So there has been a ton of stuff in the blogosphere, bookish Twitter and Bookstagram where authors have been called out, rightfully we think, for doing or saying things that are offensive to readers. Most often, these are things that demonstrate that an author’s beliefs are in some way offensive or discriminatory.
The biggest recent example, of course, is J.K. Rowling Tweeting things out that consistently demonstrate her transphobic beliefs, or Orson Scott Card, who frequently espouses seriously homophobic beliefs. But there have been others as well, whether they write books that reflect offensive beliefs or Tweet or state something that is problematic.
So the question for us as readers is, what do we do with this? Some people argue that we should “separate the art from the artist,” and this is a tempting argument, particularly when the artist has created something that has in some way already shaped or changed you, as with Harry Potter or Ender’s Game. But if we stop to really examine that, can we do that? Can we continue to support and purchase Harry Potter merchandise without also recognizing that a trans person may see you wearing that merch and take it as a statement of your beliefs about their worth? Can we buy books written by authors with hateful beliefs, knowing that some portion of that money goes directly to their pockets?
If we do, how do we offset that? Donations to organizations that fight for everyone to have equal rights that offset the initial purchase? Online conversations that make clear our stance? Is that enough?
If you came to this blog post for answers, I’m not sure you will find them here. I know that for some artists — Woody Allen, Roman Polanski — I am fine not consuming their art, because I find what they have done so reprehensible that I cannot separate in my mind the art from the artist. But, I also didn’t love that art before I knew about the issues.
I love Harry Potter, down to my bones. I’m a proud Ravenclaw, and I cried the first time I read Sorcerer’s Stone out loud to my son, because I had been excited for years to share that world with him. I also think that Potter fans over the years have done some amazing good, whether through the Harry Potter Alliance or more informally. But, I have people in my life who I love and support and Rowling has hurt them more than she ever helped me. How can I continue to support this franchise when it’s creator has proven to not be at all in touch with the beliefs her books helped instill in a generation of readers?
What About You?
So, I’m asking. What do you do? Where do you draw the line? Can we keep purchasing our books and merchandise knowing that the author has so badly misstepped? Can you actually separate the art from the artist? I’m excited to talk to you about this in the comments.