I've been following the discussion at Dear Author which was started by Robin, who posed the question "Do authors have ethical responsibilities beyond beyond the book?" She began by asking
Straight off the top of your head, do you think that authors have any ethical or moral responsibilities beyond the book?Janine, one of her co-bloggers at Dear Author, responded
I’m guessing that the vast majority of you answered this question the same way I did for a long time, with a fully articulated, deeply resounding NO.
Wow. I have to say these opening paragraphs took me aback, because my answer would have been a deeply resounding YES. Authors have the same ethical and moral responsibilities that all other human beings have, no more, no less, so why on earth would their moral and ethical responsiblities begin and end with their books? I can’t see why they should get a free pass from the responsibility to treat others fairly.and Laura Kinsale stated that "I do think hard about the things I believe are important, but I don’t owe it to anyone but myself."
By coincidence, Rosy Thornton's just posted about the topic too:
freedom of expression means that an author is free to write about whatever characters she chooses, and to endow them with whatever views and attitudes she wishes. Besides which, we have to be true to our characters, don’t we? We have to reflect the world as it exists. A novel is not a soapbox.That's just an excerpt of her post, and if you're interested in the issue, I'd encourage you to read it in full.
But my personal version of the ‘ethics of care’ tells me that the flipside of freedom of expression is responsibility for what we choose to express; that as writers we have a duty to think about the potential impact of our work on those who read it. Societal attitudes are influenced not only by upbringing, family, friends and workmates, and by the news media, but also by the ambient culture: by film and television, and by the books we read.
Rosy mentions that "I would not write a moody 'alpha' hero who is mean and even cruel but whose meanness is portrayed in a sexy light," but they're the subject of a panel that Eric will be chairing at the 2010 Film & History Conference: Representations of Love in Film and Television, November 11-14, 2010. The Calls for Papers are out, and the deadline for submissions is 1 March 2010. The full list of panels can be found here. Eric's panel is on Sons of the Sheik: Global Perspectives on the Alpha Male in Love. Here's a bit more about it [I've added the links. Where there was more than one film with the same title, the link is to a list]:
Masterful, confident, erotically charged, the “Alpha Male” has been a cinematic icon from Rudolph Valentino’s Sheik Ahmed ben Hassan (The Sheik, 1921) to Pierce Brosnan’s Thomas Crown (1999) and Hritik Roshan’s elusive criminal, “Mr. A” (Dhoom 2, 2006). As the hero in romantic films, this ideal of masculinity has proven enduringly popular with both male and female viewers, even as successive waves of feminism, in the West and around the globe, have challenged the sexual politics he implies.----
How do representations of the Alpha Male in love differ across national, linguistic, and cultural boundaries? How have they changed across the past century, responding to historically- and regionally-specific shifts in gender roles and ideals? What happens to the Alpha Male hero when he stars in a romantic comedy, as opposed to a drama or melodrama? How much can we use this iconic figure to track the power of the female gaze or women’s desires, as has been done with the Alpha Male hero of popular romance fiction, given the fact that men continue to predominate in the writing and direction of the films (as opposed to the overwhelmingly female authorship and audience for romance novels)?
This area, comprising multiple panels, welcomes papers and panel proposals that examine all forms and genres of films featuring “Alpha” protagonists in love, as well as films which challenge, revise, or subvert the conventions surrounding this character. Possibilities include, but are not limited to, the following topics:
• Sheiks, Captains, Emperors, (The Sheik, Persuasion, Jodhaa Akbar)
• Alpha Male meets Alpha Female (The Thomas Crown Affair , Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
• Austen’s Alpha: Darcy and his Descendants (Pride and Prejudice)
• Sink Me! He’s an Alpha in Disguise! (The Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro)
• Alpha / Beta Reversals and Alter-Egos (Rab Ne Bana di Jodi, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na)
• Suspicious Minds: the Alpha Criminal and Detective (Devil in a Blue Dress, The Big Sleep, Breathless)
• Athlete Alphas (Love & Basketball, Bull Durham)
• Alpha Lovers in Space (Han Solo, James T. Kirk)
• You’ve Got Male: Alphas in “Chick Flicks”
Please send your 200-word proposal by e-mail to the area chair:
Eric Murphy Selinger
Dept. of English
802 West Belden Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
firstname.lastname@example.org (email submissions preferred) Panel proposals for up to four presenters are also welcome, but each presenter must submit his or her own paper proposal.
The photo of the cover of Marquis W. Child and Douglass Cater's Ethics in a Business Society was taken by cdrummbks and was made available at Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.