Playing the Boycott Card?
Let’s start with this: I’m not telling you what to do. I’m only telling you what I’m going to do.
Tomorrow, the film version of Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” comes to theaters. The source material is a novel that’s beloved by at least one generation, the generation that came of age immediately following my own. Not coincidentally, that’s the first generation that grew up with video games from a young age.
I’ve never read the book. Never even had the urge to read it. I know it won the Hugo and Nebula Awards, but by the time “Ender’s Game” was released, I’d moved on from science fiction to reading mostly horror fiction (Stephen King, Clive Barker). I did read the first few volumes of Card’s “Tales of Alvin Maker,” and liked them well enough… but not well enough to continue past the third novel in the series. I picked up the hardcover collections of Card’s two “Ultimate Iron Man” series, but mostly for the art by Andy Kubert and Pasqual Ferry. I looked at the art on both, which was lovely, but never got around to reading them. I’ve since gotten rid of both volumes.
I do understand that “Ender’s Game” was formative for a lot of people. And I understand that a lot of those people are excited to finally see the story brought to life as a film. But I won’t be joining them.
It’s not for lack of interest in the film. The commercials I’ve seen — I’ve avoided the trailers online — are enticing, with a great design and widescreen sensibility. Growing up with Indiana Jones and Han Solo posters on my wall, Harrison Ford remains one of my favorite actors. I like Ben Kingsley, and I thought Asa Butterfield was terrific in “Hugo.” It’s the sort of movie I’d usually make time to see in the theater.
Despite all that, I won’t go see “Ender’s Game” because I don’t want to support Orson Scott Card. Card’s views on gay marriage in specific, and homosexuality in general, are abhorrent to me. I don’t think I’m overstating to say that Card is virulently opposed to both. He’s been a board member for the National Organization for Marriage, which exists to fight against the legalization of same-sex marriage. You can Google Card’s views, if you’re not familiar with them. They’re well documented, and I have no desire to repeat such hateful, homophobic rhetoric here.
Card’s anti-gay views came under increased scrutiny when he was announced as writing the first story for DC’s “Adventures of Superman” digital series (which also has a print version). The combination of Card’s extreme views, and an icon who represents Truth, Justice and the American Way, was a tinder point. Superman is not one of us, but he represents the best of us, the ideal to which we aspire. If Card had been writing a different hero, I suspect the outcry would have been considerably less. Card’s story has since been shelved indefinitely.
Calls to boycott the “Ender’s Game” film gained traction in the aftermath of the “Adventures of Superman” controversy. Websites like http://skipendersgame.com are urging people to avoid “Ender’s Game,” not because of the film’s content, but because of Card’s views. No, that’s not “censorship,” as some on the other side of the debate would have you believe. It’s not a free speech issue. Free speech is what allows Card to air the homophobic views that I find reprehensible. But Card has no more “right” to have his movie seen than he does to have his Superman story read. Those are both privileges.
I hesitate to embrace the term “boycott,” which too often is co-opted for a theatrical display of pique. I’m not boycotting Summit Entertainment or Lionsgate, the distributors. I’m simply not supporting this film, because it is based on the work of someone who has engaged in efforts to deny the rights of others.
Card is listed as a co-producer, and presumably stands to gain profit further if the film is successful. [Ed. Note: A Thursday report on The Wrap stated Card’s deal is such that he will not profit from the film’s backend, yet still stands to make money from avenues like royalties from increased book sales.] He’s one person among literally thousands who have worked to bring “Ender’s Game” to the screen, everyone from director Gavin Hood to the actors, artists, technical personnel, everyone down to the publicity assistants. So how can I justify not supporting their work simply because I find Orson Scott Card’s politics and social views hateful? Ultimately, the answer is: I don’t have to.
Their decisions to work on “Ender’s Game” are their own, and it’s not my place to pass judgment on them. For the vast majority, they’re simply earning a living pursuing their chosen craft. How they earn their money is their business, how I spend my money, and what it supports, is my business. The film is not seen as “Charlie the Grip’s Ender’s Game.” It’s seen as “Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.” That’s problematic for me.
In films, in comics, everywhere the free market is at work, you vote with your dollars. When you pay for something, it’s a vote. You’re voting “give me more like this.” When you see a movie in the theater, or buy a DVD, you’re voting for more movies like that. When you buy a comic, you’re voting for more comics like that. We all know collectors who keep buying comics they don’t even like anymore, simply to keep their runs complete. The message those collectors are sending to publishers is “make more comics just like this, because I buy them.”
I will not send the message that I want more Orson Scott Card product. I will not add to whatever profits Orson Scott Card stands to gain from the film. I will not support a man who so vociferously rails against the rights of others to be treated equally.
Certainly the easiest thing is to separate the art from and artist. It conveniently removes any thorny ethical complications that might prevent your enjoyment of your desired entertainment. If you convince yourself you’re supporting “Ender’s Game” and not Orson Scott Card, you walk up to the ticket booth and plunk down your money without a pang of conscience.
But I personally find it difficult to separate the creator for the creation when the creator is an unapologetic bigot who would deny basic rights based on sexual orientation. I can’t simply look the other way. That’s not how my conscience works.
There have been suggestions that a donation to gay and lesbian organizations provides a “moral offset” to the price of a ticket to “Ender’s Game.” Certainly it’s never a bad thing to donate to charity. But the concept of “moral offset” rings hollow to me. Sending $20 to GLAAD might soothe your guilty conscience, but if you buy a ticket to “Ender’s Game,” you’re still casting a vote for more.
I was in favor of a donation to Hero Initiative to match the ticket price to see “The Avengers” both as a way to honor Jack Kirby and to draw attention to his estate’s battle with Marvel for compensation. But a family seeking to share a small piece of a financial windfall is a vastly different matter than an individual using his bully pulpit to block the rights of others.
There are likely people who will avoid my work because of this column. There are certainly those who already do so because I don’t hide my convictions or my politics on Twitter. And that’s fine. Orson Scott Card didn’t hide his beliefs either. This is what I’m doing about it.
Ron Marz has been writing comics for two decades, and thinks it’s pretty much the best job ever. His current work includes “Witchblade” and the graphic novel series “Ravine” for Top Cow, “The Protectors” for Athleta Comics and his creator-owned title, “Shinku,” for Image. Follow him on Twitter (@ronmarz) and his website, www.ronmarz.com.