Boycotting Ender’s Game

UPFRONT DISCLAIMER:  Though I am the editor (pro tem) and publisher of Amazing Stories, my personal views remain separate from the editorial policies of the site.  I encourage Amazing’s contributors to freely express their views on a wide range of subjects and feel free to do so myself from time to time.  That I do so now should not be interpreted as the website’s position, nor of that of its contributors.

I am in favor of boycotting the film of Ender’s Game.

My distaste for Card well predates the current ruckus and in the interest of full disclosure:  it goes all the way back to his Campbell Award win and the Nebula and Hugo wins for Ender and Speaker.  I’ve always felt that there was something fishy and manipulative about his involvement with science fiction, for reasons that are too convoluted to go into at this current time,  (but are not limited to my 1970s view – well shared by others in that day – that his work was not worthy of publication, let alone awards).

My distaste has gathered steam along the way courtesy of Mr. Card and his hateful, disgusting politics and viewpoints.

My purpose in participating in a boycott of the film is to support an effort to make sure that Mr. Card’s gravy train is cut off or at least diminished because I do believe that at least some of his income will go directly to supporting causes and espousing views that I find repugnant.

I’ve read a fair amount of pros and cons regarding the boycott, both here, in other genre media outlets and in the mainstream press.  I don’t find any of the anti-boycott arguments persuasive.

Some express concern for the careers and livelihoods of those involved in the making of the film:  the vast majority have already been paid and have moved on to the next project.  The studio and those who took a stake in the financial performance of the film (back end) are in that business and take calculated risks on a regular basis as part of being in that business.  No film of any kind is guaranteed financial success.  The success or failure of the boycott will not affect those people nor their lifestyles and well-being any more than the normal vagaries of the filmmaking business already do.

Some express concern for the downstream companies that will be making toys or games or mousepads or fastfood premiums; companies that license properties from film studios are in that business to profit from success; if they don’t anticipate the potential of flops, it is poor management on their part and I feel no responsibility. If they do factor such possibilities into their calculations, they will not be harmed by a successful boycott anymore than they would be harmed by a box office flop.

Some express concern for the young actors and actresses whose careers may be negatively affected.  Hogwash on two levels.  When those actors and actresses signed on to make the film, there was never any guarantee of success. They too took calculated risks and, while they themselves may not have much personal experience with such, their agents and reps certainly ought to.  I also don’t believe that they are going to be denied future opportunities because of their involvement with ‘that disaster that was boycotted’ any more than Kevin Costner was for Waterworld, Warren Beatty for Ishtar or Taylor Kitsch for John Carter.  If they are held accountable, I’ll happily join a studio boycott on their behalf and will gleefully point out the huge number of people involved in a Hollywood production while laying the blame at the feet of the studio that didn’t bother to check into the background of the author whose work they optioned.

I find it quite interesting that the vast majority of anti-boycott justifications seem to be predicated on the idea that the movie is going to be hugely successful.  That’s not a given – it isn’t for any film.  If no one squawked and the film went straight to DVD, no one would be bemoaning the fate of anyone involved – no one would care about their careers and livelihood.  I think it’s a bit wrong-headed to presume the film will be a huge success and then base anti-boycott arguments on the consequences of that not happening.

Some raise concerns about the future implications of blacklisting.  The term seems to be changing its meaning over time.  During the 50s – the McCarthy era – the term referred to a communist witch hunt that was inspired, vetted and supported by the Federal government and taken up by business interests out of fear of being labelled communist sympathizers themselves.  This is a far cry from a publicly inspired boycott that has no power or influence other than that derived from its grass roots success.  Today the term seems to have become associated with “sinister” boycotts (boycotts you disagree with and that you believe may be successful).

While I doubt that this boycott will lead to any kind of witch hunt directed at authors whose viewpoints are questionable, I must admit that is mere speculation on my part.  However, that’s really beside the point:  THIS boycott is directed at one single individual author, for very specific and demonstrable reasons.

Furthermore, there is a vast difference between Orson Scott Card and the many other writers, artists and editors in the field who may hold questionable views.  Card has used his success and the media access granted by that success to publicly share his views in a manner intended to sway public opinion.  Anyone in the US is free to do so.  The difference between Card and many others is that the others, for whatever reason, remain largely silent on such matters in the public sphere.  Perhaps they have chosen to forgo the privilege of spewing hate publicly in favor of their own careers.  Perhaps some of them are even dimly aware that their views are not popular and are best left to discussions with family and close friends.

Regardless – Card CHOSE to ascend the bully pulpit (one largely constructed through the success of his novels) and he must therefore accept the consequences of his own actions.  He is free to say what he believes, I am free to say what I believe.

(Card of course went further than simply writing a few editorials; he joined, became an executive member of and no doubt contributed financially to an organization that successfully supported hateful, discriminatory and bigoted legislation here in the US and elsewhere in the world.  There is every reason to believe that the work of that organization materially contributed to the physical and mental harm of numerous individuals, perhaps even the death of some.)

Some raise concerns over the morality of holding the art responsible for the artist’s personal views.  Where does it end, they ask?  What will be left on the shelves if we take every author to task for every objectionable word they’ve ever uttered throughout the course of a lifetime; authors are a strange breed and frequently draw their art directly from their own twisted psyches.

The mistake here is in thinking that the boycott is directed at the ‘art’.  It is not.  It is directed at the man.  That he derives his income from producing art merely provides a convenient tool for expressing outrage and dissent.  If Card sold used cars, we’d be boycotting his sales lot.  If he owned a multi-national, we’d be boycotting its products and the vendors who sell them.  If he was just a misguided working stiff, we’d be shouting at him from the picket line or picking a fight in a bar.

There is further justification, in this particular case, for using that tool.  Card used his art as a vehicle to spread his hate.  It is therefore entirely reasonable and acceptable to attack that vehicle as a means of registering displeasure with the man.

Free speech is free speech;  its expressions take many forms. As others have said, we are all free to speak our minds, none of us should be free from the consequences of doing so.

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9 thoughts on "Boycotting Ender’s Game"

  1. AlCar says:

    Thanks for writing this Steve; it’s another fine example of the tolerance exhibited by the ‘compassionate’ left. If someone disagrees with your views, instead of just ignoring him or making a rational argument against what he is saying, you go out of your way to destroy him, and in doing so hope that it will be a warning to others not to oppose your point of view.

    What about that diversity and tolerance the left so loves to preach about? I guess it means you want diversity as long as it is within a framework that you have defined. As for tolerance, you have none. If someone crosses you, you don’t rest until they are destroyed.

    Card is a good man, who has views, shaped by his religion, that are different from yours. He has not caused anyone any physical harm, but has simply expressed a viewpoint that seems to be supported by the majority of Americans and most people throughout recorded history.

    But it no longer matters what Card and the majority feels; through an activist court, your side has won and gay marriage will soon be the law of the land. But that’s not good enough. Your thirst for vengeance won’t be satisfied until Card is destroyed. Nice.

    I will be seeing Ender’s Game multiple times and urge others to do the same. Maybe it will be a lesson to guys like Steve and others on the left that they cannot quiet the opposition through intimidation.

    1. AlCar,

      There are multiple things wrong with the argument you present:

      I am not capable of “destroying anyone” by expressing my opinion, whether that opinion is expressed in speech or in action (boycott).

      Discussing the boycott and sharing my personal view (alongside at least four other essays on the same subject, none of which entirely agree with each other) is an expression of diversity and support of the same.

      Expressing disagreement with the point of view of another isn’t “anti-compassion”. Taking a position against hate, bigotry and homophobia is not being “anti-compassionate” – it is calling out unacceptable views for what they are.

      In the United States of America it is unacceptable to seek to deny any member of our society the equality and freedom that they are supposed to be entitled to and are guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

      Treating everyone equally by giving them the same rights and privileges as everyone else does not affect in any way what an individual may think or say about extending such rights. If someone wants to remain bigoted or homophobic, it is their right and privilege to do so and nothing I say or do can or will change that.

      There is nothing intimidating intended about exercising my right to free expression. You provide the example yourself: I’m boycotting the film, you’re going to see it several times. Does your desire to to so intimidate me? Not at all – have at it, enjoy yourself, you’re just expressing your opinion. Though it does seem that your comment suggests that I ought not be allowed to express mine.

      1. AlCar says:

        Nonsense!

        People like you are quite capable of destroying other people by taking away their means of making a living. It’s been attempted many times and has been successful a number of times. Some examples include Jimmy the Greek, Paula Dean, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh. You stir up controversy and scare away sponsors, companies and others from associating with the target, not because they necessarily disagree with the targets views, but because they are afraid that they too will become targets and be destroyed. You say yourself that “My purpose in participating in a boycott of the film is to support an effort to make sure that Mr. Card’s gravy train is cut off or at least diminished…”

        Why is it that only the left, who claim to worship diversity, seem to perform boycotts? Those of us on the right certainly have things we object to, yet we don’t try to destroy or harm the individuals involved with them.

        You say that “In the United States of America it is unacceptable to seek to deny any member of our society the equality and freedom that they are supposed to be entitled to and are guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights.” No one has denied gays anything; any man or woman is free to marry any other man or woman of the opposite sex. That is the way that marriage has been defined since the beginnings of society yet those of you on the left seek to change this through the force of government.

        In all but one of the states that have had votes over gay marriage, the people in all but one have voted against it. At the same time, most people in those states have supported civil unions, which would give homosexuals all the legal rights of being married without changing the universally accepted definition of marriage. Of course this wasn’t good enough.

        While we’re discussing this, let’s talk about the word ‘homophobic’ that guys like you love to toss around. It implies that anyone opposed to the gay agenda is afraid of gays most of which aren’t; they just disagree with their actions or as in my case disagree with the gay agenda.

        Another tactic the left loves to use is to portray anyone that is against gay causes as being closeted homosexuals themselves. This is just another intimidation tactic, to try to scare the opposition into shutting up least they be labeled gay.

        The real solution to this problem is that government should not be involved in marriage in the first place. Couples should be able to go to a lawyer and get an agreement drawn up that creates a contract between them. Anything further should involve their church or whatever institution they are involved with that handles the spiritual side of things.

        You are totally free to express your opinion and I have no problem with that, but I believe this boycott thing your side so loves to use, exposes your side for what it is and I just want to point that out for others that might be reading this exchange.

        1. I’ll take these one at a time and then suggest that you move on to other subjects.

          The point of protest is to stir up controversy. To raise awareness and to bring attention to an issue.

          I am not aware that Jimmy the Greek, Paula Dean, Glen Beck or Rush Limbaugh are living in the gutter. Those are wildly diverging examples – each of them was protested for different reasons, to different degrees, but the fact is that they are all still capable of earning a living (except Jimmy who is deceased). Perhaps what you are upset about is that the protests against them gained traction for good cause and they were made to pay, in one way or another, for unacceptable viewpoints.

          I’m sure that if Mr. Card is unable to make a living through writing science fiction, he will find a ready career writing political commentary.

          Boycotts are not exclusively products of “the left” – whatever that is. Read some history. The kernal of truth here however is that “the left” is largely the political preserve of minorities (“the right” representing big money interests). The left does not have the money the right does and must often resort to other expressions of economic speech. They’re both engaged in economic speech/protest.

          “No one has denied gays anything; any man or woman is free to marry any other man or woman of the opposite sex.” I honestly can’t believe that you’ve chosen to essentially quote OSC’s contention here. This is on the face of it a ridiculous position; it ignores the real issue – benefits, the ability to live and operate in society on an equal footing – by offering up a sound bite – one devoid of any meaning and that is insulting as well.

          You don’t know what “side” I am on. All you have is my expressed opinion and intentions regarding one single issue – not even one single issue, just one single instance related to one societal issue.

          You also seem to be under the mistaken impression that gay marriage is going to be forced upon churches. No church has ever or will ever be “forced” to perform marriages they don’t approve of.

          I am expressing my opinion by endorsing the boycott. And I don’t mind having the fact that I stand four-square for equality in all aspects of life is “exposed”.

          AlCar: take a look at the site: I’ve published four pieces of commentary on this subject – one of which is firmly against the boycott, two take a middling position and one if firmly for it. Furthermore, I’ve allowed your responses to appear here unedited and without restraint. If you’re looking for a site that endorses and supports freedom of expression, I believe that those actions amply speak for themselves. However, at this point, I will strongly urge you to cease commenting on this subject as I think everything that can be said has been said, your views have been amply expressed and there is nothing to be gained from continuing.

  2. C E Martin says:

    If you want to shout someone into submission, remember you’re just inviting someone else to out shout you.

    Respect everyone’s right to have a differing opinion. Don’t organize cinematic mobs to suppress their God-given right to have their own viewpoint. If you do you’re no better than a bully.

  3. We disagree, obviously. You also avoid the two key issues here. First, boycotting the film will not harm Card. He, too, has already been paid. It’s an empty gesture that will not advance the cause of gay rights nor will it do much to hurt its target. It will merely allow sanctimonious boycotters to feel self-righteous because they are “doing something.”

    Second, if the goal was to target Card for his bigoted views — and you want to ignore the lessons of the Hollywood blacklist (which was NOT run by the government and had a lot of public support) — then you need to lead a call for a boycott of Tor Books. They are Card’s publisher and if you make it clear that you will not buy any of their books as long they continue to be a primary source of income and support for him then you will at least be approaching your target. I don’t believe anyone who is an SF fan will do any such thing because, after all, Tor Books is one of the major SF publishers.

    No, much easier to boycott a movie, not caring that the company that made it (Lionsgate FIlms) has long been supportive of gay rights and has provided full benefits to their gay employees. It’s not about principle at all. It’s about feeling “I’m right.” And that’s why I continue to oppose this boycott.

    1. No, that’s not true. You don’t know his contract and what royalties are involved with the film deal. Not to mention, by seeing the film, you’re sending the message to its investors to keep financing movies based on Card’s work — which means more paydays to come. Obviously, homosexual geeks are a smaller percent of the demographic, but I don’t see any good reason to be condescending toward people for not wanting to sell out their values over, most likely, mediocre entertainment.

    2. Daniel, yes we do disagree and that we can do so is a reflection of some of the great freedoms we enjoy.

      I actually removed the paragraph referencing a boycott of Card’s publishers as I wanted to focus on this particular issue. In fact, I find it a bit problematic and troubling that some of his publishers haven’t sought to distance themselves to strongly yet, and troublesome that the call to boycott Card’s publishers hasn’t already arisen from other quarters.

      The Hollywood blacklist was aided and encouraged by the House Un-American Activities Committee; the country from the top down was on a witch hunt and Hollywood, like other industries, chose to go along out of fear of the consequences. The first blacklist was instituted immediately following the refusal to testify before congress on their alleged communist activities by several Hollywood screen writers. I’m pretty sure that government pressure to make the recalcitrant comply had a lot do to; perhaps literarly the government was not directly running the blacklist, but it certainly encouraged and rewarded those who did.

      The contention that a boycott of the movie out to lead inevitably – blacklist-like – to a boycott of TOR doesn’t follow so far as I’m concerned; rather, if anything, it might (and perhaps should) lead to a boycott of all films that put money, support and influence into the hands of bigots.

    3. Mark Wolf says:

      I’m glad to see a lot of dialogue on Ender’s Game and OSC. I don’t care much for the man and the religious worldview he comes from but I respect the teacher. Now what about the story itself? It’s been some years since I first read it. From what I remember, a group of kids were taken and trained…programmed if you will, to become warriors for Earth. I remember when I was reading the story at the time some years ago all I could think is; “Is this how OSC views children growing up within his religion? Is he drawing from his own experiences? To me it was child abuse in the worst sense of the word. And it made me disrespect his religion for it. The same thing happened to me when I finally got around to reading “Twilight” a novel written by one of OSC’s students, if I remember rightly. In it Stephanie Meyers has a 119? year old teenager moving from high school to high school leching on 17 year old girls. I’m sorry but the picture for me from this is some old Mormon fart looking for another wife to add to his harem. I don’t see any thing but creepy from this “romantic” tale. So on the one hand it’s hard to argue for what these cash cows are ka-chinging for their church, but on the other hand, the story lines kinda makes me vomit in my mouth a little. Still, I’m gonna see the movie for the special effects and Harrison Ford.

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