The Boycott of the Upcoming Ender’s Game Film: Is It Justified?

Posted in: Other Commentary

A controversy recently erupted due to the blatantly homophobic views of the author Orson Scott Card, whose extremely popular book Ender’s Game is being adapted as a film that will be released this November by Lionsgate.  Due to Card’s views, an organization called Geeks OUT is boycotting the film.  (Another recent protest over Card’s views came from comic book artist Christopher Sprouse, who changed his mind about illustrating a comic book that Card had penned due to Card’s homophobic views.)  In this column, I’ll consider the viewpoints of various parties regarding the controversy.

Lionsgate’s Response to the Controversy

The producer of the Ender’s Game movie, Lionsgate, responded to the controversy over Ender’s Game by issuing the following statement:

As proud longtime supporters of the LGBT community, champions of films ranging from GODS AND MONSTERS to THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER and a Company that is proud to have recognized same-sex unions and domestic partnerships within its employee benefits policies for many years, we obviously do not agree with the personal views of Orson Scott Card and those of the National Organization for Marriage.  However, they are completely irrelevant to a discussion of ENDER’S GAME.  The simple fact is that neither the underlying book nor the film itself reflect these views in any way, shape or form.  On the contrary, the film not only transports viewers to an entertaining and action-filled world, but it does so with positive and inspiring characters who ultimately deliver an ennobling and life-affirming message. Lionsgate will continue its longstanding commitment to the LGBT community by exploring new ways we can support LGBT causes and, as part of this ongoing process, will host a [LGBT-causes] benefit premiere for ENDER’S GAME.

-Lionsgate Entertainment.

Lionsgate’s response to the controversy is interesting in two ways.  First, it opens up the possibility that Card himself might not attend the Enders Game benefit; and that if he does, he may learn something from those members of the LGBT community who might—and, I think, ought to—approach him there, to confront him about his views.

Second, Lionsgate’s response implicitly addresses the issue of its having done business with a known homophobe. Here, Lionsgate’s response seems less successful, in that the amount of money that is poured into the GLBT premiere, no matter how lavish it may be, will probably be dwarfed by the massive amount of money that Card likely received for the Ender’s Game book option.  And even if the sums were the same, one could argue that they still don’t cancel either out, for the sum given to Card by Lionsgate remains tainted.

Ender’s Game Author Orson Scott Card’s Response to the Controversy

After the controversy had broken, Card commented to Entertainment Weekly as follows:

“Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.  With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.”

Card’s response is unconvincing, for a number of reasons.  First, Card seems to see the entire issue as if it were a war, and not a civil rights struggle.  Here, his reference to “victorious proponents” is telling.

Second, Card asks GLBT proponents to exhibit “tolerance” toward those on the other side, Card’s side.  This request is the rare—indeed, almost unheard of—call for an oppressor group to receive tolerance from those it is oppressing.

Third, Card seems to be quite happy with a situation where GLBT people slowly are accorded rights, state by state and “sooner or later”—rights that they should have had all along, and rights that should be universally granted.  This position evokes the Civil Rights-related saying, “If they say ‘Go slow’ they mean, ‘Don’t go.’”

Fourth and finally, a sad irony arises here from how beautifully Card is able to depict empathy in his work, but how, in his life, he apparently cannot always experience it.  Consider Card’s Ender’s Game  sequel, Speaker for the Dead. There. In the latter book’s world, anyone can summon a Speaker to research a deceased person’s life and speak for that person, describing his or her life as he or she had tried to live it, complete with all its merits, flaws, and misdeeds.  Perhaps if Card himself would witness—or even become—a Speaker for a LGBT person, who orates at that person’s funeral, then Card’s own views about gay people might well change profoundly.