Orson Scott Card v. Ender: Boycotting Ender’s Game is Bad for Art

October 31, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

With so many artists we have to separate the work from the artist, because a lot of them ARE (or were) asshats.  And yes, sometimes they head so far off into the crazy that it is tempting to not "support" their art because we don't want to see a single one of our dimes fall into their pockets, or even offer them any tacit support of their ideas...

However, what has happened with Ender's Game seems like a real shame to me. It is a great book and I am really looking forward to the movie. I will see it. I will pay to see it. And, I suppose, that means giving a few dimes to OSC. But it also means giving a few dimes to the other artists who've contributed to this movie as well.

With Card, reading his more recent books is pretty painful because they are far from the brilliance of Ender's Game or Speaker For The Dead (which is even greater than Ender, IMHO). They are great examples of what happens when one's ego consumes one's talent. I also think this is what happened to Card politically, he got some traction in certain circles and then ran the football into the full crazy end zone.

But at the end of the day, I choose to support the great art and ideas expressed in Ender’s Game and Speaker, and I can do this without supporting the rest. This movie, whether it succeeds or not, is one of the few recent attempts to bring great, classic, deep and thoughtful sci fi to the big screen and I hope it succeeds. Not because it will benefit Card, but because its success will benefit the art, and hopefully encourage the production of more great sci fi movies based on big ideas and that don't sacrifice great writing for big effects and action sequences.

So blacklist OSC if you must, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Supporting this movie is a lot different than throwing down $30 bucks for OSC's next hardcover piece of ego fueled drivel, and it is a good thing.

Orson Scott Card: Mentor, Friend, Bigot | Underwire | Wired.com:

"As a college student, I corresponded extensively with Orson Scott Card. For several years, I considered him a mentor and a friend. He was incredibly generous with his time and advice, and supportive of me as an aspiring fiction writer. I’ve had dinner at his home.

"I was out during that time. I was also largely unaware of the extremity of Card’s politics. His political reputation was much quieter back then — most of his internet presence was concentrated around a network of online writing workshop and critique groups — and his op-eds were published in circles I never stumbled into. The only time his beliefs came up in our conversations was a comment he made about fiction being a totally inappropriate venue for any kind of ideological proselytizing. I may not have agreed with his personal beliefs — I knew that he was an observant Mormon and at least somewhat politically conservative — but I respected and still respect the principle of not using fiction as a soap box, even if the author who introduced it to me has since forgotten or abandoned it."

My experience with Card is a lot like hers, without the direct contact.  Back in the Pre-Internet days, he was very active on Prodigy On-Line (I think that's what it was called) and that was very cool for me, and he shared a lot of information about writing with a bunch of us wannabes.  He was one of my favorite Sci Fi writers of all time (and his early books are still some of my favorites).

I was shocked last spring to hear that this movie was delayed by the studio largely because of the controversy over Card (though they denied this, if I remember correctly).  I always knew that Card was a devout Mormon, but I deeply troubled to hear that the author of one of the greatest books ever about tolerance and acceptance of others (Speaker For The Dead) was so vocal and public about his intolerance for the GLBT community.  To me, ensuring the success of this movie is a step towards getting THAT movie made which would do more to damage OSC's cause than boycotting this movie will.

Learning about Card’s words and actions caused me to really take a look at this issue of art v. artist.  In the end, I find I still can support the art over the artist, though I think it is also important to point out that we are drawing a line in our support, too. 

And, for me, this really has to do with more than just the GBLT angle in this particular case because, let's be honest, his ideas were the societal norm for the vast majority of history, so if we were to boycott all homophobic artists, we'd probably be boycotting 98% of everything ever produced, which feels wrong.  And if we aren't, then it also feels wrong to boycott Card.  Though being a product of his religion and times is no excuse for his public lobbying efforts…

Yet, I do think it is fair, even important and necessary, to point out when we are supporting the art over the artist, especially when they are  inserting themselves into political debates.  And this particular case really does sadden me because in many ways Card has shown himself to be a very decent man over the years through his support of beginning writers, even more so than I realized before reading the article above.  Few writers would bring an aspiring novice home for dinner.

People are complicated.  And yes, sometimes, they can really piss us off!  I have friends who’s views are not too far off from Card’s and it is sometimes difficult for me to reconcile my feelings about them.  But, unlike Card, they do not have a public platform to contribute to the debate, so their personal feelings are pretty much just that, and so my concerns are eased because it is hard for me to see how they are directly harming others while I can also hope that, perhaps, that my view can erode at theirs a bit over time. 

With Card’s public platform, however, that isn’t the case here.  His beliefs, when he lobbies against the GBLT community from a platform of intolerance and fear, is harmful to others.

But if I can reconcile these conflicting feelings about my friends, then I can do it with strangers whom I’ve never met, though it is much easier to paint strangers into black and white categories without ever knowing, or caring to know, what a complicated mess they really are.

Orson Scott Card Responds to Ender's Game Boycott With Ironic Plea for 'Tolerance' | Underwire | Wired.com:

"In a recent statement to Entertainment Weekly, Orson Scott Card responded to a proposed boycott of the upcoming film adaptation of his novel Ender’s Game by informing the movie-going public that it doesn’t really matter that he’s been working ceaselessly for the last decade to make sure gay people don’t get basic human rights, or that he advocated the violent overthrow of the government should same-sex marriage become legal, or that he’s used his position as a popular author as a platform from which to spew increasingly aggressive anti-equality rhetoric like his comment in a 2004 essay that gays ‘cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.’"

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