November 1st is the end of a decade of waiting, of starts and stops. At the beginning of the month, the Ender’s Game movie is finally going to be released. I am extremely excited because Ender’s Game is my all-time favorite book (though Still Life with Woodpecker may have dethroned it). I’ll finally get to see all of the Wiggin kids, Bean, the Battle Room and Command School. I can’t actually remember the last time I was this excited for a movie. Unfortunately, this movie has become a bit of a battle ground itself, so I’m uncertain whether I’ll see it in the theater at all.
Author Orscon Scott Card wrote Ender’s Game back in 1985 and is a producer for the Lionsgate film adaptation. Card is also a very vocal opponent of marriage equality and gay rights in general. He sat on the board of the National Organization for Marriage from 2009 until he resigned earlier this year. His opposition is fueled by homophobia and hate,
Homosexual “marriage” is an act of intolerance. It is an attempt to eliminate any special preference for marriage in society — to erase the protected status of marriage in the constant balancing act between civilization and individual reproduction.
So if my friends insist on calling what they do “marriage,” they are not turning their relationship into what my wife and I have created, because no court has the power to change what their relationship actually is.
Instead they are attempting to strike a death blow against the well-earned protected status of our, and every other,real marriage.
They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes.
—Homosexual “Marriage” and Civilization, February 2004
This column by Card is rife with bigotry against homosexuals, and also against anyone who subscribes to anything other than a heterosexual, monogamous relationship ideal. This wouldn’t be a big deal if Card was just another voice in the crowd, easily drown out. But his success has afforded him a louder voice, his position on the board of NOM has elevated him to a position where his beliefs have influence.
Now I face a dilemma: do I see the movie and in so doing throw a few pennies into Card’s anti-gay war chest, or do I skip the movie and send a small message with the money I don’t spend? In writing this post, I have wavered back and forth. I would be certain that I was going to join the boycott and even sign the petition, then I’d continue my research and feel convinced that boycotting the movie is misguided. So, I’m going to outline the debate, as I see it, in the hope that I can work out a solution for myself. As always, I welcome comments to help dig into the issue.
Geeks OUT has set up the Skip Ender’s Game campaign to organize a boycott of the film. They spell out a lot of good reasons not to go see the movie. At the top of the list is, of course, to keep money from going to Card and thus helping to support his fight against marriage equality. Card is a producer of the film, so the more money it makes, the more money he makes. That includes box-office sales, DVD sales, on-demand views, and merchandising sales. Geeks OUT emphasize that the only people a boycott will effect are the people that make money based on the film’s performance. The vast majority of cast and crew have already been paid by the studio, so they will not be punished because their movie is tied to Card. This is summarized nicely by the Skip Ender’s Game website, “It matters that we and our allies stand up as a community against a homophobe looking to profit from our geekiness while attacking our rights and degrading our humanity.”
That resonates with me. There is something personally appealing about forgoing something I am excited for in the name of a greater cause. It is important to me to oppose the hetero-, gender-, and mono-normative forces at work in our culture. This is one place where my little voice can join with a larger community to make a loud statement.
There is also an argument against seeing the movie that has nothing to do with any social issues, and more to do with respecting literary quality. As Thea pointed out to me, the movie won’t be anywhere near as good as the book, so why would I want to pay money to go see it? It’s a fair point.
No one is arguing that Orson Scott Card isn’t a threat to homosexual equality and thus we should support him by seeing his movie. Rather, as one of the most appealing arguments against boycotting the movie goes, it is the wrong forum, it is a meaningless symbol. While skipping Ender’s Game will certainly deny Card some money, it doesn’t actually accomplish anything meaningful for the LGBTQ community nor make any sort of real progress in the fight for marriage equality. In fact, given the recent Supreme Court rulings plus the president and vice-president vocally supporting marriage equality, Card and his ilk are losing. Going to see this movie isn’t going to suddenly swing them out on top.
The debate over whether consuming an artist’s work also supports the artist’s personal beliefs is an old one. In a Washington Post article claiming skipping the movie is a “bad idea,” Alexandra Petri writes, “It often happens that people create stories that are wiser than they are.” After all, the story of Ender’s Game is not homophobic at all (I’ll also deny that it is homoerotic, but that’s a different blog post). The book, and presumably the movie, are not a vehicle for Card’s personal beliefs, because he really is an incredible author. In a bit of a grandiose comparison, Petri reminds us that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves (a practice most would now find appalling), but that doesn’t make us discount the value of the Declaration of Independence.
I’ve been reading articles and writing this post in alternating fashion. What I’ve settled on is that a boycott is a strategy for an effort that is struggling for legitimacy. That is not the case for gay rights. The tide is turning, and equality is gaining a foothold, though a bit slowly. Yes, same-sex marriage continues to be unrecognized in most states and in most states people can still be fired or denied employment if they are gay. That is changing every year, though. Skipping Ender’s Game will not make it happen any faster, nor will seeing Ender’s Game slow down the pace of progress. There are other efforts that can have a dramatic effect, but this movie really is a pitched battle that is being fought merely for the sake of being fought.
Skipping the movie at the theater and refusing to buy it on DVD would not mean never seeing the film. It would just mean making the effort to see it in such a way that Card does not profit. With that minimal effort, I can make the statement that I won’t financially support Card’s homophobic agenda. If a mainstream movie must be politicized, though, is this the most meaningful statement it can enable?
It would actually make a stronger statement, be a bigger blow to the moral of the anti-equality camp, if gay geeks and allies were to organize to see the movie together and advertise their group viewing. This would send the more powerful message that we are not going to be so scared of what Card and NOM might do with a few more dollars that we are going to skip a movie we are excited about. Instead, we’re so confident in our right to exist and in the direction the culture is moving, that we can watch whatever we want because we will still win the day.
I don’t care for Orson Scott Card as a person, but he is a talented writer and keeps his personal beliefs out of his fiction. I can appreciate his work despite his hateful comments and support of oppressive legislation. That is what I will be doing when I go see the Ender’s Game movie, which I’ve been anticipating for ten years. While movies can rarely live up to the book they are based on, I have hope that Ender’s Game can be a good film in it’s own right. I want to celebrate the story I love and simultaneously diminish it’s creator’s power to influence culture with his personal beliefs. Before and after I watch the movie, I will continue to add my voice to the crowd, telling Card, NOM, and all those that advocate hate, that our lives are valid, our rights just as important, and our love just as legitimate.
Are you going to see Ender’s Game? Are Orson Scott Card’s personal beliefs even an issue for you? Share your thoughts in a comment.