What happens when the author of a book is a jerk? What if their politics make you cringe? What if they actively advocate against you?
I'm not talking about pulling their book from shelves, but do you buy that book? Do you support them in that way?
Back in 1985, Orson Scott Card published the novel Ender's Game. The author has said some pretty terrible things about LGBT people, including that gay marriage "marks the end of democracy in America."
"I will act to destroy that [pro-gay marriage] government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.”
And now, Card's book is a movie. A big tent-pole Hollywood movie. And there are calls for a boycott.
Two op-ed pieces in the advocate are worth checking out. One, by Diane Anderson-Minshall Why I'm Going To See Ender's Game, and the other, by Rebecca Holliman, Why I Plan To Skip Ender's Game.
The film's director Gavin Hood (an outspoken supporter of marriage equality) is quoted in the Why I'm Going To See it op-ed as saying,
“I fully understand the position of those seeking a boycott. I really do...What concerns me is that it’s dreadfully ironic that Orson wrote a book about compassion and empathy, and yet he himself is struggling to see that his position in real life is really at odds with his art. And, frankly that’s not unusual. Great art usually rides above the weaknesses and failings of its creators."Geeks Out, a group of queer fanboys and fangirls, is holding firm to its call to boycott the film, saying to Card directly,
"The Bill of Rights protects your freedom of speech but it does not protect your right to a blockbuster opening weekend."I don't want Ender's Game pulled from libraries, but do I want it to do well in theaters?
What about the cast and crew who aren't homophobes - in fact, many of them are vocal allies. What's fair?
If the movie is a giant hit, does that benefit Card? Absolutely. But is it just - is it justice - to penalize a work of art for the faults of its creator?
And is a movie, given its collaborative realities, subject to a different answer than a book, which arguably is more of a single creator's vision?
Interesting, this isn't the first time Card’s openly homophobic views have impacted his career.
As quoted in the Skipping Ender's Game op-ed,
"Card was initially hired by D.C. Comics to write the digital-first Adventures of Superman comic. Media backlash at the company's choice to hire an outspokenly homophobic writer eventually motivated collaborating artist Chris Sprouse to back out of the project and forced D.C. Comics to feature a story by Jeff Lemire and artist Chris Samnee instead of Card's."
This does come back around to freedom of speech. As Rebecca Holliman said,
If you are going to say hateful and inflammatory things about a subgroup of the population, then you must be willing to accept the consequences.
And I would add to that, especially if you are a public figure.
What's your take? Should a work of art stand on its own, or should we hold artists accountable for what they say outside of their art by the decision of whether or not we're going to support their art?
And as a writer, I have to acknowledge that this has interesting implications for artists in general. It could squelch true honest creative expression if we're all so careful of what we say because we're worried we'll alienate some people.
Every year when I participate at a Banned Books Week Event at my kids' school, I try to decide what I should read a few lines from. This year, I wonder if I should read from "Ender's Game." Because as much as I dislike the author's position on my rights as a human being, I don't want his book silenced.
Then again, there are a lot of good books that face challenges whose authors I know support me and the LGBTQ community. Maybe I'll read from Todd Parr's THE FAMILY BOOK instead.
How about you - Will you go see Ender's Game?