Is Diversity in Art a Requirement?

Recently, Stephen King tweeted that he would “never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” He seems to be talking about this year’s Oscars nominations, which the BBC has dubbed “not a good year for diversity in the top categories”.

King later followed up to his statement: “The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, or orientation. Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts.” And in another tweet: “You can’t win awards if you’re shut out of the game.”

This incident doesn’t necessarily make Stephen King problematic. I’m not out to criticise him, but to explore the questions that his statements raise.

Stephen_King.jpg
Stephen King | Source: pinguino k, licensed via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

To me, Stephen King’s initial statement and his follow ups feel contradictory. On one hand, he asserts that quality matters more than concerns of diversity. Yet, he also concedes that it’s critical for everyone, including minority groups, to have an equal playing field — which is the exact purpose of the focus on diversity and inclusion.

Another issue, which several people mentioned in their replies to King’s tweet, is that he seems to create a dichotomy between quality and diversity, looking at them as separate qualities. But you can’t really have one without the other.

Continue reading “Is Diversity in Art a Requirement?”

Should We Support Problematic Books & Authors?

“For some he was a war hero, a philanthropist and a profoundly altruistic man. For others he was a bully, a misogynist, and even an anti-Semite.”

Can you guess which author these words refer to? Here’s a hint: he was a children’s author recognised for his imaginative and humorous stories. Some of his most well-known books include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda.

You probably know the answer — the person being referred to is none other than Roald Dahl.

Roald_Dahl
Roald Dahl | Source: Rob Bogaerts/Anefo, via Wikimedia Commons (licensed under CC0)

Apparently, the well-loved children’s author was not so universally well-loved after all. The article from which the earlier quote is taken describes how others have perceived Dahl as intellectual yet arrogant; determined, yet selfish; a source of joy for the world, yet also controlling and disloyal.

True, accounts may be subjective. But questionable personality aside, Dahl’s books also contain problematic elements, such as traces of misogyny and unrestrained cruelty against children.

This discussion might seem irrelevant, considering it’s been decades since Dahl passed away. But his books are still around — as are other authors similar to him, whose actions and/or works have potentially problematic aspects.

Continue reading “Should We Support Problematic Books & Authors?”