I think there’s a scarcity narrative around creativity. The idea that genius is rare, and that as a consequence we must put up with the brilliant people who are also terrible people. We must separate the art from the artist’s shortcomings as a person.
Over the last twenty years or so I’ve spent a lot of time as a reader, reviewer, and editor of indie creations and have spent a lot of time working for small publishing houses. The scarcity story is a lie. We are not short of brilliance and originality. I feel confident in saying that for every problematic high profile creator, there are dozens, if not hundreds of equally or more talented people who haven’t done terrible things.
What would happen if we didn’t keep high profile, disreputable people in their jobs? Would creative industries suffer? Or would we open up space for nicer people? Might we even get an increase in talent and delight as a consequence? I think we would. I would like to see more people given a chance to break through, and I feel really comfortable about doing that at the expense of people who don’t play nicely.
It’s become popular to criticise ‘cancel culture’ on grounds of free speech. But, bear in mind, every time you ‘cancel’ some high profile individual who maybe doesn’t deserve the attention, you open up space for someone else. It’s not cancelling culture, it’s changing culture. It’s also worth noting that industries are driven by the desire for profit and if they drop an individual it is primarily because they do not think this person is going to make them enough money. If we aren’t so interested in the art of bigots and abusers, there’s less market for it, so companies interested in profits won’t try to sell that to us. Controversy can sell, but if it doesn’t sell as well as other things, it won’t be a driving force.
For every high profile creator whose attitude stinks, there are many less famous creators with wonderful work whose outlook might also suit you better. It only makes sense to have to forgive creators for crapiness if you think creativity is in short supply. It isn’t. Wealth and fame are in short supply, opportunities and privilege are in short supply, but step outside of the narrow mainstream and there is so much good stuff to be found.