Stephen King did some bad tweets about how we shouldn’t consider diversity in art

Stephen King rushes into his appearance on 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert'

I don’t follow Stephen King on Twitter, but I guess I follow a lot of people who follow King, because his tweets always appear in my timeline. King has always been politically liberal, and in the Trump era, he’s grown more vocal, especially on social media. He’s always doing good progressive tweets about Donny Smallhands and his minions, and generally speaking, King has become known as a woke white dude. Right? Right. But even woke white dudes sometimes f–k it all up. Which is what happened this week, in the midst of the annual Oscars So White conversation, where people like Jennifer Lopez, Awkwafina and Lupita Nyong’o were all ignored so that a Japanese tree like Scarlett Johansson could take two nominations. And… Stephen King decided to chime in, and instead of stopping and listening to the actual conversation, King did this:

The first part is King saying that he’s only allowed to vote in the two screenplay categories and the Best Picture category, so it’s not his fault only one actor of color was nominated in 20 acting slots. Then this: “For me, the diversity issue–as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway–did not come up.” Again, this is true – he’s not voting in those Oscar categories, although let me just say this too: it’s important to have diversity in screenwriters as well, and it’s important to have diversity behind the camera. It’s important to be open to inclusion at every f–king level, and it’s painful that King isn’t aware of the need to recognize racially and ethnically diverse storytellers and screenwriters, telling different kinds of stories about different kinds of people. (Sidenote: This whole thing reminded me of Mindy Kaling’s beef with the Television Academy about being a woman of color AND a writer and how they tried to erase her and avoid crediting her.)

“I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” Weird how many white dudes say this and really think that it means something. It’s weird how many white dudes – even woke, liberal-progressive dudes – still think that it would somehow be “reverse racism” (which isn’t a thing) to make a conscious choice to elevate and amplify artists of different races simply because, again, it’s vital that we have artistic representation in all kinds of ways. And it’s weird that white dudes who say they only care about “quality” are the same ones telling the same old stories about white folks, in films made by other white folks.

Anyway, King left those tweet up for several hours, with many people tweeting @ him and Ava DuVernay even got involved. Then King tweeted this:

Yes. I guess this is his version of an apology – he can’t tweet out “you know what, I listened to what Ava and other people had to say and I was wrong and I’m sorry.” Some men can’t ever do that. But yeah, it looks like he learned the lesson. Note: at no point did I say that I think King should be cancelled. I’m not cancelling him. But he showed his ass here, and I would absolutely appreciate it if he came out and really talked about diversity and inclusion in writing, producing, directing and acting. Hopefully this is a teachable moment.

Stephen King has fun with photographers at GMA

Photos courtesy of Backgrid.

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30 Responses to “Stephen King did some bad tweets about how we shouldn’t consider diversity in art”

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  1. Lucy says:

    Yeah, he put his foot in his mouth here. I won’t cancel him because I know that, overall, he’s one of the good ones. Still pretty disappointed in him, not gonna deny it. I expect him to be better.

    • Rashida says:

      I’ve never read anything of his but it creeps me out he wrote that scene in the book It where that girl (named Beverly? idk) in the group has sex w/all the boys in the book for some bizarre reason?? Like basically a gangbang scene w/little boys & a little girl…WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK? I’ve never read anything he’s written but when I read about that & how he blamed it on using extreme amounts of coke while writing but to me, that’s BS. I knw plenty of ppl who write while Totally Busted drunk or on drugs…they would never write the equivalent of child p0rn in fiction form. I’m sorry but WTF!? cocaine addiction is not an excuse…

      It’s odd how it didn’t get brought up tho more. it just bothers me when people adore things but don’t remember/acknowledge the really f*cked up stuff in the OG source. This is why I *loathe* Rocky Horror Picture show & cannot for the life of me understand why so many love it, particularly my fellow LGBTQA+ peeps. There’s VERY OBVIOUS rape-by-deception with TC’s character & the young couple (Sarandon & I forget the other dude. It really bothered me & still to this day. Like…that IS something ppl have experienced, men & women, & it makes me mad ppl just ignore it.

      Tho I love Tim Curry separately, all the time – he’s wonderful. Hope he’s doing better since his stroke 😞 love you Tim ❤️

  2. Becks1 says:

    “you cant win awards if you’re shut out of the game.” That’s so true, and I saw so many people trying to hammer that point home to him.

    His tweets were pretty bad, but I do think he listened to some of the criticism and hopefully actually got a new perspective on it, rather than just tweeting like he did. And it really is how many white people think – “I got here on talent, so should other people.” It reminds me of that viral video from a few years ago – where its a race but the organizers set it up so the starting points are all different (“if your parents are still married, move up two; if you never had to worry about food, move up three etc.”)

  3. Veronica S. says:

    I *think* what he’s trying to say is that diversity shouldn’t be the focus but correcting the diversity issue from the start so quality exists regardless because true quality shouldn’t even be looking at race, but it is a privileged perspective because it ignores the fact that these decisions are made subconsciously. Race is a subconscious prejudice for a lot of white Americans, even those who don’t consider themselves racist tend to have a white default. You have to make a conscious effort to include them until you override that underlying bias and then it becomes just as natural.

    • Eleonor says:

      Not only in the Us.
      I work in an international company, I like the fact we all come from different places: Africa, Argentina, different Europe countries, and once I was talking to my ex boyfriend, who works in an “international” company too. Where international means: white. Because when I asked him: do you have someone who comes from Africa (in general, any country) or South America, or not? NO nobody.
      I told: do you understand this is racism?
      But hr don’t send me their cvs…THEN ASK FOR THEM. FFS.

    • Yeah I was not offended at all by what he said..

    • Naddie says:

      Exactly, it’s not easy to purge an entire life’s prejudice. It’s tiring, mentally exhausting, but it’s worth it. This is one of the reasons why I (sometimes) give a pass to a few (rare) men who are sexist, usually the ones who don`t have a bad history , screw up out of ignorance and have no problem in apologizing.

  4. Jess says:

    Yea, this was disappointing. It’s like the white guys I know who say they just care about the merits (of a presidential candidate, a movie, an employee, etc.) because they think they are perfect objective arbiters of what has merit, despite the fact that such a judgment is almost always impacted by the biases and backgrounds of the person making the judgment.

  5. Snazzy says:

    I saw the tweet yesterday and I was so disappointed. I’m happy with his response – and honestly, like Lucy said, he is one of the good ones. He showed his privilege here, but at least he learned from it

    • Erinn says:

      And that’s the key, right? The fact that when confronted with another view point he listens and takes it in. I honestly don’t think it occurred to him how the first set of tweets came off. I don’t think he’s saying that giving more opportunity for more stories about people of color or women or any kind of underrepresented group is a bad thing. Him using the term ‘diversity issue’ implies to me that he DOES recognize that there is a problem there. The problem is that he’s coming from a place of power and privilege and isn’t taking into account how a tweet like that could be hurtful to someone in a place with much less privilege than he has.

      But … he’s been around long enough that he should know better. He came off really poorly, and while I hope I understood what he was trying to say, it’s possible he’s just more of an asshole than I give him credit for, I suppose.

  6. Arizona says:

    I understand what he’s trying to say, but he’s thinking about it like we live in a utopian society. if everyone had the chance to have their stories be told and heard in the same way as white people, specifically straight white males, then it wouldn’t be an issue and we could judge solely on quality. unfortunately that’s not the case, and we have to make a concerted effort to make sure there are more diverse voices being heard.

    for instance, I live in a small town and we have one theater in an hour radius from us. all of the white best picture nominees made it to our theater. The two that got great reviews but didn’t come to our theater were the farewell and parasite, which are not white people films. so unless people were interested enough to drive an hour in order to see the movie, or pirated it, no one around here has seen them yet.

  7. Rapunzel says:

    There is a difference between equality and equity. Example: equality is everyone gets a box to stand on to look over a fence. Equity is realizing that some people are so short that one box is not enough, so instead, they are given a second box, maybe even the box of someone next to them who can see over the fence without a box.

    Most white folks are for equality. But equity goes too far.

  8. fatladysinging says:

    I’ll take a white person on the left over one on the right any day. However, over the past few years, it’s become painfully obvious to me that a whole lot of white liberals still do NOT understand “everyday” racism. They can’t wrap their heads around “implicit bias” and they refuse to believe that they, too, probably have some work to do on that front.

    As for ” Some men can’t ever do that.” Same goes for some women — including women on the left side of the aisle.

  9. Branvoyage says:

    ‘A Japanese tree like Scarlet Johansson’ LOL

  10. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I hear this all the time too. By never acknowledging race disparities, they feel this illustrates how even-minded they are in all things. I get it. They’re not going to walk that thought process back because they’re looking at the work alone, and they feel that’s how they’re supposed to approach inequality (by denying it’s existence or ignoring that factor within equations). On a truly even playing field, that’s expected. Great. Awesome. Here’s my problem. If you, for one hot minute, think those works nominated are at the top because they were superior artistically, then you’ve lost your precious professional perspective. It’s coming down to race BECAUSE how could anyone think those nominated put forth decidedly better work. Nope. They did not. I know what’s good. I know what’s mediocre. I know what’s bad. So the argument for even unilateral artistic expression as the wherewithall is moot.

  11. Frizzy says:

    I seriously think it’s his age. “Treat all people equally” was the message about racism in the past. There’s a song called “Free Your Mind” which asks us to be colorblind about race. So he’s probably a well meaning old dude who thinks he’s on the right side while the social paradigm has since shifted to finding these attitudes lacking in addressing larger institutional issues.

    It’s like person first language for people with disabilities. I was taught to say “person with xxx” like person with visual impairment or person with autism. But now many disabled people reject that, preferring blind person or autistic person. The thinking is that the visual impairment or autism isn’t a shameful attribute that makes one inhuman but a part of identity. It’s an implicit rejection of ableism and yet a lot of well meaning people still use person first.

    • StudioTodd says:

      Your comment is based on a stereotype–how is marginalizing and judging King because of his age somehow ok but King saying he makes judgements about art based on the merits of the piece is completely unacceptable?

      Also, keep in mind that the categories in which King can nominate/vote do not require knowing details about the writer–he likely has no idea regarding the ethnic background of the person he votes for. I certainly couldn’t tell you which nominated writers are or are not white. There’s no reason why King should know that either–it’s not what he’s voting for.

  12. Nia says:

    I agree with him. He didnt change what he said, he elaborated further. Its about quality. But everyone needs to have a fair shot at getting their foot in the door. Which they arent getting.

    • SM says:

      This is my impression as well. These tweets do not contradict each other and the last one is not a retraction. He just elaborated. Art should be judged only on the measure of creativity. However when people of different race and sex are shut down and not given the opportunity then this can not happen.

  13. Annaloo says:

    Clearly, he didn’t see The Farewell.

  14. Ramona Q. says:

    If you are comparing two movies, and one is clearly better than the other but you give the award to the worse movie because it was made by a minority, that IS reverse racism. I’d think a minority wouldn’t want an award for being a minority. That would be so patronising. What is wrong with that?

  15. MC2 says:

    I think he should step down as a voter in favor of a voter who isn’t an older, white man & make an impact there. The actors, directors, etc that he could vote for are not the issue here…. I truly feel that the change in voting needs to start with the fact that 90% of the voters are white men over 50 y/o. Let’s add diversity in the academy (at the top) and see what happens then….

    • ChillyWilly says:

      That’s a really good point, mc2. Powerful white people need to put their money where their mouth is if they truly want to do something about racism in this country.

  16. The Recluse says:

    I live in fear of foot ‘n’ mouth disease. I suspect even the best, most well-meaning people still put a foot wrong once in a great while.
    King at least seems open to further enlightenment.
    But meanwhile, I live in fear…

  17. Kate says:

    He’s right.

  18. Hedwig says:

    I am glad he added “You can’t win awards if you’re shut out of the game.” and not to excuse him, but perhaps before he was coming from the point that at times Movies get nominated to celebrate the diversity of the cast – but in the end the film may not be that good.