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Stephen King’s diversity comments have no place in the industry

If you’ve read my previous articles, it will come as no surprise to you to discover that I am writing yet another hate piece on Stephen King. The critically-acclaimed horror writer who, in case you are unfamiliar with my previous writings, I really dislike. To many, he is the oracle of modern Gothic, but given his recent comments on diversity, it’s becoming increasingly evident that he’s just another bigoted boomer who can never be a hero to people like me. Like us: people of colour; the non-heteronormative; the trans and neuro diverse. 

I tried so hard to like Stephen King, but he just made it impossible. After reading The Green Mile and Pet Sematary recently I thought, maybe I was wrong about this guy. I mean, he’s got some good things to say about important topics, right? 

But then every relic of hatred I ever had towards him came back ten times more powerfully, in a tweet that basically screamed ‘I am a millionaire white man. I don’t care about anyone who isn’t’. 

American horror, the genre for which King is most famously known, is one rooted in issues that are specific to people of colour

…I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong”.

The only thing shining now, is King’s white privilege.

Suggesting that only white cis men are deserving of Oscars is the kind of patriarchal white supremacy he is complicit in fuelling through his role in the Oscar nomination process, that resulted in no female directors or a single actor of colour being nominated. How surprising, when the people in charge of this decision were men like King.

Although he was tweeting in response to the lack of diversity, once again, in the Oscar nominees this logic is particularly relevant when talking about literature. In particular, American Gothic and horror. American horror, the genre for which King is most famously known, is one rooted in issues that are specific to people of colour, particularly women of colour. So, to disregard diversity in the world from which he has made his living is deeply hypocritical and downright ignorant. 

It is shocking to see King not only tweet about but actively endorse this ideology

Integral to this genre is the impact of slavery and settler colonialism on American culture. In its roots, King owes his writing to the legacies of black and indigenous cultures. It is shocking to see him not only tweet about, but actively endorse this ideology.

If he can truly and unwaveringly disregard diversity in the name of ‘quality’, then it is fair to say that he is also ignoring and disrespecting the heritage from which all his stories come, and to which it is all indebted.

Further, he is also implying that to diversify is at the expense of quality, perhaps suggesting that people of colour narratives are inherently inferior to his white-centric ones. 

We need to see ourselves represented in all our forms in narratives to be able to fully connect with the characters we read about

We deserve to have the same level of empathetic engagement with the characters we read as anyone else. White people have had that since the dawn of the novel. So, it’s time we normalise the representation and inclusion of the less able bodied, the genderqueer protagonist, the Indigenous survivor amongst other vastly underrepresented conditions.

There is only a certain level of connection that I can feel to white, cis and neurotypical characters as a reader who is none of these things. We need to see ourselves represented in all our forms in narratives to be able to fully connect with the characters we read about, and until that happens we will never be able to look to mainstream literature for aspiration in the way that people like King have been able to for generations.

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