So yesterday I came across this post. For those of you who don’t want to click over, allow me to summarize: a publishing company agreed to publish a book. The book’s about ready to be published–all that’s left is to finalize little things like the authors’ bios. One of the authors mentions that he lives with his wife and children. The other’s bio includes a tidbit about how he lives with his boyfriend. He changes that to “partner” when the publisher has a hissy fit, but that doesn’t appease the publisher. They want all mention of a partner or boyfriend left out of the bio. The author refuses.
The publisher cancels the novel.
Why? Because the publisher is Cedar Fort, a Utah press that sells primarily to Mormons–and they’re freaked out about alienating Deseret Book, a church-run bookstore in Utah that’s a prime place for books to be sold.
Um . . .
Yeah. How is this not grounds for a huge lawsuit? How is it possible that a publisher does something like this? The book wasn’t promoting homosexuality. It’s a YA fantasy, for crying out loud. One of the authors is gay. So what? To withdraw from a business agreement because the author wanted to mention that he lived with his partner? That boggles my mind.
Of course, the sad truth is that there is no doubt a not-insignificant number of people for whom seeing “lives with his partner” in a bio *would* be a deal breaker. And that’s just wrong to me.
But let’s talk about the flip side of this argument. Orson Scott Card. Here you have a Mormon saying some very hurtful things about gays, and you have a not insignificant number of people who want to boycott Ender’s Game because of it. Never mind that the movie is done through Hollywood. That the book has nothing to do with being anti-gay. That hundreds of people worked on the thing who no doubt have nothing against gay people at all, some of whom have publicly said so.
The Ender’s Game example doesn’t come close to approximating the problems at issue with the first example, but I do see them as sides of an idea I’ve been rolling around in my head for quite some time, and that is:
Should you separate the art from the artist? Can you?
I know of plenty of people who seem unable to do so. They hear about what an actor or an author has done outside of his acting or his writing, and they decide they’re never going to see another movie or read another book from that person.
I don’t do this. Why not? For many reasons. First of all, if I avoided the art of every person who has done something I disagree with or which I find morally reprehensible, then there’s not a whole lot of art I’d be allowing myself to see. Actually, likely no art at all. We’ve all done things we’re not proud of. Or things we *are* proud of, but shouldn’t be. Artists are mortal and full of flaws. That’s part of what makes them able to make great art.
What about outspoken gay-rights actors? Or anti-gay authors? Or artists who cheat on their wives? Or–or–or–
Or how about this. How about the idea that my personal views on morality and right and wrong might be different than what other people believe? Should I hold other people to my same standards? I think drinking coffee is a sin. Does this mean I should stop talking and associating with all coffee drinkers?
Of course not.
My standards aren’t your standards. I don’t get to decide what your standards are. As long as its legal, who am I to throw stones? (And speaking of legal, is breaking a contract because of sexual orientation really legal?)
Here’s an excellent article in the New York Times that goes over all the awful things famous artists have done.
For me, art is art, and people are people. I can’t go around doing a Wikipedia search before I read or watch anything, to make sure that the creators did or did not live a certain lifestyle. Nor would I want to. The art should stand on its own. If Ender’s Game is an awful movie, let it fail on its own shortcomings. If Woven was a great book, it should have had the chance to get out in front of the public and fly–regardless of partners or boyfriends or whatever.
Ah well. For now I’m just disappointed in Cedar Fort for what they did, and sad that it’s going to reinforce the stereotype that all Mormons are anti-gay. My hope is that a different publishing company picks up their book and uses this free publicity to launch it to even greater success than it would have had at Cedar Fort, but publishing is a fickle beast, and you never know what it might bring next.
What are your thoughts on the connection between artists and their art? Does it make a difference to you? Why or why not?