gay marriage. In 1990, Card called for laws that ban gay sex to "remain on the books... to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society". He no longer advocates this, however, and argues that the 1990 stance must be seen in the context of the times (such laws were still deemed constitutional at the time) and the conservative Mormon audience to whom his essay was addressed. In 2009, Card became a member of the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that seeks to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Card has voiced his opinion that paraphilia and homosexuality are sometimes linked. In a 2004 essay entitled "Homosexual 'Marriage' and Civilization", Card wrote:
The dark secret of homosexual society—the one that dares not speak its name—is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.
Additionally, in Card's novella Hamlet's Father, which re-imagines the backstory of Shakespeare's play Hamlet, some claim that Card directly links the king's pedophilia with homosexuality. The novella prompted public outcry and its publishers were inundated with complaints. The trade journal Publisher's Weekly criticized Card's "flimsy novella" and stated that the main purpose of it was to attempt to link homosexuality to pedophilia. Card responded to the claim:
...[T]here is no link whatsoever between homosexuality and pedophilia in this book. Hamlet's father, in the book, is a pedophile, period. I don't show him being even slightly attracted to adults of either sex. It is the reviewer, not me, who has asserted this link, which I would not and did not make.
The thing I’m grappling with is the separation of art from the artist. Should we be judging a creator by their political or social opinions or should we be judging the work? It’s hard for me not to be a hypocrite while working out how I feel on this because I’ve come down on both sides depending on the situation.
When Chik-Fil-A’s anti gay stance become a foreground issue, I stopped eating there full stop. I’d been to Chik-Fil-A a couple of times and I’ll be honest, it was one of the best Chicken Sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. Since there was only one location in the Chicago area, it wasn’t a huge deal for me to stop eating there, since I rarely did before. I was glad to not give any more of my money directly to an anti-gay company.
When Papa John’s CEO said that Obamacare would cause them to have to raise pizza prices and cut back on hours (both things which turned out to be pretty much untrue) I said, “I’m never going there again.” and save for one night when the wife and I were drunk, starving, and Papa John’s was on our corner, I haven’t.
I can’t say if these are fair comparisons, since these are business that make contributions to organizations and clearly the person at the helm could be making contributions to organizations I don’t want to support. I just wanted to provide some examples of boycotts I’ve made so you know how liberal I am. It’s a qualifier so that I can say this.
I’m not sure that I feel a real correlation between a creators political or social stance and their creations. I stopped eating at these restaurants not because I felt that their politics affected their product, but because I didn’t want my money funneled into places I didn’t agree with. But does the same go for creative pursuits?
I think Ted Nugent is an ignorant gun nut blowhard. But god damn, “Stranglehold” is a great song. Meatloaf stood next to Mitt Romney and butchered America The Beautiful. But are you going to tell me that makes you like “Bat Out of Hell” any less? I’m more or less of the mind that as long as the message of the art doesn’t reflect these views, then why boycott it?
All that said, I’m not going to stop reading DC Comics. There’s really nothing in this world that can come between me and Batman. However, I did sign a petition that’s being sent to DC to not hire Card to do this run. Now, I don’t read digital comics, so it doesn’t really affect me one way or another. I don’t think DC is going to be sending a portion of their profits to anti-gay groups. I signed the petition because I want to say that I don’t like Card’s message. But, if I was a reader of digital comics and his run on Superman was good, I can’t say his anti-gay stance would keep me from enjoying it.
I’m just not sure.