The Ender’s Game Controversy…

endersgame3If you’re the kind of person for whom science fiction is irrelevant, or if you’ve just been living under a rock for the past few months, it might come as a surprise that there are people who are looking to boycott the release of Ender’s Games. Granted, Card has been an opponent of gay marriage for some time, but its really only been with the release of the movie adapted from his 1984 novel that this has become an issue.

In response to the upcoming release, groups like Geeks OUT! have started the campaign called “Skip Ender’s Game”. Citing Card’s views, and his involvement with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) – which supported the Defense Of Marriage Act – Geeks OUT and others like them are hoping to prevent Card from benefiting financially from the movie’s release.

enders_game_1Of particular concern is a statement made by Card in 1990 in an essay entitled “The Hypocrites of Homosexuality”:

Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.

In 2009, he stated that homosexual individuals “suffer from tragic genetic mixups,” and that the term “homophobe” is used in order to imply that opponents of the “homosexual activist agenda” are mentally ill. Card stated in 2008 that “[t]here is no branch of government with the authority to redefine marriage.” On July 8, 2013, Card wrote in Entertainment Weekly that the gay marriage issue is “moot” due to the Supreme Court decision on DOMA, and that eventually, gay marriage would be legal in all fifty states

enders_game_2All of this has generated its fair share of controversy and has led to some degree of distancing and disavowal. For starters, Lionsgate Films – the studio responsible for the movie – announced that Card would not be taking part in the Ender’s Game film panel at San Diego Comic Con in July 2013 with the other principal cast and crewmembers of the film.

In addition, hoping to dampen the flames of controversy, Lionsgate released 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 benefit premiere for ENDER’S GAME.

This is an argument that many have made, that since Card’s views on homosexuality don’t appear in the book itself, that it is not relevant to either it or the movie.

EndersGameAnd Card himself even made a statement in response to the proposed boycott, claiming the his story and his stances on gay marriage are two entirely separate issues:

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.

Once again, Card has declared the issue open and shut and has asked for tolerance for his past stances. Personally, I can’t help but feel that the studio has missed the point entirely, and the Card himself is taking a rather hypocritical stance. Asking for tolerance for your opinions and beliefs are one thing, but he and his colleagues actively campaigned to deny equal rights to others.

enders_game5And though plenty of people have questioned whether or not a boycott is even likely to be effective, the issue seems to be snowballing. Not only is the studio taking notice, but Card’s own statements have only seemed to add fuel to the fire. And of course, a studio needs to reach beyond fans of the franchise and genre when doing adaptations, but given the way the controversy is growing, it’s not unreasonable to suspect they will have a hard time drawing people in.

And I admit to being heavily conflicted. While Card’s views were known to me before the movie was announced, his involvement with NOM and the many statements he’s made, not to mention his perception of the issue as being “moot” and over with, have led me to seriously reevaluate my opinion of the man. Like many sci-fi readers, I read and enjoyed Ender’s Game thoroughly. Had I know where the man stood at the time, would I have still bought it or enjoyed it nearly as much?

orson_scott_cardNot an easy question to answer, and it raises the uncomfortable specter of multiple, overlapping issues. Amongst them are censorship, free speech, hate speech, endorsing intolerance, and precedent. Personally, I think I’m going to skip the movie now. Too bad too, I was interested in seeing what they did with it. And as you can see, I can’t resist posting some of those stunning visuals! But on certain matters, I am just not flexible where intolerance is involved.

And given the way Card espoused tolerance and humanity in his classic book, even towards one’s enemy, I think it would be reasonable for him to reconsider his past involvements. After all, tolerance is about accepting the things you don’t approve of. If you expect people to extend that acceptance to you, you better be willing to show some yourself.

Sources: blastr.com, (2), IO9.c0m, skipendersgame.com