You read the blurb, you see a few reviews on Instagram or Goodreads, and you settle in to read your new book.
But what happens when the talented individual behind the writing turns out to be a terrible human?
I recently had the opportunity to participate in an advanced screening of the trailer for The Woman in The Window by the infamous A.J. Finn.
Included with this opportunity was a live Q&A with some of the actors. And they are heavy hitters – Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason-Leigh… you get the point. It should be an excellent adaptation of a great book.
But there’s just one problem: the author has done terrible things. A.J. Finn appears to have lied about so many things in his personal life that he can’t even keep those straight. And I have no doubt that he has a serious mental illness, or two.
His behavior is frequently blamed on his mental health. And while it’s another extreme, the violence so prevalent in our society is also blamed on mental illness.
More on mental health in a moment because it shouldn’t be the scapegoat here.
Unless you live under a rock, you are aware that Rowling has made multiple problematic and transphobic statements. When confronted, she doubled down.
She made a conscious choice to take that stance. It cannot be blamed on mental health – she is simply an intolerant, transphobic, narrow-minded person.
So what about the books?
Do we look past the problematic authors in favor of the art? Or do we throw our Harry Potter books in the trash?
For centuries reader have devoured books by authors without knowing much much about their backgrounds. There was even a time when a reader didn’t even know the gender of the author.
The art prevailed.
At least until a later time when truly problematic behaviors were unearthed.
So what’s next?
J.K. Rowling is making a conscious choice to be transphobic. She has been given opportunities to make things right – because really, there’s no room for hate – and she has chosen otherwise.
Books in the trash.
A.J. Finn has major personal issues, serious mental health issues, and a terrible reputation that is bypassed because of talent.
I’m aware that there are other questions about his work but there’s too much to cover here. The New York Times has an excellent article that dissects every part of his story.
In America, we love to blame mental health on bad decisions, tragic events, and horrific behavior. But that’s all we do because it’s the easy target.
Do we make mental healthcare accessible to everyone?
It’s a mechanism of sensationalism in both fiction and real life.
So why would we want to tackle the issue head on?
It runs the media, it sells books and tickets to movies, and quite honestly it’s a sick fascination.
The book vs. the author
If an author’s words and actions are harmful to a group of people – I’m out.
If an author’s words and actions are harmful and self-destructive towards themselves, then you can bet that I will be advocating for access to mental healthcare.
That makes far more sense instead of making it a sensational headline and a reason to blame bad behavior.
Sorry to the media and the rubberneckers – focus your efforts on access to care instead of questioning if a book should be published or movie should be made.
Let the art prevail and create access to mental health care for all.