Nothing Can Save You Now

Ric Royer
9 min readJun 6, 2019

On Frank Sherlock and Redemption

At a recent writing conference, I attended one of the many similarly titled panel discussions that revolved around what “we” are supposed to do with the work/art of people/men who have behaved badly. During the question and answer session, a man in the audience stood up and introduced himself as a teacher in the prison system, teaching creative writing mostly to convicted sex offenders. He mentioned how he now regularly faces questions from his students about whether they should even bother writing or aspiring to be a writer, a new line of questioning that he’s only had to recently address. For his students — aware that much of society wouldn’t hesitate to file them under the category of “bad people” — hope is a crucial motivator for rehabilitation, and art an important vehicle; but what they perceive as a heightened sense of unforgiveness and an eagerness of our culture and media to assert punitive erasure to badly behaving artists, has led them to wonder whether their past misdeeds have already closed the door to whatever could be gained in a creative writing class.

The teacher received a struggling mix of responses from the panel, from a few of the panelists you could almost smell the faint burning of fried circuits as they attempted to reconcile the more recent leftist trend of radical lack of sympathy for the accused against the long-standing leftist position of disdain for the prison system and compassion for the incarcerated.

Never mind trying to explain to a class full of convicted offenders the difference between a person using art as form of rehabilitation vs an artist using art (via their celebrity or cultural status) to take advantage of others, reasonable details and opportunities to treat situations as case by case matters have been drowned out by the absolutist fervor of all things “cancel culture”. You can have as many panels about the topic in an endless loop of academic conferences, yet the fashionable thrill of public punishment in a broadly sweeping panic over badness has shouted down and/or scared off most fine-tuned discourse about the topic. In the assumption that a certain amount of collateral damage is acceptable, those on the side of righteousness have gone largely unchallenged in their purging of “problematic” individuals from art, and with an apparent no re-entry policy…