Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Guiltiest of Pleasures: Cassandra Clare and the Author/Book Divide

So the trailer for “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” movie is now out, to the great pleasure of the fans. However, this hot new buzz has also unearthed some older discussions about Cassandra Clare, in particular regarding the plagiarism debacle and her behaviour in the early days of the HP fandom.

Now, I didn’t even speak English all that well in 2000-2002, so most of my information regarding this issue is second-hand. I’m also pretty indifferent to Ms Clare’s work, so the movie buzz didn’t have much of an impact on me. “City of Bones” is a mediocre book, but Hollywood isn’t known to make exclusively deep and thought-provoking films either.

However, the new discussion surrounding Clare and the movie adaptation of her book makes me think about what the Nostalgia Chick calls the “Chick-fil-A Paradox”. Namely, what do you do when an author whose work you love does or is accused of doing something which you don’t agree with? Something you disapprove of, or something that personally offends you? Or something that, on the first glance is noble and amazing, but jarrs strongly with their previous behaviour?

There’s an unspoken assumption that people who read extensively are very intelligent. There’s also the assumption that intelligent people are highly tolerant, presumably because “intelligent” has become synonymous with “nerdy” in Western culture, and nerds are stereotypically very put upon. (Anti-intellectualism and all that.) Furthermore, since authors need to be extensive readers, they are, by this logic, intelligent and tolerant and empathic towards everyone.

Yeah, that’s a pretty big over-simplification, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s an assumption, and a very general one at that. More to the point, it doesn’t take much time to come up with an example to disprove that theory. Lindsay’s video is about “Ender’s Game” and OSC, but that’s not an isolated case. Alexandra Adronetto, whose books have reached Justin Bieber-levels of infamy in the GR community, has written an article entitled: “Guard Your Virginity; Once Lost It’s Gone Forever”, indirectly condemning girls who have casual sex and implying that the experience is always damaging.

Or, to bring things closer to home, Brandon Sanderson, one of my favourite writers in the whole world, once compared homosexuality to adultery, (in that it’s okay to think about it as long as you don’t act on it). He’s somehow altered his opinions in later years, but I can’t help but think that his solution to the problem (separate state and church marriage) is a little too convenient. (For one thing, the religion shouldn’t have anything to do with legislation to begin with. For another, what Sanderson seems to be saying here is: “I’m not a bad person for wanting everyone to be happy!”)

Is there really such a thing as everyone being happy? A win-win situation? According to my Commercial Negotiations professor, no. I can’t say there’s much evidence to support that theory either. You can wax eloquent all you want about separating author and work, but in the end of the day, is that really possible? I know I will not read V.S. Naipaul after what he said about women writers, and I most certainly wouldn’t be picking up “The Selection” either, in spite of whatever personal interest I might have in it. Maybe there are people who won’t CARE for the controversy and read the books anyway, but knowing and caring are two entirely different things (caring, as in "believe and is bothered by it").

People who know (and care) about the controversy surrounding CC, but still like her books, are faced with the moral dilemma of whether or not to call themselves her fans openly. Whether they meet other people’s condemnation head on, or read “Clockwork Princess” in secret, their personal feelings will probably be very conflicted. I know I was when I heard about Sanderson. Hell, when Meat Loaf endorsed Romney in the latest elections, I thought I was going to die, I loved his songs SO FUCKING MUCH! Now that the election is over and state after state announce their support for gay marriage, I can listen to “Alive” again, but only for a little while, never the whole way through.

Will I find a way out of my own “Chick-fil-A Paradox”? I don’t know. I’m not too optimistic. My sense of political justice won’t keep me company during a one-hour commute in the blistering cold, nor will it help me kill four hours between lectures. I might choose artists I approve of, but there are times when everyday things corrode my resolve. Perhaps I’m just a spineless marshmallow with no idea of what real commitment looks like.

But being aware of these issues and not denying them is, I think, a step in the right direction.   

Final note: I don't care for Cassandra Clare. I don't buy her books. I may or may not watch the movie when it comes out (but given my track record with movies, I'm leaning towards the latter). If she writes posts against cyber-bullying and rape culture, then good for her. But I just can't completely buy it, not after reading about how she tried to get someone kicked out of college, or, to make things more recent, how she shut her critics up on tumblr. There are hate blogs for everything nowadays - I believe the Lantern was labeled as such after Ceilidh and I did our posts on the vlogbrothers - it stands to reason that there would be one about CC too.

It makes one wonder.

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