Some controversy has erupted around the Hugo Awards. Again.
I have two memories that relate. One was an early memory of one of the Oscar presentations wherein someone—an actor—took the opportunity to make statements of a controversial nature. I was young, I didn’t entirely understand why all the adults around became so…resentful.
Yes, that’s the word. They resented the intrusion of controversial matter into what they seemed to feel was something meant for them. It was on their television, it was supposed to be there to entertain them, it was not supposed to make them think about things outside the movie that was being honored.
“That’s not the appropriate place for that,” was a phrase I first heard then and later heard a great deal in situations like this.
The second memory involves a concert wherein the performer took a few minutes to say something about oppressed people and political will and so forth. Its matters less here what he said than the reaction of some of my acquaintances. “I hate it when they do that. They shouldn’t put politics in the show. It’s not the proper place for that shit.”
Well, that struck me wrong at the time. It was rock, which in my mind had till then always been political. Remember the Counter Culture? Hippies? The Free Speech Movement? Vietnam? Country Joe and the Fish? Rock had a history of being political, so this seemed…revisionist?
Not the proper place. Not the appropriate venue. The wrong stage.
Well what is? And by what criteria?
And who exactly is breaking any kind of contract here?
Nora Jemisin won her third Best Novel Hugo in a row. Her brief, pointed acceptance speech spoke to the work she had to do and some of the barriers she had to overcome to get to this point. It is, or should be, no secret that her being on that stage has been a matter of some consternation to some people who have not exactly been circumspect about their feelings.
Some folks thought it was “inappropriate” for her to interject comments aimed at those who have quite vocally wished her ill.
“Not the proper place.”
Well, frankly, fuck that. If not at your own award ceremony, when? Some time and place where the easily offended won’t hear it? At a place and occasion where it won’t be noticed? When she does not have such a platform and can say these things without anyone having to be confronted by it?
Art is complicated. And damned hard. A lot of factors come together to keep the artist from any kind of success. Life is difficult enough without the mediocrities of the world ganging up on someone toiling in the mines of self-expression. We all know most of us do not get paid enough for the work and all too often the work gets ignored—the vagaries of the marketplace—and all the other noise and bother that goes into trying to be an artist that to then be told to shut up about the human experience, in all its forms, is neither reasonable nor decent.
For some people, there is no “appropriate time and place” to hear truth from someone who will tell them things about the world they live in that they would rather ignore.
But it doesn’t matter. Her award, her night, her time, her place. You have a problem with it, be aware—it’s your problem.
And just in case anyone is wondering—the award? She earned it.