In case you haven’t heard, there’s been quite a stir this week related to the Chick-fil-A fast food chain. Apparently, the president of the company, Dan Cathy, expressed that he believed in the Holy Bible’s definition of marriage, denoting that he didn't support the idea of same-sex couples being married. The reaction following this action was a swarm of people visiting Chick-fil-A establishments across the country. The funny thing is, some were there to support Dan in his beliefs, other’s were there in support of the idea of free speech, and some were there in order to protest both of those ideals. This ended up being quite an explosive PR move (suddenly Chick-fil-A is all over the news and internet) and a savvy business move (record sales have been made this week with some sites actually running out of food, reportedly). Understand that, there is more to this story than just the statements that Dan made--there are some donation issues to consider, but, for the purpose of this post, I'm concerned with the people who report that they have reacted in protest against Chick-fil-A based solely on the opinion expressed by Dan.
But that’s not the actual focus of this post. I’m more interested in the idea of separation of author and work, much like the separation of president and product in the current news.
The author that sticks out in my mind is Ayn Rand (but there are others who fit this scenario, such as Adolf Hitler). I have been reading Ayn’s books since I was in…high school, maybe? I think the first one I read was Anthem. I remember falling in love with the story so much, I looked for other books she had written. Pretty soon I had gone through Atlas Shrugged, We the Living, and The Fountainhead. Loving every word along the way.
I understood that Ayn had a philosophy called Objectivism, but I had no idea what that meant. So, being the scholarly girl that I am, I tried to go read up on it. Still, no dice. I couldn’t wrap my head around what it really meant to be an Objectivist. Was it just being selfish? Was it the same as capitalism? I was confused.
Of course, after a while I got caught up in my other responsibilities (college, work, credit card bills, etc.) and never pursued an understanding of that philosophy again. However, when people have heard that I enjoyed (‘adored’ is probably a better word) those works, they seemed (or directly expressed being) appalled and /or confused. Because, as a rule (in their mind, anyway) if I like these FICTIONAL NOVELS that she wrote, I must wholeheartedly believe in her political and social ideals as well.
Based upon this logic, anyone who has read Mein Kampf wants to cleanse the world of “undesirables”. Sounds a little fishy to me.
Don’t get me wrong—I understand that literature, especially creative or ideological literature, is usually infused with a great deal of an author’s personal beliefs. However (I know it sounds crazy so just try to stick with me here), isn’t it at least possible that someone could write something that people could enjoy without having to agree with everything the author believes in the political realm?
If Tandie’s mom gave her the pitcher, table, sign, sugar, water, ice, cups, lemons, spoon, and change jar with which to run a lemonade stand so she could raise money to buy a new bike, am I not going to buy lemonade from Tandie because her mother painted their house pink and I don’t like that color?
In other words, can’t I just love Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries (which I do, by the way) without agreeing with a personal opinion of the president of that company?
Do you think people who read your work are just like you (same beliefs, same attitudes, same upbringing, etc.)? Do you think that, were you to have a personal conversation with your favorite author, the two of you would agree on all major life issues such as sex, religion, and politics? And, most poignantly, if they didn't agree with you (say, on ANYTHING) would you stop reading their work that you've loved all these years?
My guess is ‘no’. But I'm open to being wrong. Tell me what you think.