The Ender's Game Boycott

A boycott of the upcoming Ender’s Game movie has been brewing for a while, and this week it hit the internet with a bang. Patrick Yacco and Jono Jarrett started the boycott with a website called Geeks Out, which “rallies, empowers, and promotes the queer geek community.” (I hadn’t heard of that project, but it sounds awesome!) The story got picked up by the Huffington Post, which acts as a bullhorn for causes and trends both good and bad.


Why the boycott? Although Ender’s Game is not about gay marriage (I see some homophobic subtext in there, but that might just be me), author Orson Scott Card, a Mormon, was on the board of the National Organization for Marriage, which supports straight marriages but not gay ones. Geeks Out have a selection (cherry-picked? I don’t know) of quotes from Card about what constitutes a “real” marriage. Warning: the quotes are intensely disturbing, especially the one in which he seems to be threatening to overthrow the American government.

In the wake of the boycott’s increased publicity, Card, who has run into problems before (as when an artist refused to collaborate on a Superman comic with him on account of his views) issued a statement to Entertainment Weekly:

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

Lionsgate, the studio making the film, has also issued a statement in response to the boycott, the press, and Card’s statement, emphasizing their commitment to making LGBT-friendly films. They also stated that “we obviously do not agree with the personal views of Orson Scott Card and those of the National Organization for Marriage. However, they are completely irrelevant to a discussion of Ender’s Game. The simple fact is that neither the underlying book nor the film itself reflect [sic] these views in any way, shape or form.”

Whew! So that’s what happened…and I’m not sure where I stand on it. I enjoyed Ender’s Game despite knowing the author’s political views, which I do not share. As the New York Times pointed out, 667 people worked on the film, and we’re getting upset about just one person’s views.

I do, however, tend to be pragmatic about these things, to the point that I got likened to a Communist earlier this spring because I watch, review, and enjoy The Vampire Diaries, yet am not afraid to point out its occasionally sexist undertones. As I said then, I admit without shame that I often read or watch works by authors whose politics don’t line up with my own: Dickens and Dante are two good examples. Reading/watching + enjoying ≠ concurring. Just because I enjoy watching something doesn’t mean I’m required to gag myself and praise it wholeheartedly.

Moreover, I’m not sure that boycotting Ender’s Game helps the cause of equal rights. The boycott would send a strong financial message if it is successful (which it probably won’t be). Yet since that message is directed at Card, not the film, it feels a bit like an ad hominem attack—going after the man rather than the product. Do we want to do that? Is vilification the way to increase tolerance? Or is my reaction exactly the reaction Card wanted to provoke in using the language he does in his statement (“it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance..”)?

But gay marriage and equal rights are issues that hit me on both sides: my plush and squishy liberal left side, and my grommet-studded cowboy-libertarian right side. Equal rights for all—what liberal doesn’t love that? Fewer laws restricting personal relationships—what libertarian worth her salt wants the government to intrude into our private lives more?

While my left and right sides are in happy agreement about gay marriage (and marveling at that strange occurrence), my geek side and my feminist side are at war over the boycott: do I support the cause and miss out on a great film? Or do I rationalize my way to the theater and take pleasure in something that I know I will enjoy, when denying myself that pleasure would be such a simple, if small, political statement?

What do you all think?


18 comments:

percysowner said...

Can you split the difference. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy did a great job with a great book, other adaptations have not gone well (Dune). I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that Enders Game will be a great movie that you will enjoy, and you may want to wait for reviews.

That said, I wouldn't go to see it at least not in a first run theater. Its not that I would nver go see anything with someone who holds views that I consider abhorrent. But OSC is working to impose those views on the rest of the country and I personally have trouble giving him the money to do that.

In the end, you have to decide what makes you comfortable. I have no problem with anyone who wants to go see Enders Game. Frankly my big speech about not giving them money ignores the fact that in the last year I have seen 2 whole movies and they were both independent movies, not blockbusters. So I wouldn't see EG even if it got 100% good reviews and I loved the book (which I have never read). So do what makes you feel right. If you see the movie, I hope you enjoy it.

Billie Doux said...

This is a tough one. I loved the novel and I even reviewed it for the site, although the truth is, I didn't know anything about Orson Scott Card and his political activities when I first read it. I can't un-read it, and I don't think I would if I could. It's a brilliant, unforgettable book.

The movie is the product of the work of many, many people, as you said, Josie. Should they suffer because of Card when they have nothing to do with him? And the plot has nothing to do with this particular political debate, either. What Lionsgate said in their press release was cool, too; it pleased the liberal in me.

I support the gay community, but I guess I don't see this as an anti-gay movie. I probably won't go to see Ender's Game in the theater, but if it gets good reviews, I'm likely to rent it, and that is probably what I'd do if Card had nothing to do with it.

Wow, this comment is all over the place, isn't it?

a.m. said...

I believe that people have a right to say what they believe but they also have to deal with the consequences for those beliefs sometimes. I don't "unfriend" people on Facebook because they disagree with me. But at the same time, I generally have a hard time giving my money to people or organizations who are going to spend that money to promote ideas that I vehemently disagree with. This case seems to not be as cut and dry as other boycotting situations though because the movie is not made strictly by Card.

Do we know what financial benefit Card will get from the film? I don't know a lot about the financing of movies, but I think sometimes the rights to the story are purchased and that's the end of the relationship with the author. That means that money has already been given to Card. Boycotting the movie isn't going to change how much they've already paid him. On the other hand, if he's getting a percentage of the profits, then maybe a boycott would make a point. Unfortunately as you've already pointed out, it also will impact lots of other people who do not agree with Card but worked on the movie.

So, I will only see the movie in the theater if it gets fabulous reviews from everyone that make it sound like you have to see it on the big screen (which probably won't happen). But that was the case before this controversy came to light. At the same time, I won't judge anyone who goes to see the film.

I will, however, not buy any of his books. I've never read Ender's Game, but it's gotten such a ringing endorsement from Billie, I was considering adding it to my summer reading list...now I might just check it out of the library...(which probably would also get an endorsement from Billie!)

It's definitely a complicated issue, and I appreciate your discussion of all the angles, Josie. I missed the communist commentary from the spring, but enjoyed your handling of that situation too :) Now I guess I'll have to wait on J.D.'s review to see if all this boycotting mess matters...

sunbunny said...

I've never read the book, never intend to read the book, and never intend to see the movie and that was before all this. Meaning I can't really boycott even if I want to. Would I want to? Boycotting gets so messy. People who did nothing wrong can get financial hurt, etc. That said, I'm about as gay rightsy as they come and the National Organization for Marriage is a) completely misnamed and b) evil.

Thanks for doing this Josie "Karl Marx is my BFF" Kafka! I'd seen bits and pieces about this around the interwebs, but not a "just the facts ma'am" rundown.

Josie Kafka said...

Karl Marx?! Bah! I'm a die-hard Stalinst. That man knew how to run a country.

Anonymous said...

If I started boycotting a piece of work just because there's a person associated with it whose views or behaviour I don't condone, I'd have to throw out a significant amount of my music collection in particular. Musicians can be a real piece of work. Really, celebrities in general. I'd have to boycott movies far more often due to actors rather than writers.

If a Mel Gibson movie is good, I'm more than happy to watch it. Same with any movie based on an Orson Scott Card work.

If Ender's Game stays at 7+ on IMDb after a couple ten thousands of user votes, I'm going to the cinema. If not then I'm skipping it. Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

Just download it illegally.. U can still see the movie but wont be giving any money OSC :D

Juliette said...

If I refused to read or watch anything whose author I disagreed with, I wouldn't have a job. And an author's political views etc have nothing to do with a film based on their work. If the film was a lengthy tirade against gay marriage, I wouldn't go to see it, but it's not, it's completely unconnected by the sounds of things. And I read and watch loads of stuff that's sexist and enjoy it anyway.

ChrisB said...

In our increasingly PC world, things like this boycott get completely blown out of proportion. A group of people get vocal and the big studios, anxious not to take a stand on any issue if they can possibly help it, begin straddling the fence and creating more media buzz. If the studio were genuinely concerned about Card (I originally typed Cad -- caught it on the proofread!) and his politics, they never would have green-lit the film in the first place.

Gay rights is the hot topic right now, thanks to the recent DOMA decision and the inevitability that same sex marriages will, eventually, be regarded as any other. Personally, I have been pro same sex marriage for years. My mother and stepmother have been together for nearly twenty years and have one of the most loving, supportive relationships I have ever witnessed. They entered into a civil-union last year, but now they will be awarded the federal benefits they should have been all along.

I am also a strong believer in people’s right to believe what they want and to state their beliefs. I may think that Card is an ass, but I will support his right to say what he wants. I do not have to change my beliefs; I do not have to support his cause; but, I do have to respect his right to hold his beliefs and to back them up as he sees fit.

What has interested me most about this boycott is that the film is now garnering huge media attention prior to its release -- every producer’s dream. Until I read about this boycott the other day, I had never heard of the book or the film. I am sure I am not the only one. Will the number of people who now go see the film or read the book, just to see what all the fuss is about, offset the ones who boycott them?

Brad Murgen said...

Card has every right to believe what he wants, whether you think it's right or not. Boycotting the movie because of that is silly.

Billie Doux said...

Brad, I agree that Card has the right to believe what he wants. The thing is, he uses his time and money to fund lobbying of legislation that seeks to take or keep rights away from an entire group of human beings. I think it is my right, and the right of anyone who is gay or who supports gay rights, to choose *not* to give our ticket money to someone who will use that money to fund those efforts. So I absolutely see where the boycotters are coming from. I honestly hadn't thought of it that way at first; I did some reading about it this morning.

Anonymous said...

I checked IMDB and Card is listed as a producer. Not just as from a book by... I would take this to mean that he will be receiving profits from the movie. Generally speaking: only studios, producers, and sometimes actors receive profits from the movie. Other categories including authors do not. Since Lionsgate made Card a producer, I suspect that he will be receiving profits. Of course, I have no actual knowledge in this particular case but the fact that Lionsgate did NOT mention that Card had already been paid in their comments is interesting. Call me turnipseed.

Joseph Pennycook said...

While I loved Ender's Game, and some of the various followupthings, particularly Ender's Shadow, I probably won't go and see the film, because I'm not a big film person. Maybe I'll see it at some point, but I'm in no hurry. However, my decision to not see the movie has nothing whatsoever to do with Card's political opinions, in fact, I wouldn't even say that I dislike Card because of his opinions.

To explain this, allow me to use a probably disanalogous analogy. I really like cheesecake. If there was someone who hated cheesecake, and believed eating cheesecake was morally wrong, and tried to persuade the whole country to stop eating cheesecake, I wouldn't have a problem with being their friend, and maybe if they were really good at something, like making cool hats, I wouldn't have a problem with buying a hat from them. I completely disagree with Card's political opinions regarding gay marriage, but those opinions are a tiny part of who he is, and I can disagree with that tiny part while respecting the other parts of him, one of which being that he is a brilliant writer.

David E said...

"I see some homophobic subtext in there, but that might just be me...."

The novel is about destroying the threat to humanity poised by the "Buggers".

It's pretty hard to miss the anti-gay subtext....especially in light of Card's many public anti-gay comments.

Josie Kafka said...

David, I obviously don't disagree, but I think the ending of the novel (in which issues of bad-guys vs. good-guys is shown to be ambiguous) could be read as a contradiction of any transparent meaning behind "Buggers."

Maybe. Maybe. :-)

ChrisB said...

Excellent editorial, written by a gay man, on this very subject.

http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/07/19/enders-game-spider-man-big-gay-panic-mark-harris/

Anonymous said...

Great article. I have zero interest in this since I haven't read the book. But yeah, Card has some vile opinions and doesn't deserve any so called tolerance, i.e money from the audience. Obviously we can't police opinions and sometimes great writers are shitty human beings. But I chose not to support Card and that's partially a consequence of his opinions on his fellow human beings.
Anna

Demosthenes said...

"The novel is about destroying the threat to humanity poised by the 'Buggers'. It's pretty hard to miss the anti-gay subtext..."

They were giant insectoid aliens, David. Which is my way of saying, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Also, I hope you never find yourself in a Commonwealth realm, lest you perceive yourself as being surrounded by homophobes.

As far as the boycott goes, I find myself depressed by the general tone of comments on this thread, as on most threads. Too many people seem to be unwilling to separate their distaste for Card's sociopolitical beliefs and activism from the actual work/s in question. To be perfectly fair to those people, it is a difficult question to grapple with, and I would have agreed with their principle at one time -- X can say what he wants, but I won't subsidize his speech, etc. Maybe that's why hearing that line of reasoning depresses me so...because I'm well aware of how much I used to use it.

If Card had actually done something illegal, or gone past advocacy, that would be a separate issue -- I boycott any work of the statutory rapist Roman Polanksi, for example. But when it comes to simple expression, and I include use of one's money and time under the word "expression"...well, I guess it comes down to a simple application of the Golden Rule. I ultimately decided that I wouldn't like it very much if people decided not to spend money at my business just because they had a political disagreement with me, and so I couldn't in good conscience treat others that way.

And I haven't since. I find Adam McKay's politics distasteful, but I'm not going to miss Anchorman 2. Joss Whedon's faux-feminism and latte liberalism range from tiring to irritating, but I'm not throwing away my DVDs of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, The Avengers...and I'll see every episode of his new Avengers show. Heck, I wouldn't even chuck Dollhouse or Alien Resurrection. Of course, YMMV.