Monday, October 28, 2013

Ender's Dilemma

I first heard of Orson Scott Card's book Ender's Game in calculus class in high school. We were learning about numerical derivatives (don't ask me now what those are), and the function in our graphing calculators was labeled nDer. We used that as shorthand in conversation - "then you take the n-der...". Mr. Glenn, who could easily go on Jeopardy and win, would often spout off random pieces of information, and one day segued from nDer to talking about Ender not knowing he was playing a game. The story sounded interesting, so I soon decided to read it.

I think that was my start of loving science fiction. I try to keep a quasi-minimalist household, so I don't own a lot of books, but about a third of my bookshelf is comprised of the Ender series, and it's some of my most well-read and worn books.

There have been rumors of a movie version of Ender's Game for many years. Finally, it happened! - starring Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford - and it's being released this Friday, November 1.

I posted something on facebook about going to a showing Thursday night (I still don't understand why the premiere showings start at 8 pm on October 31? Is this a new trend, that "midnight" showings are being pushed up a few hours, or is this just because it's Halloween?), and a friend replied with a link to the Skip Ender's Game movement

Card is Mormon, and has been actively involved in opposing gay marriage, even going so far as to claim that homosexuality is linked to pedophilia and paraphilia [source]. His 2004 essay "Homosexual 'Marriage' and Civilization" is quite nauseating, to say the least. Apparently, all gay people need to do to gain the legal rights of marriage is find someone of the opposite sex to get married to; children need a parent of each sex in order to have appropriate role models; not having a father results in a lack of moral judgment and self-confidence; most homosexuals became that way because of abuse; etc. 

But Card's personal views really have nothing to do with Ender's Game, which was published as a novel in 1985 and originally conceived as a short story in 1977 [source]. It's about the nature of humanity, how to be a leader, and weighing individual rights against the good of the many.

In subsequent writings, you can definitely see Card's pro-heterosexual stance - the sequels to Ender's Game are basically about finding purpose in life by securing a mate and raising children. But there isn't any anti-homosexual propaganda in his fiction that I've read, it's just clearly written from a culture that assumes heterosexuality as the norm.

A few ways I'm trying to justify going to the movie anyway:

1. I'll make a contribution to a pro-gay marriage organization to help offset any income from my movie tickets that would be indirectly going to support Card's political views.

2. Now that DOMA has been overturned, Card has basically conceded the point, at least as far as legal rights are concerned [source] (though I'm sure he still believes it will be our moral downfall). Although I understand not wanting to give income to someone who has done awful things in the past, it appears that we can nonetheless be assured that income from Ender's Game isn't going to be contributed to campaigning to reinstate DOMA.

3. Although Card has been fairly involved in the movie adaption, more so than some authors probably are, he's only one of several producers [source]. He's not the only one who's going to make money from box office profits, and the studio and other individuals involved have explicitly distanced themselves from Card's political statements [source] [source]. If you want to avoid supporting Card, I think a boycott of his books is more appropriate than a boycott of this movie.

4. Card has directly spoken/written against gay marriage, and presumably contributed money to related political campaigns - however, even if he weren't personally working on this anti-cause, he would still be contributing money to the Mormon church which would then be using it to campaign against gay marriage. Why did no one boycott the Twilight franchise? Although Stephenie Meyer has not, to my knowledge, spoken up about any specific political views, she is also Mormon [source], and no doubt tithes her (very large) income to the church, thus indirectly contributing a great deal of money to campaigns they are involved in. Although I think "voting with your dollars" is a great thing in terms of supporting companies that make socially conscious decisions, to take it to the point of boycotting an individual based primarily on their religious and political viewpoints makes me uncomfortable. 

5. Although the value from Card's writing cannot make up for his political actions, I think it has to be possible for a creative work to co-exist with whatever its creator has done personally, even if contradictory. Ender's Game is truly an amazing work of fiction, and I have a hard time believing that what it contributes to society should be ignored on grounds that exist completely outside of the book.

Would you see a movie that is written/produced by someone who has actively campaigned against a cause you believe in?


  1. Very thoughtful post! I like your idea to contribute to a pro-gay cause to offset your contribution to seeing the movie. I can't think of any movies that went somehow against my beliefs, but I can tell you that I feel that way about certain musicians. If their music comes on the radio, I immediately change the channel or turn it off. If they are being interviewed on TV, same thing, change the channel. I don't know if it makes any difference, but I know that I don't feel comfortable contributing in anyway to their popularity.

    1. That's a good point about musicians. Unlike movies, I'm not sure that changing the radio stations makes a dent in their income (how do radio stations determine popularity of songs anyway? It's not like I'm calling in to request when I do like a song or artist, so it doesn't really make a difference when I don't), but at least you can feel you did the most you can to avoid improving their popularity.


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