Feats of Greatness, Feet of Clay: Authors, Flaws, and the People Behind the Stories

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(Orson Scott Card poses at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, in 2008. Wikimedia Commons/ Nihonjoe)

“Just because someone’s a member of an ethnic minority doesn’t mean they’re not a nasty small-minded little jerk.” ~ Terry Pratchett, from Feet of Clay 

There is a reason I frequently shy away from reading biographies:  people suck.  Even the best people suck.  If you want to go on admiring someone, don’t know them personally.  The art, of course, speaks for itself.  It need not be burdened by the shortcomings of its creator.  But (at least for me) it is difficult to separate the two once you know.  You cannot, as the saying goes, unsee something.

Today, a lot of people, including myself, were surprised to learn that beloved science fiction writer Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Gameis an anti-gay activist, and has been for a very long time.  In 2008, he wrote that “marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down.”   Responding to the Supreme Court decision on the topic of gay marriage, Card told Entertainment Weekly  “it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.”

Hmmmm…. interesting that someone who is against tolerance wants to see how people with tolerance respond….

I don’t like knowing this about the author.  I wish I did not know it.

I do not like knowing that two of my favorite history writers,  Stephen Ambrose (Band of Brothers), and Doris Kearns Goodwin (The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedyshave both plagiarized large portions of their work.

I really don’t like knowing that Harold Bloom (The Anxiety of Influence probably had sexually inappropriate contact with one of his graduate students, the now-widely published feminist author Naomi Wolf (The  Beauty Myth).  For those of you who don’t know, Bloom closely resembles Jabba the Hutt and Wolf (boy, would she hate this…) Princess Leia in the gold bikini.  Talk about something you can’t unsee.

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Spolier alert:  The list is endless.  I don’t care to know that Bing Crosby beat his children. One of my friends recently told me she was on a flight with Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage and that he was a drunken ass to the flight attendants.  Dang.

Of course, I will still read books written by people I find problematic and watch movies starring  real-life jerks.  But, for me, those authors and actors never again can hold quite the same place in my heart. And that makes me sad.


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