One of the classic tales of fiction is Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor Has No Clothes.
One day two rogues arrived in town, claiming to be gifted weavers. They convinced the Emperor that they could weave the most wonderful cloth, which had a magical property. The clothes were only visible to those who were completely pure in heart and spirit.
The Emperor was impressed and ordered the weavers to begin work immediately. The rogues, who had a deep understanding of human nature, began to feign work on empty looms.
Minister after minister went to view the new clothes and all came back exhorting the beauty of the cloth on the looms even though none of them could see a thing.
Finally a grand procession was planned for the Emperor to display his new finery. The Emperor went to view his clothes and was shocked to see absolutely nothing, but he pretended to admire the fabulous cloth, inspect the clothes with awe, and, after disrobing, go through the motions of carefully putting on a suit of the new garments.
Under a royal canopy the Emperor appeared to the admiring throng of his people – – all of whom cheered and clapped because they all knew the rogue weavers’ tale and did not want to be seen as less than pure of heart.
But, the bubble burst when an innocent child loudly exclaimed, for the whole kingdom to hear, that the Emperor had nothing on at all. He had no clothes.
Now the moral of the story is that there are sycophants in a room, and that we should be willing to point out when there is a lie.
But in the Sandman, by Neil Gaiman, I am reminded of another point of view:
It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor.
In the episode titled Trick in a Box, the master chef’s are asked to cook a meal for a bunch of aspiring chef’s in cooking school.
And so the aspiring chef’s, feel that they should criticize these legendary cooks … They act as if they have the right to an opinion. Except what they should be doing is using that opportunity to touch greatness and learn from greatness and shut the fuck up about the quality of the food.
Watching these children make comments is painful. And so maybe the food wasn’t perfect, but the Emperor, the master chef, is still Emperor, and the aspiring chef is still the aspiring chef that critiqued the master chef’s food on television.