Should we tolerate Orson Scott Card’s intolerance or boycott Ender’s Game?

There is a boycott underway by the group Geeks Out against the fall release of Ender’s Game, the big-budget big-screen adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi novel from 1985.  Why is it being boycotted? Because of Mr. Card’s decades long commitment to the fight against homosexuality and LGBT equality. Card is, without equivocation, a bigoted homophobe with a long and terrible track record. Seriously.

Orson Scott Card is not just opposed to homosexuality. He has advocated a violent overthrow of the government should marriage equality become legal.

Card does not just think that marriage should be reserved for heterosexuals. He thinks “Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books… 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.” That’s from his article Hypocrites of Homosexuality. Forgive me for not linking.

His personal life is a den of homophobia. So too, his artistic work. In perhaps his biggest artistic atrocity of all, Orson Scott Card re-wrote Hamlet, HAMLET!, one of the greatest literary achievements in the English language, into an anti-gay story.


But. Orson Scott Card also wrote Ender’s Game. And Ender’s Game is wonderful. Seriously. Of course, no one knows how the film will turn out. But if the movie heeds closely to the book, it could be pretty good. So the question is: Should the film be boycotted because Card is terrible?

This is a complicated ethical question. And it’s getting a lot of thoughtful attention.  I wrote about the ethical difficulty previously, and my thoughts on that are largely unchanged. Separating the art from the artist is necessary, in my humble opinion, or too much that is worth remembering will lose out to history’s judgment (this is the short-short take on this very complicated issue, mind).

The element to this boycott that I haven’t considered until now is simply this: as a fan of science-fiction at a time when there are few big-budget high-concept space movies being made, will a successful boycott of Ender’s Game hurt the genre and the bankrolling of future big-budget space movies? And is that even worth thinking of when it comes to such base homophobia and cultural damage?

io9 has a good piece on the chances that this boycott could actually sink Ender’s Game:

“If that does happen, of course, it won’t be the boycott organizers’ fault — it’ll be Card’s. He absolutely has the right to express unpopular or extreme views, but he also has to take the consequences. He wouldn’t be the first artist whose work was ignored or marginalized because of extremist political opinions, and in this case it’s hard to feel sorry. On the other hand, this could be another nail in the coffin of us getting interesting, challenging space opera on the big screen.”

I write frequently (just today, in fact) about the need for sci-fi/fantasy creators and fans to be just, empathic and decent, and to put these things into their work. Card, in his passionate anti-gay crusading, has been none of those things. There is no free pass.

This means there will be no complaint from here if a movie-goer skips Ender’s Game on principal. O.S. Card’s politics are abhorrent. We have only so much money to put into the world, and one of the few ways each of us can shape our culture and politics at large is by being careful about how we choose to spend our dollars. Card’s recent call for others to show tolerance to him and his views in an Entertainment Weekly interview only makes his case worse. Mr. Card’s decades of intolerance should not be tolerated so that he can make money.

Whether or not I see Ender’s Game (and honestly, I probably will), it will not be in support of Orson Scott Card. It will certainly not be because he asked me to tolerate his intolerance.

If I see it, I’ll see it because I love science-fiction. And Ender’s Game, despite its author, is a good bit of sci-fi.


6 responses to “Should we tolerate Orson Scott Card’s intolerance or boycott Ender’s Game?

  1. I have to admit I’ve struggled with this one. Having read Ender’s Game a bunch when I was a kid, and knowing how good it is, I desperately want to see the film. However, it’s really hard to swallow going to see something when its creator has such abhorrent views. It feels like if I support the film, I’m supporting him. I’m sure I’ll see it, but I might hate myself a bit afterwards.

    • I’m the same. It’s very hard for me to imagine that I will not see Ender’s Game, despite my feelings for Card. At the end of the day I don’t think we should marry the hard creative work of many to the terrible opinions of one person. Maybe I just tell myself that.
      Thanks for coming by.

      • I think it’s easier for me to separate the two when it comes to film, because there are so many people involved in the making of a film. It may be Card’s story, but between the scriptwriters, actors, directors and all of the behind-the-scenes people, it’s no longer just his vision. I have a harder time separating singers from their songs and authors from their books.

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