Monday, September 23, 2013

Banned Books Week! The Ender's Game Boycott, Orson Scott Card, And The Question: Should Art Transcend The Artist? - A GSA Mondays Post

It's Banned Books Week, when we stop to acknowledge the importance of NOT banning books. It's all about supporting intellectual freedom and I'm all on board,

And yet...

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."
 and that
"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?



Angie said...

Freedom of speech has to work in both directions, and it's not always about speech per se. Mr. Card has the right to say pretty much whatever hateful, ignorant thing he wants. And I have a right to send him a message of my own by not seeing his movie. He doesn't have a right to my ten dollars; he can say what he wants, and I can watch what I want.

I'm another one who loved Ender's Game. I read the original novelette as a kid, when it was published in Analog. I was excited to read the expanded novel later on. I wrote a paper about him for an English class in college, and had to argue with my teacher to let me do it. :/ I've talked to him at a convention, and he seemed like a nice guy. Maybe it would've been different if I were a lesbian? If I'd walked up in a rainbow T-shirt and holding hands with my girlfriend, and asked for an autograph?

I don't know. I do know that I can't in good conscience communicate my approval by contributing to his movie's status as a first-weekend blockbuster. Maybe I'll rent it from Netflix a few months later, I don't know. But I lived in California when the LDS church poured millions of dollars into the state to fund the extensive TV commercial campaign -- full of blatant lies -- that helped Prop 8 pass. Giving money to homophobic, tithing Mormons (differentiated from the Mormons who are not homophobic, and who are very unhappy with their church's political activism in this area) seems to be a bad idea so long as there are still more political fights to come.


Lisa Jenn said...

I like this article about options you have when you like the content but not the creator:

OSC's anti-LGBT views -- and moreover, his anti-LGBT fundraising and activism have made me feel sick and sour toward him. For the most part, I can no longer read his books, even from the library, because it makes me so unhappy.

(I made an exception recently for Laddertop, the graphic novel he wrote with his daughter. Also, as the purchaser of junior high paperbacks at my library, I do make sure we stay stocked up on copies of Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow.)

That said, I loved Ender's Game so much as a teen, and I've been waiting a long time for this movie to come to fruition. I want to see if they managed to make a good movie out of the book; certainly the cast is incredible.

My current plan is to see the movie. But, as the Think Progress article suggests, I will probably send some money the way of a pro-LGBT film/arts organization as well to "offset" the purchase of my movie ticket.

ivanova said...

I'm not going to see Ender's Game. There was never a chance that I would go. I don't see it as a boycott but I don't want to put any money in the pockets of a bigot, or support that project. I don't see the harm to free speech since I'm not trying to prevent others from having the right to go to the movies or prevent the movie from being released. I don't see how Ender's Game becomes a banned book just because it's become a movie that many people will see and some will refuse to see. In the last few weeks, I've seen Ender's Game in the library, the bookstore, and in someone's hands on the subway so it's hard for me to see the silencing. Calling out bigotry is not the same as a cry to have a book or movie burned at the stake. I've been feeling sad and embittered about Orson Scott Card for years because I am a former fan and Ender's Game was one of my favorite books. I couldn't throw out his books but I put them in a dark spot in the closet where they couldn't be seen. Some of his books are terrific and others are overtly bigoted. Ender's Game ironically was a book that brought me and my girlfriend together many years ago since we're both big nerds. She says she's going to see the movie which I don't really understand, but different strokes for different folks.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

In deciding whether to teach, or stock, or publish, or distribute, or make available, a work of art, I think the art should be judged on its own merit.

But the decisions of individual consumers as to whether to read or buy a book are based on many things, including whether they like the cover, what else is competing for their attention, whether they found the author appealing when they saw him in an interview, how much money they have, etc. For a movie, it may be influenced by how busy they are, whether they like the cast, etc. It's probably natural for "find the author's social and political views offensive" to be one of those factors. If they're deciding for themselves what to read and what to buy and what movie to see, then it's their prerogative.

As far as silencing an artist: I think there is a difference between saying, "I'm not going to buy your book" versus, "I'm going to make sure nobody else can read your book," the second one being censorship.

RoseMG said...

I think I'll probably see it, and I find my reasoning to be best explained in my answer to your question: "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?"

My answer to this is yes, we should hold artists, and anybody really, accountable for their actions. People are responsible for themselves, and always have a choice as to whether or not they spew hate into the world.

However, I think the key point in this matter is that the Ender's Game Movie is being created by so many more artists than Orson Scott Card. I also read the Alyssa Rosenberg article linked by Lisa in her comment above, and as Alyssa Rosenberg rightly points out, there are a bunch of promising child actors working on this movie. I try my hardest to support artists of all sorts, and I think it is particularly important to help young people in their artistic endeavors. Like Lisa, above, I will likely go with the "offset" method Alyssa discusses in her article. Because honestly, OSC already makes large amounts of money, and I would like to support the actors and lighting technicians and photographers and all those other people who helped bring this movie into fruition.

So yes, OSC is a bigot, and his hate sickens me, and I hate the idea that my money will somehow make its way into his paycheck, but I have loved Ender's Game since middle school and this is a story I want to see on the big screen, and there IS more at hand here than the author of the original book.

Which isn't, of course, to say I don't find boycotting the movie admirable. I do. It just isn't the choice for me.

Fred said...

I don't get to grown-up movies much anyway since I have young children, but I do feel very split about supporting this movie.

I read the book some time ago and I'm sure I would enjoy seeing it up on the big screen, especially with some of the big names attached to the film.

However, I feel very frustrated that the movie went through production without anyone raising any moral objections. Were the stars ignorant of Card's extreme and public anti-LGBT positions? If so, why did they stay attached to the project without any public statement disavowing Card's personal views? Clearly, Card does not take a mildly opposing position; the language he uses is hateful.

I'd love to read a statement from Harrison Ford or Ben Kingsley addressing their position (which would hopefully be favorable and distancing themselves from Card) and perhaps discuss why they chose to associate themselves with the work of such a hateful man.

If nothing else, this would be a good very publicly visible opportunity for conversation.

Anonymous said...

Card is a dirty bigot and I have many non PC feelings about what I would like to see happen to him. That being said, he wrote a brilliant series of books that are captivating and entertaining. I am torn on the subject of supporting a hideous monster like Card or stifling a true work of art (which Ender's Game, Speaker for he Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind all are). I am probably going to see the movie because I loved the book so much. I do have a bit of good news, the books that he is currently churning out that deal with Ender's Universe are pure trash. He is following the comic book model of producing extremely weak stories with cliff-hanger endings strictly to make money. I say that this is good news because it seems that Karma has taken away his ability to produce good art. In the end he will be remembered as a hack who got lucky with his first few books!

Karen Sandler said...

I was kind of meh about Ender's Game, so was never particularly motivated to see the movie. So no real crisis of conscience deciding to skip it.

However, I recently found out that OSC is a GoH at an SF/F convention I was planning to attend, where I'm likely to be a panelist. That is a more difficult decision as to whether to go or back out.

I've decided I will go if I'm invited to be a panelist, but make a point of skipping any OSC-related events--e.g., workshop panels he's on, keynote speeches he's giving. I feel like I can live with that choice.