A couple of months ago one of my professors from college posted an article on his facebook. (Yes, I am facebook friends with my former professors. Judge me all you want.) The article was about racism in the music world, but at the end of his comment he made the offhand remark “The symphony shouldn’t even be playing Orff’s music anyway because he was a Nazi collaborator.” This remark took over the comment section as an impassioned debate began over Orff.
My first response was shock. The piece of music in question, Carmina Burana, is one of the most popular and crowd-drawing pieces in an orchestra’s repertoire, and has literally nothing to do with Nazis. Why wouldn’t they play it? But both sides had a lot of interesting points.
A month or so later my twitter erupted. Popular fantasy author Brandon Sanderson tweeted an “open letter” stating that he didn’t support gay marriage. Everyone was pretty furious, and book bloggers declared they would never read his books again, and would promptly get rid of any of his books they did own.
Around the same time I saw a couple of bloggers chatting about Roald Dahl, about how people’s childhoods would be ruined if they realized he was an anti-Semite. Again, I was confused. I’ve only read one of his books, Matilda, but it seemed to me that the message was all about how being different is good! Why would that message change just because Dahl didn’t like Jews? (For the record, as far as I can tell Dahl wasn’t an anti-Semite, just anti-Israel. Also, he liked to push buttons and get a rise out of people, which caused them to misunderstand him. I can relate!)
These three social media incidents have been pestering at the back of my mind ever since. The clear question has emerged: Do an author/musician/artists’s political/philosophical/religious beliefs affect the quality and/or enjoyment of their books/music/art?