In Which it Turns Out I’m Incapable of Separating Art from Artist
The internet has made it a fantastic time to be a member of fandom…ANY fandom.
Yeah, you’ll find people you don’t necessarily want to associate with, but how awesome is it to be able to interact with the creators of all that awesome shit you geek out over?
Um…turns out, sometimes it’s kind of the worst.
Or, it’s the worst if you’re anything like me and find it difficult to separate the creator from their creation.
Last year, lots of people were talking about Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband, Walter Breen. I found out several years ago that MZB had covered up her husband’s rape of children, but until then didn’t know that she had also been serially molesting their daughter. You can find links to a bunch of other posts about all of this on Jim C Hines’ blog here.
A few years ago I was thinking about how Mists of Avalon had been one of the very first female-centric fantasy novels I’d read that showed women (even moms) could be BAMFs, just as well as men could. So I went clicking around on the internet (as one does), hoping to find other women my age who’d had a similar response to it. That was when I learned about Breen’s conviction for pedophilia, as well as the fact that he continued engaging in sexual activities with minors for years after; and that his wife had known and done nothing about it.
I decided that maybe I didn’t want to re-read that book anymore and put it back on the shelf.
Learning that she sexually abused her children has strengthened my resolve to never read her work again, but I see so many people crying that the work ITSELF isn’t diminished by the ACTIONS of the author.
This is bullshit.
When art speaks to me, it makes a home in my soul. A gloriously well-lit home that is so inviting, it might as well be built of gingerbread and candy.
When the creator of that art falls from grace (whether it’s child rape, NAMBLA support, a claim that gay marriage marks “the end of democracy in America,” beating their spouse, drugging women to coerce them into sex or whatever else), the home that was built inside me falls into disrepair. The windows boarded up, the lights extinguished, the entire place left for cobwebs and rodents.
I COULD ignore this sort of thing, but…y’know. There’s this pesky thing called ethics and I have them.
So then comes the question of how to respond.
Do I quietly sit by and say nothing? Do I keep reading/consuming the art created by these people I no longer feel even a modicum of respect for? Do I continue to recommend these works (that may have had a major impact on me; taking a second to acknowledge how very sad I am that I can no longer in good conscience give my sons a copy of Ender’s Game), but with a footnote as to why someone may want to purchase second hand?
It’s a tough decision.
Even tougher when the artist is no longer living.
For me, in this instance, I think I have to nope these books out of my own personal canon. The 15y/o sj that was recovering from years of abuse who so desperately needed those Amazons of Darkover to look up to as a model of strength has been curled up inside my mind, sobbing; unwilling to believe that she was so badly duped by someone she so looked up to. I’ve had to excise these books for her.
I am somewhat envious of the people who have the ability to separate art from artist. They get to hold their bookish friends close, while I have to let them go. They get to introduce their children to their friends from childhood. I don’t.
And, hey: I welcome discussion about this topic, but let’s keep it away from cries of censorship, please? That’s not at all what this is about. This is about losing something integral to how you view yourself as a person, not a call to avoid anyone or anything. Thanks, guys. <3