Few authors have the cultural, or financial, clout that Stephen King boasts.
The master of horror has never gone out of style, a run that began with his 1974 shocker “Carrie.” Still, we’re in a King-level renaissance of late, courtesy of shows like HBO’s “The Outsider” and the “It” film franchise.
Long story short -- it’s good to be King.
Still, the author backpedaled furiously a few weeks back when he suggested that art should be judged based on its quality, not any diversity checklists.
He even penned a mea culpa in The Washington Post, the literary version of a hostage video, to appease the mob.
It’s why many figured he would backpedal anew when he expressed regret over Hachette Publishing canceling its planned Woody Allen memoir. Journalist and Allen son Ronan Farrow, along with a gaggle of the publisher’s employees, demanded the cancellation due to long-standing accusations against the auteur.
“It’s not him; I don’t give a damn about Mr Allen. It’s who gets muzzled next that worries me,” King wrote on Twitter. And, as of this publication date, he hasn’t backed down on the claim.
Nick Cave similarly deserves credit for refusing to bow to the woke mob. The Australian singer/songwriter runs a fan-friendly web site where he takes questions from all over the globe. One Irish follower asked the following, in a friendly but probing tone.
Do you ever feel the need to change lyrics, when performing live, which may be problematic in 2020, for example “a fag in a whalebone corset dragging his dick across my cheek”? Or are you happy to preserve the lyric as a product of its time, and respect the original content?
Cave’s response proved both cheeky and stubborn. He compared his songs to “children that have been playing cheerfully in the schoolyard, only to be told that all along they have had some hideous physical deformity.”
He then addresses the current woke mob head on.
But what songwriter could have predicted thirty years ago that the future would lose its sense of humour, its sense of playfulness, its sense of context, nuance and irony, and fall into the hands of a perpetually pissed off coterie of pearl-clutchers? How were we to know?
Perhaps we writers should have been more careful with our words – I can own this, and I may even agree – however, we should never blame the songs themselves. Songs are divinely constituted organisms. They have their own integrity. As flawed as they may be, the souls of the songs must be protected at all costs. They must be allowed to exist in all their aberrant horror, unmolested by these strident advocates of the innocuous, even if just as some indication that the world has moved toward a better, fairer and more sensitive place. If punishment must be administered, punish the creators, not the songs. We can handle it. I would rather be remembered for writing something that was discomforting or offensive, than to be forgotten for writing something bloodless and bland.
That doesn’t sound like someone prepping for any Apology TourTM.
The news isn’t all good on the free expression front.
Oprah Winfrey deserves credit for hosting a recent forum tied to the new book “American Dirt” on Apple TV. The novel caused an uproar due to its content and author. The former wasn’t deemed progressive enough.
Author Jeanine Cummins isn’t a Mexican American and, therefore, isn’t allowed to write about the Mexican experience according to her woke critics. Winfrey had picked “American Dirt” for her legendary Book Club, a move which doused the cultural fires with gasoline.
If King’s cultural power is significant, Winfrey’s version is as potent as anyone alive today. Yes, she’s that rich, that powerful, that culturally important.
Yet even she seems wary of the woke mob, according to this snippet from The New York Times about the controversy’s fallout.
But after the backlash to her selection of “American Dirt,” Winfrey recently dropped her March pick, “My Dark Vanessa.” Winfrey, through a spokeswoman, declined to say why, but after the taping of the “Oprah’s Book Club” episode she told The Associated Press, “I’m not going to play it safer, but I’m not going to wade into water if I don’t have to.”