Edward Abbey once said that there were two main functions in an artist: art and sedition. As the guy who coined the term “monkey-wrenching”, he had a very specific idea of what it meant. Right now, artists are rightly angry with issues of women’s right to choose and LGBTQ+ people’s right to exist, as both are directly attacked by conservative lawmakers across the country.
Our state legislature recently overturned Governor Spencer Cox’s veto of HB11, legislation specifically targeting trans kids, intimidating them from playing high school sports. It’s dangerous and deadly, and I hope they face serious consequences for passing such an unnecessarily cruel law. For the most part, ordinary people and artists are working tirelessly to combat this wave of bigotry.
Recently, the Disney Company – coerced by its employees, including legions of entertainers and storytellers – was coerced into acting against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, showing the corrupt political machine of the Florida that their desperate appeasement of conservative authoritarians will have consequences. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his regime will be the oblique subject of every artist’s next iteration The Handmaid’s Tale or The hunger Games, because that is really the future that the Conservatives want. Artists and storytellers will continue to sound the alarm.
Unfortunately, some artists choose violence when they know better. JK Rowling could be the leader of them. She’s a bigoted TERF (Trans Exclusion Radical Feminist) that spreads all kinds of anti-trans propaganda. His persistence in denying the truth of trans people and vilifying them for their existence is amazing.
Rowling has tainted her reputation, even though her work is important and meaningful to so many. His books, as problematic as they may be in places, showed a generation how to stand up for themselves and distrust authority. Little did she realize that she would teach a generation of children to resist her own hateful politics. I’ve spoken to so many fans who are pained by his choices and still have a nostalgic connection to the wizarding world. With Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets, many I know are planning to drive around the theater to see it, buying a ticket for another movie and then sneaking into the movie. Others simply plan to hack it. Either way, it’s to keep the money from flowing into Rowling’s TERFy clutches.
For those who choose political violence against women and trans people, I can only hope judgment comes. To all the Rowlings and Rep. Kera Birkelands and Senator Curtis Brambles, I hope they see the error in their ways and the quantifiable pain and damage they cause. I hope more artists will rise up to the challenge of creating even more riotous works of art that will inspire future generations to stand up to this blatant bigotry, because it will only get worse. Thanks to gerrymandering, even here in Utah, where we should easily have a non-Republican congressman, this is going to be an uphill battle for a long time. It will look a lot like a rebellion fighting against an empire.
Fortunately, these stories teach us to fight and persevere to make the world a better place.
There are people who will no doubt die by suicide as a result of these heinous laws, when it was enough for them to feel seen, heard and accepted. Artists can do their part on this front with better representation that more accurately reflects the world around them. Thanks to the rejection of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Pixar lobbied to put their homosexual kiss back in the next Light year film. Lucasfilm began incorporating queer and trans characters into the star wars cannon through the books; I hope television and movies will follow.
Abortions happen and homosexuals exist. Conservatives seem to want all of these things to be swept under the rug and forgotten, that is, until they need access to abortion or they want to fetishize the people they demonize. No legislation will change that. The art and stories that flow from artists today should remind them daily that these things are normal and deserve legal protection.
I hope Utah businesses, artists, and residents find ways to fend off the Utah Legislature like Disney did. Where are all these supposedly progressive companies from the Silicon Slopes? Does the NBA really going to have their all-star game here next year?
Hopefully the art will change some minds. “Freedom begins between the ears,” Abbey once said. Maybe these stories will finally give these people a real form of freedom, not just the buzzword they claim to be in favor of. If not, maybe that’s where Abbey’s ideas of sedition come in: to challenge their medieval madness and backward, hateful actions.