Stephen King Speaks on Diversity. Me, Ava DuVernay and Black People, in General, Need Him to Zip It

Illustration for article titled Stephen King Speaks on Diversity. Me, Ava DuVernay and Black People, in General, Need Him to Zip It
Photo: Mario Tama (Getty Images)

You know, maybe all the white Hollywood insiders just need to keep diversity’s name out their mouths and just yield the floor to the writers, directors, and actors of color who actually have to deal with the lack thereof.

Iconic author Stephen King took to Twitter on Tuesday and came dangerously close to traveling in the footsteps of Tim Burton, who defended the lack of non-white actors in his films by saying “Things either call for things, or they don’t,” and, more recently, filmmaker Terry Gilliam, who threw a whole hissy-fit over the prospect of Hollywood diversity.

King got up early in the morning to weigh in on the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nominations by tweeting, “As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just 3 categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay. For me, the diversity issue—as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway—did not come up.”


“That said…” he continues, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”

First off, white people, and especially straight white men, would do well to understand that, in matters pertaining to diversity, “It seems to me…” is pretty irrelevant as they wouldn’t have any real frame of reference. Not having experienced a desire for representation, anything that “seems” to them comes through a lens of privilege. Second, I really don’t understand what he means by “I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality.” It almost seems as if King is saying that whiteness represents the default when it comes to artistic quality and that everything else is less than. But, again, it’s a confusing couple of sentences.


What I do know is that, like me and most of Black Twitter, writer and director Ava DuVernay was here for no parts of King’s flavor of mild, white nonsense when she retweeted the author with her own two cents.

“When you wake up, meditate, stretch, reach for your phone to check on the world and see a tweet from someone you admire that is so backward and ignorant you want to go back to bed.”


King came back to Twitter a few hours later to try and clean things up, after, I imagine, having finally had his coffee and recognizing his, “Oh shit, I’m pretty sure I just fucked up” moment.


“The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, or orientation,” he tweeted. “Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts. You can’t win awards if you’re shut out of the game.”

Yeah, nice moonwalk, Stephen, but we all already saw the first tweet.

In fact, Black Twitter had a field day in getting King gathered. One can only hope he learned something.


Nah, seriously, just stop. Silence is so easy.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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Can’t what he said be read as “I will vote for the piece of art I find to be the best of my choices, regardless of its source”? That doesn’t exclude diversity, but it doesn’t take it into consideration. In the same way that, for example, you’d assume that height would be a normal distribution amongst writers because it has no bearing on the writing produced. Not taking height into consideration would not be anti tall or short.

I get that there’s discrimination involved but the sentence “I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality”, by itself at least, does not mean “only white men can do quality”. Has King demonstrated a tendency to be prejudiced as to have his words framed in this context? (I’m not saying he didn’t, I generally don’t pay attention to what he does)