The same old shit


I won’t actually ask the question, because it’s been asked, but I’ll remind you of it: “Is it possible to separate an artist from her/his work?”

Sure. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. But it’s not always possible. When an artist is so much in their work—whether the presence is conscious or unconscious—it becomes difficult to ignore. It’s distracting.

Five minutes ago I finished reading Stephen King’s The Stand. And, to quote a friend, the “religiosity” became “hokey.” But more distracting than that was the subtle racism.

The Satan-esque villain known as “the black man.” The black soldiers being enormous and muscle-bound and barely human. The complete absence of “good” black characters with the exception of the religious, cornbread-baking prophet woman. The ending, with Africans carrying spears and falling dumbly down at Flagg’s feet (the book took place in the ‘90s). And don’t get me started on the female characters.

What else can I say besides the fact that it’s tiresome? I realize it was written in the 70’s. And that’s always the excuse of people who defend this and other writing. “Well that was then; there weren’t black main characters back then,” as if it was the Stone Age. As if this means it is exempt from criticism.

It’s not. Stephen King wasn’t employing these metaphors for literary effect. It’s casual. Included by way of his own subconscious notions. If this were purely a thing of the past and a pattern not present in 90% of popular fiction and film, maybe it would be easier to lay the old dog to rest.

But that dog is barking, and it only makes it worse to read this puffed-up book from the 70’s and see how little has changed.

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4 thoughts on “The same old shit

  1. I remember reading this book in seventh grade during a VERY BORING spring break at my grandma’s house. I didn’t notice any of this at the time, but it seems so obvious once you point it out. I’m always defending Stephen King to my writer friends, but maybe I need to rethink my position.

    • oliviaacole says:

      I’ve defended him too. Just because he’s, you know, Stephen King and he weaves an awesome story. But once you notice it…it’s hard to ignore. I noticed on like page 200 and by page 1050 (christ) I was ready to strangle him. It’s constant.

  2. I won’t defend it, but he seems to have gotten better. 11/22/63 takes time to point out the race and sex issues of the time.

  3. Thank goodness someone else thought the same things I did. In spite of my interest in the plot, I almost gave up on the book several times because I was so tired of all the things you describe above. And then I got to the ending and I actually said out loud, “SERIOUSLY?” Seriously those are the only other black people in your book? Really?

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