Science fiction writer Orson Scott Card has been hired by DC Comics to write a story for a new Superman anthology series called The Adventures of Superman. The internet has exploded in outrage because Card is a well-known anti-gay bigot, and people feel DC should not be hiring people with those sorts of views. DC has released a statement about the situation:
“As content creators we steadfastly support freedom of expression, however the personal views of individuals associated with DC Comics are just that — personal views — and not those of the company itself.”
It's hard to disagree with that. I find Orson Scott Card personally repugnant; I wouldn't shake the man's hand, and I have no interest in spending any money on any book or movie that will add to his personal wealth. But I'm disturbed by the idea that people think it's ok to call for a person to be fired from a writing job because of their personal views, which likely will not be reflected in the story they're writing.
Obviously if Card has Superman spout anti-gay rhetoric, even metaphorically, I'll be the first complaining. That's wrong. But what the man believes personally has no bearing on him writing Superman. Like it or not - and I suspect there are a lot of people who don't like it - we live in a country where Orson Scott Card is legally allowed to dislike gay people. He's legally allowed to hold his own opinions, no matter how odious. The idea that a person's personal opinions should be grounds for dismissal or blacklisting is, frankly, chilling. Is the idea here that it's ok to blacklist people we disagree with, but that we get up in arms when people we agree with get blacklisted? I assume the same people complaining about Card's hiring would be freaking out (rightly so) if a conservative group threatened DC with a boycott for hiring a gay writer.
An artist's work must exist separate from the artist. While the artist's beliefs and history can inform a critical analysis of the work, their personal beliefs about politics or philosophy or religion should not be the main consideration when consuming the work. It would be exhausting, and stupid, to comb through every artist's personal history to make sure their beliefs and their behavior match up to your personal criteria. The quality of the work is what matters; you're certainly not asking about the elevator inspector's views on Israel before you go to your floor.
At the same time you don't have to continue to support an artist whose beliefs or actions have offended you, but you have no right to demand that others do the same, or that the artist be blacklisted. It's especially crazy to make that demand before you've seen the work in question.
It's really important to draw a distinction here between personal beliefs and beliefs that get dragged into work. Again, if Card's Superman story ends up being anti-gay, let's complain. Or look at the current case of Diana Medley, a special ed teacher who has gone on the record saying gays 'serve no purpose.' This is a situation where her personal beliefs are obviously going to impact the way she deals with LGBT students. Medley should be fired - immediately - for the safety and welfare of her students.
In short: fuck Orson Scott Card, but he has the right to be as reprehensible as he wants. I don't have to support him by consuming his work, but I also don't ever want to see a situation where we're blacklisting artists because of their personal views, no matter how much I disagree with them.