Still Not Going to See Ender’s Game: Separating the Art From the Artist 3

Orson Scott Card would like us to be tolerant of his anti-gay marriage views, now that we’ve won. The point is, apparently “moot.” I call bullshit on that one.  DOMA may be dead, and the language of that decision may be what will make the rest of the dominoes fall, so to speak. But the point is not moot. Gay and lesbian citizens still can’t get married in the majority of states in this country, many of which have enshrined homophobia in their constitutions. Transgendered Americans are still even further behind when it comes to having full rights to be who they are. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that there are rights beyond marriage.

So no, the issue is not  moot. The issue will not be moot until every one of us is equal under the law. Telling ourselves that we have already won and stopping the fight before the finish line would be foolish indeed.

And even if victory is inevitable (oh how I hope that it is), OSC is still in prime position to fund the foot dragging and last tantrums of a lost conservative cause. So no, I don’t think it’s time to forget that yet, not when he hasn’t backed down, hasn’t changed his mind. He’s just been overruled.

What about separating the art from the artist? You don’t have to like someone and their views to like their art, to consume and support it you know.

I’ve had this argument with friends before, specifically in regards to Orson Scott Card. It’s an uncomfortable subject, and I have conflicted feelings about it. Not in the least of which is the fact that when I met OSC in person years ago, I thought he was a pretty nice guy, and he gave me some of the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten. He’s very likeable in person.

Then I remind myself that, as a bisexual woman, he thinks there’s something wrong with me and would want me to be a shamed, second-class citizen if I had fallen in love with a woman instead of a man.

But separate the art from the artist. It feels like a horrible twist on “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

There is a reason, for the most part, that I don’t actively seek out the opinions of artists. Sometimes knowing too much ruins it. Sometimes knowing too much means you can no longer read or watch or listen to a piece of art you enjoyed without thinking about how the artist has harmed something about which you care deeply. Sometimes you wish you just didn’t know.

But artists are people just like the rest of us, and they have opinions, and they have a right to express those opinions. Wil Wheaton points this out eloquently and often whenever someone complains about him daring to have politics out loud where people can see them. And like for everyone else, the freedom of an artist to express an opinion is not the same as the freedom to have no consequences because of it. When we’re talking about artists like OSC, his voice is louder than that of many others because of his art. He has a platform. We, his fans, built that platform for him with our support.

If we do not like what he is doing with that platform, I don’t think we are in any way obligated to continue that support.

But separate the art from the artist. Why can’t you do that? Shouldn’t you do that?

Does art happen in a vacuum? Is it truly a thing separate from the artist? This isn’t just an academic question for me, when it comes to Orson Scott Card. I read Ender’s Game as a teenager. I literally finished the book in twelve hours, unwilling to put it down. It had a lot of meaning to me.

And yet.

At the reading where I met OSC, someone in the audience asked him a question: As a Mormon, did he try to put his religion into his work? And OSC gave what I thought was a very true and important answer that has stuck with me—he doesn’t try to do that. Preaching at your audience never turns out well. But he said that his religion is fundamental to who he is, and he wouldn’t be surprised if it comes out into his art in subtle ways.

Because as artists, even when we are imagining ourselves as other people, we are the ones doing the creating. I am a white, bisexual woman, and I’m sure that no matter how hard I try, my experiences will always subtly reflect in how I create. Because it is my art.

Can you truly separate art from the artist? How do you deal with, say, Chris Brown and Roman Polanski if you like their art but cannot support them as human beings?

Art does not occur in a vacuum. And while you can appreciate art as good or bad without knowing the person behind it, regardless of the person behind it, consuming that art does in fact mean you are supporting its creator. And by supporting them, you are complicit in their causes. I have joined in boycotts of companies when it was revealed they were donating money anti-gay groups. Why should an artist be any different? Because he wrote some books I like? I’ve eaten Chik-fil-A sandwiches and nuggets more often than I’ve re-read Ender’s Game.

If you can separate the art from the artist, maybe that makes you a better person than me. Feel that way if you like. But I cannot support someone who believes that me and many of the people I love and esteem are not full human beings. Orson Scott Card chose to use his platform to denigrate LGBT people. I can damn well choose to take a tiny sliver of his platform, a platform I joined with countless others to help build, away.

3 thoughts on “Still Not Going to See Ender’s Game: Separating the Art From the Artist

  1. Reply David Merriam Jul 9,2013 09:24

    Hrm…since we’ve “won,” does that mean he’s going to stop fighting? Wouldn’t that be nice.

    To me there’s a big difference between “separating the art from the artist” and actively supporting bigotry. Once art is sufficiently old (i.e. after the artist is dead), it’s a lot easier to separate the two without supporting bad causes.

    As for Ender’s Game, I’m on the fence about going. I’ll probably see it at the Elvis, or maybe wait until it comes out on Netflix. Neither of those options will increase the odds of a sequel, I think.

  2. Reply Janiece Jul 9,2013 11:03

    Just so. OSC can kuss my lily-white, cisgendered, female ass, regardless of how much I’ve enjoyed his books without knowing who he really was.

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