Here's the Thing

Content vs. Creator

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #96. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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A monthly glimpse into whatever gaming bugaboo Rob’s got on his mind.

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Clichéd though it may be, the internet and social media have metaphorically made the world a whole lot smaller. Being able to follow (or even have a brief dialog with) the people who make the things we love is freaking amazing when you stop and think about it. Here’s the thing: these days, nary a week goes by where a fan learns  something about one of their favorite actors, directors, cartoonists, game developers, authors, or musicians that ends up casting a shadow over their work. So, what do we do when the people who make the things we love turn out to be sort of horrible?

I want to be clear: this is absolutely not a condemnation of people who know that a creator has problems but continue to follow their work. This is a massive grey area, and I don’t think anyone should be shamed for liking a thing an arguably bad person made. Especially if they didn’t know in the first place. Also keep in mind that I’m not referring to silly stuff like pineapple on pizza – I’m talking about serious things like racism, misogyny, transphobia and the like.

If you have an average set of morals and spend any amount of time online, chances are you’ve stumbled upon a story about someone who made a thing or things that have been influential in your life and now you kind of wish you hadn’t read it. I won’t be naming names because this isn’t the place for that, but stuff like that sucks. Absolutely loving a TV show only to find out the person who created it is a sort of wolf in sheep’s clothing feels like a betrayal. Learning that a designer who was responsible for several of my favorite videogames growing up (and having said designer try to send a hate mob after you) is disappointing, to say the least.

Finding out someone you respect – either directly, or indirectly via appreciation of their work – has such ugliness in their heart can be tough to deal with.

The thing is, there are no easy answers for how to deal with something like this. On the one hand, you’d be perfectly justified in never supporting any of the creator’s future projects because of this fundamental ideological (or even moral) difference. On the other hand, things like TV shows, movies and videogames are the product of the hard work of many people and it would be a shame to punish them all just because one person on the project is an asshat.

Then there’s the matter of how you yourself feel about all of it. Does knowing what you know make you feel a little disappointed but not much else? Does it turn your stomach and make it difficult for you to look at any of their work (past, present and future) the same way again?

The problematic person’s level of involvement is usually a good barometer when it comes to deciding how much you can separate their bad from the good. Of course, the severity of their “views” can also be a contributing factor, as can their apparent willingness to be less awful. Heck, even if you find a creator to be absolutely despicable but just can’t bring yourself from monetarily contributing to their work there are still ways you can offset the Ick Factor. Consider something like donating the same amount you paid for your ticket or download or whatever to a charity that opposes the thing(s) they’re being nasty about. Wait for a sale. Watch it online instead of buying the DVD.

I don’t have any real answers. Finding out someone you respect – either directly, or indirectly via appreciation of their work – has such ugliness in their heart can be tough to deal with. It sucks and I’m sorry. Just know that you’re not alone, and that only you can decide how much is too much for you – don’t let anyone else tell you you’re being too sensitive or not sensitive enough. Short of actively trying to destroy said creator’s career or actively trying to champion their awfulness, there aren’t any real “wrong” answers.

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Rob Rich has loved videogames since the 80s and has the good fortune to be able to write about them. Catch his rants on Twitter at @RobsteinOne

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