The trouble with transparency and the creative arts

Not a great title for this musing, but I’m not feeling creative enough for a better one.

What I’m getting at is this:

One downside of increased transparency of many people’s lives, especially noteworthy people, is that it’s harder to divorce the person from their creations.

For example?

I read many of Robert Heinlein’s books when I was much younger (maybe even young). I enjoyed most of them, not as great literary works but as enjoyable science fiction.

At the time, I knew nothing about Heinlein’s own worldview beyond what was in the books, and that wasn’t always obviously Heinlein speaking. (It’s definitely not the case that everything said by Isaac Asimov’s characters represented Asimov’s own thinking; why should it be true for Heinlein?)

Later, as I learned more about Heinlein, the man, it was too late for it to affect my enjoyment of his books–I’d already read them.

But I didn’t read Orson Scott Card when I was younger, and still haven’t. And, frankly, I suspect I never will, given what I know of Card’s activism and, um, sentiments, and given that I’m never possibly going to read all the books that are out there that I might enjoy. I figure I read about 12 science fiction books and another 26 booklength-equivalents (in science fiction magazines) a year, and that includes fantasy as well; there’s no conceivable way that I begin to run out of reading.

A tougher case…

There’s a country singer I’ve enjoyed quite a bit over the years. The name’s not important. His songs aren’t stridently political, and while he certainly indulges in gospel and religion sometimes, well, he’s a country artist. (Heck, I was an absolute J.S. Bach devotee when I was young, and Bach didn’t exactly ignore religion…)

Lately, though, I’ve heard that this person is becoming a known and significant contributor to a brand of politics that really doesn’t do much for me.

Does that make his music less appealing? Maybe, a little bit, yes.

The difference between this person and Card are, apart from pure intensity, this person doesn’t inject his politics into his songs to the extent that Card apparently (apparently–I haven’t read him, remember) injects his worldviews into his fiction.

And in general…

Once you’ve heard and confirmed someone’s stances and the vigor with which they pursue those stances, you can’t unhear them–and I don’t see how that can fail to affect how you read their writing, view their art, listen to their songs, watch their plays.

[Just as a socially onservative religious person who wants to know more about the St. Andrew's Cross and doesn't have filtering turned on will probably never fully unsee the results...]

That’s life. It’s always been true to some extent. I think it’s more true these days, and it’s harder to ignore the person behind the writing, the music, the art.

And sometimes, that feels a little unfortunate.

Not unfortunate enough to send me to the “Card” section of my library’s SF/F shelves, to be sure…

One Response to “The trouble with transparency and the creative arts”

  1. GeekChic Says:

    Oh, I so agree with you. Never read Card – won’t now for the same reasons you cite. Same problem with Ezra Pound….


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