August 5, 2008

Trump Card

When I was a kid, my dad handed me a stack of old paperback books and told me I should read them. They were largely science fiction - Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C Clarke. I devoured them. I don't read that much science fiction anymore but I credit the genre and it's major authors with my love of reading. In college, between essays and studying for tests, drinking and skipping classes, I continued to pick up cheap, used sci-fi novels at a used bookstore behind our apartment. There I stumbled on Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It blew my mind. Justifiably so. I re-read it a couple years back and it was damn near as good as I remembered. It became one of those books that I recommend to anyone and everyone regardless of what they like to read. It's just that good.

The author, well, that's a different story.

Sometimes I refuse to find out more information about the stuff I love for fear that I'd learn something that would change my opinion. Like, you know I have a dorky love of Phil Collins (though, in a non-dorky sense he's one of the world's greatest drummers ever) and I'd be really disappointed to find out that he beat his wife or clubbed baby seals in his spare time. Or I'd be devastated to discover that Mr. Rogers had a thing for transgendered hookers. Or to find out that, in addition to being a great guitarist, David Gilmour was a coked-out member of a secret society aimed at reviving the Third Reich. The bottom line is this - we hold artists to our own personal standards that validate their creations and the esteem in which we hold them.

So, Orson Scott Card...

Card is a devout Mormon. I've got no problem with that. But recently, Card went on a verbal tirade about homosexuality and gay marriage that, when he was done, left me with very little respect for him. Now, I know the rest of the world isn't nearly as liberal as I but I took offense. You can read the whole thing online but brace yourself for things like Society gains no benefit whatsoever (except for a momentary warm feeling about how "fair" and "compassionate" we are) from renaming homosexual liaisons and friendships as marriage or regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn. Further investigation revealed that this wasn't his first time discussing gay marriage or questioning the sanity of homosexuals. Though, to his credit - and not in his defense - he has also written some inspiring columns about his faith. Its something that gives him strength and he writes quite eloquently about it.

I'm all for gay marriage. I think it's ridiculous to restrict or forbid unions of any two people who happen to have fallen in love with each other. But my view on that is immaterial to this conversation as is the argument as a whole. What it comes down to is that I find Card's views repugnant, ill-informed and, frankly, disappointing. And it tarnishes the way I look at one of my favorite books.

I know its not entirely fair to let someone's views or personal life overshadow their work and what it means to me. But I'm human. So I ask you - is it fair to judge an individual's work - their art, music, works or achievements - through the lens of their personal lives and believes brining our own value judgments into the equation? Is it possible to separate the two? Who have you been disappointed in or by in the past?

Posted by Chris at August 5, 2008 7:17 AM

i know it can be disappointing, like you said, you create this place for a person, only to find out they are very different than what you thought...
i am in a gay marriage... i have my doubts of it becoming a "moot point" i.e., marriage is a union of two people ... period.... in the united states... i have a canadian marriage, and a vermont civil union, and intend on marrying yet again in massachusetts this summer... we had quite a formal ceremony, and when inviting guests (most of which were straight by the way)... i guess there were a few who in their "no" to the rsvp, made some disparaging remarks, when they originally were very supportive of the person that was me... so i guess in the long run, although there were those that admired that i was strong enough to be who i am... the fact that i took it to marriage, made me their disappointment.
the only thing that frustrates me the most, is when i have watched 3 different occassions where one of the couple have died and the other has no rights as far as carrying out the wishes of their loved one... the family has the right to fight whatever the couple agreed on, and no matter the legal paperwork, the one left behind cannot even claim the dead body at the hospital... what is THAT all about?

Posted by: the unicorn at August 5, 2008 7:48 AM

My husband is a huge sci fi and Scott Card fan. He will never buy another one of his books for the exact same reasons.

Posted by: jodifur at August 5, 2008 7:56 AM

Yes, I have trouble with that too. Sean Penn is a good example for me. The fact that he went over and wined and dined with Saddam Hussein, and Hugo Chavez and basically betrayed his country. Now I refuse to go to ANY of his movies. Others who are minor political players I try to ignore. Unless they get in my face, then I stop viewing their crap too.
The thing is, why should I put money in their pocket so they can do and say this stupid crap? No one does that for me!
Don't like what someone is doing and saying, then do not support their projects.

Posted by: Maribeth at August 5, 2008 8:08 AM

This has happened to me in the past. Offhand, I can't think of an example. Their work is part of them as far as I'm concerned. If I'm looking through their filthy personal lens, it will taint the work for me. That said, I'm fairly open minded and forgiving. The tainting occurs when the person goes to the extreme, like Mr. Card.

Posted by: Maria at August 5, 2008 8:10 AM

I suppose it depends on the degree of difference. I can ignore some things but not others. I certainly won't support the homophobes and bigots, I don't watch Fox news, and I've stopped buying one of my favorite writers once I discovered her views.

Posted by: Ann Adams at August 5, 2008 8:22 AM

I can't think of one for myself but my mom feels this way about Michael Jackson. She can't stand to look at him and fears he may actually have molested small boys but who can resist some "Billie Jean" or "Thriller?" No one!

Posted by: Claire at August 5, 2008 8:45 AM

I think it is perfectly reasonable. I do not think I should support someone financially if they major opposing moral views from my own. I agree everything is free to have their opinion on matters, but if their opinions go against everything I believe in I don't have to support them. I'll let them speak of them, but I won't buy their books, go to their movies, etc... That is MY right.

Posted by: daisy at August 5, 2008 8:49 AM

I do this too. Not sure if it's healthy or not, but it's true. I ALWAYS want to know about the author, the actor behind the scenes, the director, the musician. I think for me, it would be embarrassing beyond belief to profess my love for something and then hear someone say, "Well maybe it's a good book, but the author's sheer hatred for Native Americans is just out of control." It would be like finding out your wife is cheating on you.

So yeah, I do this. The flip side, however, is that most of the time the information about the musician or author is really quite good, and that makes my admiration even more rewarding.

Posted by: Brad at August 5, 2008 9:15 AM

I don't know if it's "fair", but we all do it. We do hold these people to our standards, which, really isn't fair as we don't know them as a "person", only as an "artist". It happens, it comes with being a celebrity. Someone mentioned Michael Jackson in an earlier comment. I cannot stand to listen to any of his music because of the type of person that he is. It has started to sound like nails on a chalkboard to me. I was having a somewhat similar conversation with a friend the other day about peoples looks. You can take one of the best looking people in the world and be attracted to them instantly. Yet, sometimes as soon as they open their mouth and you get to know bits and pieces about them, they are no longer attractive in my eyes. The opposite is true for me as well, a less attractive person may become more attractive once you get to know them.

I think I just confused myself. I need more coffee.

Posted by: js at August 5, 2008 9:16 AM

Would you disregard the Declaration of Independence because Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner?

Posted by: Bob at August 5, 2008 9:36 AM

It's almost silly to ask you to separate the person from their work. The person is who *created* the work, and the person they are influenced what they have created. Even if it's not overtly so.

Their work is a part of who they are. Isn't it? I mean, we all weigh out the good parts and the bad parts of everything when we make decisions. Maybe if your liberal views weren't so fierce, your view of the book wouldn't be *as* tarnished. But it's more important to you to have strong views that you believe in, than to have a good book.

Posted by: caleal at August 5, 2008 10:03 AM

I believe it's important to take the person and their work as a whole. It's why I find so many professional athletes to be so disgusting. Millionaire date raping drunk driving drug addicts. But fans turn a blind eye, or justify it like a bunch of blind-to-her-baby's-faults mommas, because the bottom line of game scores? That's wrong. Smaller level, one of my favorite chefs years ago crashed and disappeared from television after a scandal. Jeff Smith. It broke my heart because his work was so good. But to continue to buy his books would very surely, to me, be to say his actions were okay because I wanted to benefit from his other "half". You can't look at a pedophile and let him work the school bake sale because he makes a mean chocolate chip cookie. Sometimes, being judgemental is a good thing.

Posted by: OS at August 5, 2008 10:19 AM

I'm with you on this - I can have trouble separating who a person is in real life vs. their work and compartmentalizing it, b/c I think that in a creative profession who you are definitely influences what you create. Writers, actors, musicians, you name it - I hate knowing too much about them in case I learn something I find really disturbing (like your news about Orson Scott Card - I won't ever read any of his books now) and it makes it difficult for me to enjoy their work. This is why I hate paparazzi so much - their constant digging into the lives of celebrities (and then it sometimes being reported as actual news on like, CNN) makes it tougher to ignore their personal lives/views. Then again, when it's something like this with Orson Scott Card, I'd almost rather know so I don't spend money on his books b/c who knows what causes/groups that cash is going to?

The first person who comes to mind with this topic is Tom Cruise - ever since he attacked Brook Shields, Matt Lauer, psychiatry, etc a few years ago, I can't stand him. I'll watch his movies that I've already seen and like, but I will never watch a new Tom Cruise movie - even if it's on HBO for free. I just can't stand the guy and his crazy scientology beliefs.

Of course, I am a bit of a hypocrite, since when I do hear a musician or writer or actor speak out on an issue I'm in agreement with I generally have no problem with it. I guess that's human nature though.

Posted by: erin at August 5, 2008 10:22 AM

i think the question 'is it fair?' is a bit of a non-issue. it's human. judgment is a fact of life, and i believe we make conscious efforts in some instances to reserve judgment, and in others, it is an instinct that serves us well. to condemn it altogether is a bit self-restricting, and maybe even disingenuous.

if i get lost in a 'bad' part of town late at night and lock my doors, is that being judgmental? or is it just being safe, cautious?

that said, i am just like you in that knowing 'too much' can be detrimental to a viewpoint i'm comfortable with and would like to keep. i can't see anything wrong with holding fast to those things that hold vivid and significant pieces of our lives in their grasp. sometimes we just aren't 'ready' to let them change. even adults find enjoyment in imagination, and shouldn't we be granted that? might we even benefit from it?

Posted by: jessica at August 5, 2008 10:31 AM

That's a tough question. We are human. We can't split the two halfs of ourselves apart. Artists are people. In my mind they get a certain amount of leeway to be somewhat asshatish based on the amount of brain cells it must take to have that level of genius and creativity. But to be a complete and total socially repugnant with their personal views and values like this guy has been is over the line and it turns me off. I don't begrudge him his views. They're his and he's entitled to them. Some things should stay personal. Sadly with fame and genius sometimes comes the thought that one is so revered they can say and do what ever they please without regard to the thoughts and feelings of their audience.

I guess to me the two are irrevocably tied. You can't split the author from who his is at the dinner table. One influences the other and vice-versa. But I try not to be too judgmental unless it is something that I just can't live with.

Posted by: jen at August 5, 2008 10:40 AM

Being human, I think it is impossible to completely separate the personal for the professional/acheivements. We want people we can admire and respect in both arenas because we want to know it's possible to be that person. I do conciously try to not let it taint my views but invariably it does, both in good and bad ways. If I think an actor is so-so but I hear about great things they are doing as a person I like them more.

I had a teacher in high school that inspired me to be passionate about some things. He opened my mind and my imagination. He gave me permission to dream big and I adored him. After graduating and bopping off to college with my hero firmly in my mind, I learned that he had been fired for having an affair with a student. It crushed me. I am still passionate about those things. I'm still grateful that he was a part of my education. The gifts he gave me are invaluable. However, the thought of him makes me want to hurl.

Posted by: SassyPants at August 5, 2008 10:40 AM

It is not possible for me to respect the works of someone who does not engender a belief system that somehow parallels mine. With that said, I enjoy reading and being challenged by differing viewpoints at all turns. However, when their personal beliefs are so very hardcore as to inform me that said person is not open to being challenged by others, then I shut down and give them no regard. It's just the way I am. And I've learned not to apologize for it.

Posted by: k8 at August 5, 2008 11:00 AM

I used to be a huge Reba McEntire fan. I won't listen or watch her since she went after the Dixie Chicks when country radio started burning their records and banned them from many radio stations after Natalie spoke out against the Iraq War.

They were getting killed in the press and then, I heard just a few things that Reba had to say. That was it for me and my feelings for her changed and switched to a total dislike for her and what I thought she stood for up until then.

This was coming from a broad that saw her in concert tons over the years and had nearly every thing she ever recorded.

Posted by: Diane at August 5, 2008 11:05 AM

I hate when people whose work I enjoy..mess it up with their personal feelings whether I agree with their viewpoints or not...

for instance I really liked a website called Rude Cactus until I found out he was a Phil Collins fan....

Posted by: William at August 5, 2008 11:14 AM

When I received a request asking for permission to use one of my photographs in a book I was elated and excited. Those emotions quickly changed when I found out that the author of the book is a known homophobe. "Well, no," I said to a friend who was with me when the request was received. She isn't as passionate on this subject as I am so she advised me to just think things over. I didn't know what to do. When I asked my best friend, who's gay, what I should do he asked if the book was going to be about the man's feelings about gays and I said no. "So then do it," he said. So I did, but I have to say, I'm still not sure I made the right decision and, selfishly, I'm bothered by the fact that I can't really enjoy the fact that one of my photographs was published. I barely even really tell people.

Posted by: patricia at August 5, 2008 11:46 AM

I loved Ender's Game (couldn't get through more than the second book though) and was also disappointed when I heard about the person, separate from the author. I have a hard time separating the person from their creative endeavor(s). I can't bring myself to purchase albums by any recording artist that supports the RIAA. I have a hard time enjoying movies with actors who are batshit crazy in their personal life. I'd like to think I'm above those things...alas, I am not.

Posted by: rai at August 5, 2008 12:03 PM

Well, I'm disappointed right now. I love Ender's Game. I can't say that I won't read it ever again, but I know I'll never be able to read it again without thinking of Card's nasty comments. Too bad.

Posted by: Fraulein N at August 5, 2008 12:26 PM

What a dick.

And yeah, it is almost impossible (as many of the other commenters have said) to separate the artist from the art. It sucks when your idols let you down and it does impact on the way you perceive their work.

I think Michael Jackson is a prime example of this. I would have no desire to read the work of someone as clearly bigoted as Card is, no matter how great the book is - which is a real shame. But if people in the public eye are gonna be so openly and loudly opinionated, they need to accept that it may have an affects on the way they and their work is received by the world.

Posted by: starrynite at August 5, 2008 12:52 PM

What a dick.

And yeah, it is almost impossible (as many of the other commenters have said) to separate the artist from the art. It sucks when your idols let you down and it does impact on the way you perceive their work.

I think Michael Jackson is a prime example of this. I would have no desire to read the work of someone as clearly bigoted as Card is, no matter how great the book is - which is a real shame. But if people in the public eye are gonna be so openly and loudly opinionated, they need to accept that it may have an affects on the way they and their work is received by the world.

Posted by: starrynite at August 5, 2008 12:52 PM

YOU man titties? I cant even picture it....can I hug your belly too?

*comment per THe Fish's post*
Chris is HOTT with 2 T's!

Posted by: Cheryl at August 5, 2008 1:14 PM

I feel you! I used to really respect Andy Dick as an actor, but after he groped that young girl at the chicken wing joint all of that went out the window. I mean, seriously Andy? Chicken wings? Have some standards.

OK, I'm kidding, that does really suck. And yes it's ok to judge. If you can't judge us by our values, then what?

Posted by: Mymilabean at August 5, 2008 1:31 PM

YOU man titties? I cant even picture it....can I hug your belly too?

*comment per THe Fish's post*
Chris is HOTT with 2 T's!

Posted by: Cheryl at August 5, 2008 1:47 PM

Ender's game has been one of my favourite books for at least ten years and my husband has loved it much, much longer. I, too, was very disappointed to hear Card's closed-minded and disparaging remarks. I, too, felt I needed to consider whether I could still hold his work in such high esteem when I find his views so offensive. For me the bottom line is that there is a good chance that I would disagree with many of the personal beliefs of many of the authors I read. If their work is good, and doesn't promote hateful attitudes (which is different than potraying hateful attitudes - all authors do this with some of their characters, it's what makes an interesting story), then I have no problem reading it. I don't have to agree with someone in order to appreciate their work. And Ender's Game is still a great story. I think that if we censor the work we read to include only people with whom we agree, we will miss out on all kinds of experiences, knowledge and opportunities for critical thinking. We also become closed-minded, which is an attribute which I find particularly awful. Orson Scott Card's novel Ender's Game isn't hate literature. But that stuff he's spewing in his interviews is. There's a difference. I don't feel I can paint his whole body of work with one "bigot" brush, despite the fact that I disagree with his philosophical views.

Posted by: Shannon at August 5, 2008 1:57 PM

Boyfriends I have broken up with because they were homophobic: 2.

It's one of America's last unexamined prejudices, but it has gotten so much better in my lifetime, and I hope gay marriage will one day be legal everywhere.

I was really disappointed when I found out that Miles Davis abused his wife (wives? girlfriend? I can't even remember now). But, I still love his music. Great art often comes from a person who is disturbed or outside the mainstream. That is part of why you become an artist, isn't it? To reconcile your crazy self with the world you live in?

Posted by: Laura at August 5, 2008 3:42 PM

i try really hard not to find out things about people whose work i admire as well. i've had a lot of conversations about this exact topic actually. which would then lead into the conversation of what men can get away with and women cannot. such as when i found out about a singer i sorta liked was bragging about getting three different women pregnant at the same time. it made me feel that a man who brags about something like that cant really have anything that important to sing about that i would want to hear.

Posted by: Cri at August 5, 2008 4:17 PM

You're only human Chris :) I would not want to read a book by this man either.

Posted by: Nadine at August 5, 2008 4:22 PM

Like Mr. Rogers wasn't into transgendered hookers. We all know the truth.

Oh wait, except for you, because you refuse to google it.

Posted by: statia at August 5, 2008 5:48 PM

The only one that comes to mind right now is Moby. We're not going to talk about how many of his CDs I own, but when you actually read things he's said, written, or done, the impression you get is the man is a raving vegan lunatic. I'm not saying if you're vegan you're a looney, but he comes across as one of the PeTa-supporting, kill all people who used animal products nutcases.

Definitely disappointing to say the least, and I will admit my favor of his music did diminish the more I learned about him. :(

Posted by: Debra at August 5, 2008 9:49 PM

Actually the Reba/Dixie Chicks thing goes both ways. I wasn't too phased by what the Dixie Chicks had to say about President Bush and I thought things went a bit over board with "punishing" them, but then they made a comment that really annoyed me.

It was something like that they preferred to have a small group of "cool" fans that really "get it" and wouldn't want the type of fan that would have their CD in a 5 disk charger with Reba and Toby Keith.

One can't be choosy about their fans. It wasn't the small group that they may deem "Cool" that made them as famous (and rich) as they are, and that comment was a slap in the face to everyone who spent their time and money buying their CDs and going to their concerts.

I haven't bought anything of theirs since.

Posted by: Scattered Mom at August 6, 2008 12:51 AM

I actually do think it is possible to separate a person's art/writing/music, etc. from their personal viewpoints. I think, despite the fact that it is cheesy as hell, that a really great book or song or what have you transcends the creator and that it doesn't really matter what they believe in their own lives (as long as that really great work isn't also pushing a viewpoint that I disagree with). Ender's Game is an incredible book (and also my go-to recommendation for anyone who asks)- the story stands on its own, regardless of who thought it up. 100 years from now, OSC's bigoted rant is going to be a moot point, but Ender's Game will continue to be relevant. We don't know much about the personal lives of renowned artists from the distant past, but that doesn't keep what they did from being great art.

Posted by: Kate at August 6, 2008 12:53 AM

I could write volumes on this - both gay marriage, and separating the art from the person you know is creating it - but for once, I'll restrain myself. Suffice it to say, I'm with you.

Posted by: Caitlin at August 6, 2008 7:15 AM

I know i'm late to commenting on this, and (as there's a stinky baby staggering around in the background) I havn't read all the other comments, but I wanted to say I know what you mean.

I was truly inspired by the writings of Richard Bach and Paul Choell (help, scuse spelling) and also the music of John Denver. and was felt rather let down after investigating their personal lives.

Posted by: mamacrow at August 7, 2008 9:16 AM

Tony Dungy. Same reason.

Posted by: Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah at August 7, 2008 5:01 PM

Some time ago, I did need to buy a house for my firm but I didn't earn enough cash and could not purchase anything. Thank goodness my father proposed to try to take the loan at trustworthy bank. Therefore, I did that and was happy with my collateral loan.

Posted by: OnealBOBBIE at July 29, 2010 3:54 AM