I’m Not Boycotting Ender’s Game

I’m Not Boycotting Ender’s Game

Let me tell you why I’m not going to boycott the upcoming film Ender’s Game, despite feeling the same way many people do about the policies of the author of the book the movie is based on: Orson Scott Card.

First, though, let’s lay out those policies for anyone who may be unaware of them.

Card has said such gems as:

  • “The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity’s ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships.”
  • “When I read the statements of those who claim to be both LDS and homosexual, trying to persuade the former community to cease making their membership contingent upon abandoning the latter, I wonder if they realize that the price of such “tolerance” would be, in the long run, the destruction of the Church.”
  • “Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.” (I must state that this last, commonly interpreted to mean America should make homosexuality illegal, seemed rather to me to apply to the “laws” of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, of which Card is a member. Not that that improves our view of Card’s opinions whatsoever—but it does make him seem slightly less unhinged).

There are more. I won’t ruin your day with them. Suffice it to say, Card could be considered somewhat of a homophobe.

And yet.

Ender’s Game is a story about anti-judgement, anti-bigotry and anti-hatred. There’s no other way to look at it. TOTALLY MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT—SERIOUSLY, DON’T READ ON IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK: Ender accidentally facilitates the destruction of an entire species, only realizing afterward what he’s done and feeling terrible for it. And in the further books, he spends the rest of his life trying to correct what he’s done.

IMHO, there’s no other way to interpret the book or the series. It’s a series about tolerance, understanding and respect of “the other,” even when you can’t understand it.

Don’t ask me how such a book and series spawned from the mind of such a man.

And in the end, the message of the film is more important than the message of its creator. It has broader reach and more appeal. More people hear about it, more people know it. If you took the number of people who have read Ender’s Game, and then find out how many of those people even KNOW about Card’s homophobic views, I’d bet you’d find out it’s an extremely small percentage. I didn’t even know about his views until two months ago when I expressed excitement to see the film.

The story’s message will live on long after Card and his ilk have perished from the Earth. Hell, Card (whose policies will probably be forgotten about one day) may be hailed in the future as a prophet of tolerance—creating an interesting reverse of the path of Ender’s life when he went from proclaimed savior to reviled villain of history.

I will give you an interesting parallel, prefaced with a request NOT to interpret this as a comparison between the two.

Let me stress that again—I am not saying these two are similar, on the same scale of morality, or in any other way comparable other than in the exact context of the analogy I am about to deliver:

Martin Luther King, Jr. was, if not homophobic, at least mildly censurous (just coined that shit) of it. In his only public exchange on the subject, he said it was a “problem” which could be “solved.” Maybe it’s me, but I can’t help but think of the Bachman’s gay reform camps.

And yet, is this what we take away from King’s life? Of course not. His greater, more important, and more known work by far is his work in african-american rights. That is all we SHOULD take away from his life, because that is the only subject upon which he was unquestionably qualified to be heard.

Similarly, the only thing I believe will ever be truly worth remembering about Card is his art and his writing—and in none of it have I ever seen an iota of intolerance. The only people in Ender’s Game who preach hate and intolerance are the bad guys, the bullies, who—again, spoiler alert—often end up dead.

If Card’s personal intolerance had a negative cultural impact that was in any way on the same scale as the positive cultural impact of his art, I might consider taking action. As it stands, the two aren’t remotely close.

Supporting the tolerant art while vilifying the intolerant artist is enough protest for me. And vilifying the tolerant art because of the intolerant artist is, by contrast, destructive of the message that we ourselves believe in.

This is the viewpoint I’ve formulated. I’m more than willing to hear counter-arguments. (Well-reasoned ones, of course; no flame wars). What do you think about this subject? Will you be boycotting the film?

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at garrettbrobinson.com.

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10 comments
Simon Cantan
Simon Cantan

I mostly agree with Brendan, I just had an extra little twist to add. The LSD church gives millions to ad campaigns and politician to make sure that pro-gay rights get struck down. So giving money to Orson Scott Card isn't just giving money to a bigott, it's also making sure that future gay rights are less likely to succeed. For example, Prop 8 in California. People in general, and Americans in particular, are swayed by ads. They believe things that people have paid money to say to them. I'd rather not give more money to those kinds of things. Also, as Brendan said, OSC thinks he's the victim. The victim of Liberals with their "Gay agenda". I read the book before I knew his views, but I doubt I could read it again and enjoy it now. For me, at least, some things are forgiveable, some things are not. Finding out someone cheated on their taxes or stole a scarf from a shop, potentially forgiveable. Denying peoples' rights or beating their wife, not. I guess everyone has to find their own line on what's acceptable for them.

DavidWwright
DavidWwright

Sending money to the Koch brothers? They don't own FOX. You're thinking of Rupert Murdoch. Sheesh, don't you play the Right Wing Ogliarch Board game? As to your original post, in the end, a story is a story, and it's up to the individual if they can remove the creator from the story and still enjoy it. It bothers me when I see some of a certain well known right wing horror author's viewpoints poison an otherwise good story because it taints it with an air of hate that I just can't get out of my mouth. Whereas other authors can manage to write without getting up on a pedestal, and I'm able to divorce them from their leanings. I don't need everyone to agree with me. I actually welcome opposing viewpoints, but when I see outright bigotry, racism, homophobia, I tend not to want anything to do with anything the person is part of. And do not want to support them. One could make the case that a movie is greater than the source material, that many people had a hand in it, many people whose work should not be punished because of one man's intolerant viewpoints. And I might even agree with that. So, I probably won't see it. But I'm not going to stand in front of a movie theater and protest and throw shit at people who do. And in the end, it's about the creation, not the creator. I mean, after all, I read somewhere that Hitler wrote several plays and musicals, some of which inspired Realmkeepers.

Brendan Cadigan Weinhold
Brendan Cadigan Weinhold

Here's my well-reasoned counter argument. Firstly, I have not decided, ultimately, whether to boycott the movie. This has more to do with weighing how much I'll enjoy the movie against how much weight my voice will add to the conversation. From a purely political standpoint, I think a boycott is the right action. I agree with everything you've said. I agree that Ender's Game is a story that preaches a message of tolerance (Digression: it's been years since I read it . Mostly, what I remember it for is being a wizard-school story [genius-level military prodigy/magician, same diff], which J.K. Rowling 20 years later proved is the most marketable thing on the planet. That's why I loved it. I got a little kick from the message of tolerance, but looking back at it now, and looking at OSC's response to the boycotts, his message of tolerance is more feeling like he's the victim. I suspect that's why he wrote such a good book. He feels like a victim. We all feel like victims when we're teenagers. He's just not self-aware enough to see that he's the bully... or maybe he is. He just thinks the bully is the victim, too. After all, Ender is still the hero. It's his brutality that makes him so well-suited... And the insect victims - they're - This digression is too long. My point is, if you re-interpret the book knowing what you do about the author, you'll find a less savory message. Similarly, if you strip the context from the writings of Mussolini, they don't all seem nearly as evil as when you return them to their context. But this digression is not why I'm boycotting, so I'll stop.) Boycotting seems, for once, like it might be effective. For years (And I should take a moment to cite articles, but you trust me, I'm sure), famous people who, like it or not, are role models for large swaths of the population have seen no financial consequences for their awfulness. For once, there's a true concerted effort to announce that a person's behavior will have a consequence. The studio that decided being anti-gay was not going to be a problem is nervous (http://www.themarysue.com/orson-scott-card-responds-to-boycott/). That's something. We'll see if it grows. I don't know that this is where I would have drawn the line, but since this is where a line is being drawn, I will probably add my ink to making it thick and clear. I want a world where people believe in the art they're making. And making people stand up and defend it is good. If it's indefensible, then bye-bye millions of dollars just because it's a big name. Do what you think is right, and let your audience be a part of your voice. Making your art for money and forcing audiences to be complicit in your public voice if they want to appreciate your art is uncool. Your MLK quote is well-taken, but as you said, they aren't the same situations. The truth is, more and more people are coming to know OSC's politics. They're pretty public now. The book (now movie) and the politics are both out there, and with the growing boycott movement, they will only become more intertwined. If we reach a point that we're approaching where "millions grossed" will be used to answer the question "are these politics too extreme to make money", I don't want my dollar signs to come down on the side of "clearly, nobody cares. Let's make more Mel Gibson movies."

Garrett Robinson
Garrett Robinson

Thanks, Simon. I think that's a totally valid point. From my discussions here and elsewhere (mostly Google+, where a comment war is raging very politely) I'm learning that it's a combination of factors, factors which have different weight to different people. For me, the factors weigh in one direction, whereas for others, they weigh in a completely different direction. There are people on both sides that I completely disagree with and think are ridiculous, but I'm happy to find that most people who bother to comment where I can see it are somewhere in the middle—firmly on one side or the other, but aware of both sides. You might say, tolerant of the tolerance or intolerance of his intolerance and others' tolerance. Or something.

Garrett Robinson
Garrett Robinson

LOL. That's hilarious, and at the same time I feel compelled to state for the record that it's absolutely not true. Right you are on the Koch/Murdoch point. Edited in my comment.

Garrett Robinson
Garrett Robinson

Thanks for that, well thought out. However, I have a counter-point: What about Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, and all of the child actors who are also in this film? At this point, I'm sure it's quite impossible for them not to know OSC's politics. However, it's highly unlikely that they knew them when they began the project. Most likely they were given a script, which they read, loved, and then poured all of their art into. What about the creative directors, the art directors, the director of photography, the visual effects artists? I guarantee you that virtually none of them knew anything about the book's author and his opinions. I'm pretty positive that the screenwriter, director and producers PROBABLY knew about OSC beforehand. But what if they didn't? Should we boycott all of these artists simply because they unwittingly allied themselves with a homophobe? A decision they almost certainly made because they loved the script they were given, because of the message of the story? In the end, the success or failure of this film will not harm OSC, not really. He has too many other books and makes too much money already. It will, however, harm the burgeoning careers of hundreds (of not thousands) of other artists who didn't even know what they were getting into. Does this mean we need to have a new vetting process for any films we, as filmmakers and actors, decide to get involved with? How will you ever have assurances that NONE of the above-the-line people in the films you act in have political views that you disagree with? (Because I'll guarantee you that they will). I mean, I guess you should never go audition for any roles for FOX films or TV shows, or commercials that might be aired on FOX? Obviously I'm dragging this out to ridiculous lengths. But it does upset me a bit that people will not go see a film with a good message, boycotting it and potentially harming the careers of many actors and other artists in my film industry, because of the imagined harm it will cause to a multi-millionaire author who doesn't ultimately won't care about the film's reception. EDIT: I just remembered a parallel I'd like to draw. What about Glee? I don't know if you watch it or not. But it's got great themes and messages, preaches tolerance, understanding (and of course music and dance). I think many people would agree that it's helping to create tolerance for LGBT people everywhere. And yet, when you watch it you're sending Rupert Murdoch money. Does that stop you from watching it?

Simon Cantan
Simon Cantan

There was one thing I read elsewhere that was a good idea if you need/want to see the movie. You can offset any bad that the money to OSC will do by donating double your ticket price to a pro-gay marriage charity :)

Brendan Cadigan Weinhold
Brendan Cadigan Weinhold

The thing about the other artists on this film and their careers (and this is similar to my rant about "Job Creators", too - but I'm to apt to digress...) The thing about the other artists on this film and the impact that a boycott of this film will have on their careers is this: If I take the money that I would have spent on seeing this film and I use it to see another film, my overall effect on supporting the artists is a wash. And it has the added bonus of contributing to a political statement. (and If I use that money to see a film with a decidedly pro-gay theme, double whammy!) The truth is, if I had gotten a part in Ender's Game, of course I would have taken it. No matter how effective the boycott is, it's still a blockbuster. For that matter, John Carter tanked, and yet being in that would have been a huge win for my career. That's where I am. Harrison Ford on the other hand is in a place where he can pick and choose. He chose this. Fine. I'm not upset with everyone who chose to make this movie. But If people start to learn that working with OSC on projects is making them less money (and they simultaneously begin to see an increase in ticket sales for pro-LGBTQ films), maybe a few people will make different choices when they're at the point in their careers where they get to make choices. They're all just drops in the bucket. One person made a good point, which is that there are major characters played by women. That's a political point that I can support, so it becomes a measure of balance. But talking about the hundreds of artists who are working on this project? If this hadn't gotten made, something else would have gotten made. Maybe different people would have been employed, but instead they didn't get employed. Now I'm just repeating myself. To (hopefully clarify): My budget is limited. I will take the money that I would have spent on seeing Ender's Game and funnel it elsewhere into the community. Sorry Harrison, SFX artists, et al. There are hundreds of other artists that I don't know for me to support. Hey. If you were working on this film, I'd go see it. My love for you and desire to support you outweighs my distaste for OSC's politics and my desire to see him lose.

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