Quite recently a planned-boycott of the film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game was announced by a group called Geeks Out.
As one who once wrote this piece about Roman Polanski, it may not surprise you that I do not plan to participate in said boycott. However, a topic of this nature cannot be discussed by simply saying I separate the artist from the person.
I can’t remember when I read Ender’s Game, but I assure you it’s before I knew anything about Orson Scott Card. As I learned, and read Speaker for the Dead, sure some of his experiences (his work as a Mormon missionary in Brazil makes itself apparent by his frequent use of Portuguese words and the like) do come through, and every so often there’d be a bothersome passage, but I still found the book to be quite enjoyable. After all, most of the stories he’s building a science fiction and have little to do with the rhetoric he espouses that I not only strongly disagree with, but find downright hateful, striking a rawer nerve with me than most other artists of dubious character.
I got Speaker for the Dead at a library sale after I read Ender’s Game and Lost Boys, which I bought at retailers. The extent of my boycotting is wanting to read his works but having the funds go to my local library (or perhaps a reseller at some point; anyone really) rather than him.
I’ve never been one to divorce myself from the works of an artist simply because I find things they say or stand for personally are despicable. And believe me Card really even has some doozies in the non-sociopolitical arena, just look at this Oscar time rant. So, yes, I still watch Polanski, I think Mel Gibson is still a effective screen presence, and I will grant that due to what he rails against still seeking out Card is perhaps most difficult, but the movie is the wrong target for many reasons.
Firstly, if you’re going to boycott Card, boycott him; everything he does. Pressure Disney and Marvel to stop adapting Ender’s Game into comic form, stop buying his books, don’t visit his website. Don’t make this just about the film. And I find it interesting that as I looked into the series anew lately I noticed that Ender in Exile, the latest in the series, is only available from resellers in physical form; so maybe some backlash has already hit home, but I think Dustin Lance Black‘s comment on it come close to expressing why I won’t boycott the film:
“Boycotting a movie made by 99% LGBT equality folks in an LGBT equality industry is a waste of our collective energy. Making one phone call to a relative in the south who isn’t quite there yet would be 1,000 times more effective.”
I would go further and say: yes, if you refuse to go see the movie that’s less royalties for Card (that is if he even has a back-end percentage, which is unlikely. The likes of Stephen King get points on the back-end. Most authors merely get the money for the option to adapt the book. In other words, he’s likely already made his money on this film.), but truth be told he’s already made his killing with this series many times over. The fact of the matter is while Speaker for the Dead might be the book he wanted to write, but he needed to put out Ender first; I’m not sure that’s as appealing as written as a follow-up. In fact, while this installment could be a great rendition of the first part of the series I’m not sure of the potential it has as a franchise without being vastly different than the books.
The bottom line is, removing my sociopolitical beliefs and feelings about the author, Ender’s Game is great book in my estimation one that I wanted to see a movie of since I read it and the cast assembled for it is quite and incredible one and I will have to see it. If I happen to use coupons or passes to do so even better, but see it I will.
I read Film School Reject’s post on the boycott, which is where I found Dustin Lance Black’s quote, I think the closing is great (I suggest you read the whole article because it does touch on other things including corporate personhood and heteronormative cinema):
In all seriousness, geeks and bloggers: keep up the boycott. Geeks Out: keep holding the practices and associations of studio filmmaking accountable and transparent. Orson Scott Card: go fuck yourself. No amount of advertising and sleek promotion means that a movie deserves our money or must be seen. If Ender’s Game flops, I will likely enjoy a brief moment of satisfaction. Not only because of Card’s homophobia but, as with Chick-fil-A, because some forms of mass production are just plain bad for you.
That said, Ender’s Game may make the bar, and it’s important not to see this or any single commercial film’s fate as the terms by which LGBT advocacy in the field of entertainment is valued. Queer cinema exists. It exists on HBO with Behind the Candelabra. It exists in underground cinema with Interior. Leather Bar. It exists in the arthouse with Laurence Anyways. It doesn’t yet exist in science-fiction.
Emphasis on “yet.”
While I’ve spent time discussing why I won’t boycott it. I agree with many of the points made here. Just because I won’t throw down the gauntlet on this one title doesn’t mean the discussion is invalid. Yes, there should be more inclusive sci-fi, horror and any other genre you can think of. This story was making news around the same time Andrew Garfield was almost lamenting Peter Parker’s heterosexuality. As long as the discussion occurs, as long as there is some brushback, maybe a studio will take a “risk” on another project and not play only to the lowest common denominator. Does that mean I think there will be a lesbian in the next Star Wars trilogy or a gay interpretation of a Superhero anytime soon (on the big screen that is as comics have picked up the slack in that regard lately), not necessarily but without discussions like this there may never be at all. So, I agree this isn’t just about Ender’s Game so my decision to see it, or other’s to boycott it, won’t be the end of the discussion but hopefully the opening salvo in a long dialogue.