Let’s say that you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes. You love the character’s use of logic and deductive reasoning, and you try to follow his example throughout your life, dismissing unsubstantiated claims of all the nonsense you find online. You read all of the books, watch all of the movies and TV shows, maybe even try your hand at some fan fiction of your own. Eventually you decide that you should learn more about Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes’ creator, and you pick up a biography or two of him.
As you’re reading through, you discover that Doyle had some interest in the supernatural, and looked for evidence of ghosts and spirits. You read on to find that he was friends with Harry Houdini, who spent the latter part of his career debunking spiritualists and mediums as frauds. But then you read about the falling out the two men had. Doyle had come to believe that Houdini himself had supernatural powers. Houdini, of course, refuted this saying that he was just a clever stage magician. To prove his point, Houdini brought Doyle to his home and performed an impressive mentalist trick, explaining that it was just a trick. Over the next few years, Houdini repeatedly tried to show Doyle that mediums were hoaxes and that he had never encountered anyone with so-called magic powers. Doyle continued to insist, in spite of Houdini’s ongoing evidence, that Houdini was in fact wrong. Doyle eventually terminated their friendship over this.
The question then is how you, as a fan of perhaps the most famous character known for his use of logic and reasoning, reconcile that character that you’ve grown to love with his creator, a man who expressly refuted the exact same logic? Isn’t that hypocritical to be passionate about a character that runs contrary to his creator’s own beliefs?
That’s hardly a unique example. Particularly in the 21st century, when news about every little thing a person says or does can get shared around the world in an instant, we regularly run across stories where someone with a large fan following does something counter to their public image. Maybe it’s as simple as an out-of-context remark about a co-worker, or maybe it’s as deeply disturbing as murder. Bill Cosby, Orson Scott Card, O.J. Simpson, Mel Gibson… choose your favorite medium, and there’s someone whose words and actions make you question their body of work.
It’s difficult. After all, any creative work encompasses the ideas and attitudes of its creator. For as wholesome as The Cosby Show was, it’s difficult for it to remain wholesome in the audience’s mind knowing that its primary actor/executive producer was raping women off camera. So how wholesome could the show have been really?
While I certainly can’t prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution to this dilemma, I can point out that all creative work, while it encompasses the ideas and attitudes of its creator, is ALSO the product of its audience. That is, you as someone watching that show or reading that book or listening to that music can elect to take whatever message(s) you like from it. A creator can put any number of messages into their work, but it’s up to you to decipher them. If you don’t get a illogical spiritualist bent from Sherlock Holmes, why not enjoy the stories for what you do get out of them?