Today Ender’s Game hits cinemas in the United States, and there’s controversy around it. A number of folks have asked if I would be seeing it and/or reviewing it for scifiinterfaces.com, in light of the boycott against it.
In case you didn’t know, the author of the original work is a far-right-wing extremist who amongst other things, has used his notoriety to spread lies about and fight against gay rights, as well as being a vitriolic board member of the hate-group-with-a-baked-cookie-name National Organization for Marriage. (arensb on Epsilon Clue has a well-sourced article that traces many other examples, should you want to check on details.)
Is it possible to separate an author from his or her work? Can you enjoy the Ring Cycle or The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock as a Jewish person? Can a misogynist enjoy The Avengers? Should you see Minority Report if you believe depression is, well, real? Can you watch Rosemary’s Baby if you’re firmly against statutory rape? I’m being oblique with the references, but each is a genuinely tricky question. There are lots of angles to fret over. Is the author still alive? Was the distasteful part a privately held opinion or public efforts? Is the content of their work distasteful, or just their real-world actions? In the case of Ender’s Game, should you "punish" the cast and crew who worked on the film but are outspoken in their support of gay rights and condemnation of Card? There’s even some evidence that Card won’t be getting any money from the film at all, but is profiting from the increased book sales that the movie has engendered. So what then? What good does the boycott do? It’s a rich topic, and worth discussing with friends and family at the next lull in conversation.
Ultimately I’ve decided not to see the film in cinemas. One’s efforts of avoidance should correspond to the toxin in question, and Card has proven himself to be deeply toxic. Plus I don’t want to encourage a sequel or franchise, where he might make money or his books sell more as a result.
I may watch it on a plane, or borrow it from a local library once it’s there. I want the movie industry to know that it needs to think about the people with whom it does business, either as an author or a producer, and money is the thing that will get their attention. Even though there are plenty of talented people who worked on the film, I just can’t stand the idea of putting money into Orson’s wallet, directly through salary/residuals, or indirectly through book sales, that he’s going to use against me, my family, and my friends.
I’m still making my mind up about whether to review the interfaces and interaction design. It’s something that I can uniquely offer to the cast and crew for their efforts. But I’ve got months before the movie is released to DVD & Blu-Ray to decide that.
Every thoughtful sci-fi fan should wrestle with this question. Some people I greatly respect have looked at the same questions and come to the opposite conclusion. They will see the film. If you’ve decided you are going to go, please consider buying a "hater offset" (my term: it’s like carbon offsets, but you know, for Card) and make a donation for the cost of your ticket to a pro-queer charity, like SkipEndersGame or EqualityInitiative. If they strike it big as a result of the "buyer boycott," it will send an equally big message to the film makers.
Card is a RIGHT wing extremist and he would have a fit if you called him left wing!
Well that’s a big oops. Yep, it’s fixed now. Thanks, Fergie!
Card actually claims (emphasize CLAIMS) that the conservative elements of his church’s leadership find him overly liberal.
Yes you can enjoy the RING CYCLE if you’re Jewish. In fact, the recent internationally-acclaimed RINGs here at Seattle Opera were conducted by a Jewish Israeli conductor who loves and specializes in Wagner.
Wagner flirted briefly with various forms of 19th century radicalism, including communism, anti-Semitism, and atheism, but he was NOT a lifelong anti-Semite, had many Jewish friends and esteemed colleagues, and even gave his last and most personal opera PARSIFAL to a Jewish conductor for the premiere. He never did anything to hurt any Jewish person’s life or career.
Nobody’s perfect, including you on your moral highhorse. If we banned all art by imperfect people, there would be no art at all. Boycott this film, fine, I know nothing about it or its author. But rejecting Wagner, one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived, because of his jealous pamphlet attacking some successful Jewish colleagues, is like rejecting Einstein because he was divorced or didn’t recycle. Sanctimony has become epidemic in this country …
I think it’s worth being very clear what the difference is here. If Wagner flirted with anti-Semitic ideas, but never directly affected any Jewish person’s life, that’s one thing. Card, on the other hand, is actively working, as a chairperson of NOM, to restrict the options available to queer people in parts of the US, right now, today. Here in California, NOM’s efforts helped to delay marriage rights for several years. It’s safe to bet that some of his money is going towards furthering these causes. Saying the two things are comparable is dishonest.
This is the least-high-horse-y blog post I’ve read on the topic, to be frank. And it’s not a high horse to decide where one’s money goes, especially if it means money that will then work against one’s own interests.
Great post Chris. I particularly love “hater offsets”! Genius.
And because I’m a freak there’s another MINOR typo. Last paragraph, first sentence: “….have looked at the same question sand come to the opposite…”. I’m guessing “question sand” should be “questions and” … one does wonder what question sand is or could be. The mind boggles …
My high horse for an editor! Thanks, Rich, it’s fixed.
1) Orson is a right-wing extremist, unless you mean he’s so left-wing he’s looped right sround into the other side which is impressive fanatacism and not unheard of.
2)the point about getting the movie industry to pick and choose who they support is a very ethically murky task, generally why marketing and money drive the product as those channel the least ideological into the most profitable.
This is dangerous territory indeed…remember how Hollywood chose to blacklist talented people whose lives were subjected to scrutiny that showed them to be undesirables. i always enjoy the courage and enlightened posts and comments you offer, Chris. Keep up the fantastic work.