Why I Didn’t Go See Ender’s Game


I’m worried this is going to come off as trite, but I’m writing it just the same. About a week ago, the film Ender’s Game was released, coming out on top for its debut weekend with $28 million in box office sales. Not too shabby, but not record-breaking, or even terribly impressive. It also wasn’t particularly good, I’ve been told. Decent, but not great. The film has a 62% over at RottenTomatoes. I’m actually a little disappointed that it wasn’t better, since the original work deals with child soldiers, genocide, war, competing political interests, the possibility of human extinction, and even the burden put on one child’s shoulders to save the world. While the novel on which the film is based doesn’t really critically engage with those concepts so much as it presumes their necessity, the film was a genuine opportunity to sink teeth into those ideas in a less congratulatory fashion. It did not.

That’s not why I made the choice not to see it. Admittedly, it looked cool and I liked the books, though not as much as our largely male-driven geek culture does, saying nothing of its many potentially problematic lessons, or implications. No, my issue isn’t with the work of the novel or the quality of the film. It’s with Card. I personally find the man’s views on homosexuality to be terrifying. It’s common knowledge, I think, that Card is a homophobe, but it bears repeating to prove him a manchild. He claims he has been unjustly slandered being called a homophobe for the “mildest of comments.” What comments, you ask? The man has supported now-unconstitutional sodomy laws, to say nothing of the fact that he believes horrifying and unscientific things about homosexual persons. I quote:

The dark secret of homosexual society — the one that dares not speak its name — is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.

orson_scott_card_sftdNo. Not just no. Hell no. He goes on to assert the idea that homosexuality is a choice, one made of desperation. An aside—I worry that the “homosexuality is a choice/not a choice” argument has been ceded, in the terms of its framework, to the bigots. I feel that it does not matter whether homosexuality or homosexual behavior is or is not optional. Being accepting of it is not harmful, and it doesn’t cost anything other than a sense of privilege, and framing the argument this way supports an “it’s only worth accepting if they can’t help themselves” mentality. It’s patronizing. That being said, a mounting body of evidence indicates that it is not optional, and Card’s insensitive and intellectually dishonest use of it to cast non-heterosexual persons as scared, broken, used-up playthings unfamiliar with meaningful sex and love is viscerally disgusting.

supe-homophobia-600x415He then goes on to raise equivocation to the level of an art form in a 2008 opinion piece, and refer to homosexuality as a “tragic genetic mix-up,” and indicates that he doesn’t understand how our legal system works. His remarks on homosexuality are both confusing and embarrassing, and he has a long history of propoganda-like heterosexism in his work. It’s lame. A cursory search of the internet will let you know that he was, up until the beginning of 2012, on the board of the anti-gay lobbying group, the National Organization for Marriage, and that he donates time and money to other anti-homosexual organizations.

Now, I’m not a big fan of boycotts. I’m of the mind that they are usually poorly organized and can often hurt the people that they intend to help, especially when corporations are boycotted in solidarity with exploited laborers. So it wasn’t an attempt on my part to boycott Ender’s Game to punish the studio for producing his work or anything like that. I just couldn’t get right with it in my head. I did want to see the movie, but ever since I started writing for Lady Geek Girl & Friends, I’ve been thinking more and more about what it means to be a geek. One thing that most geeks/nerds/what-have-you understand is being abused, harassed, or marginalized for what they like.

Over the past six months, it has crystallized in my mind that geek culture is about honoring that. It’s about liking whatever you like and being proud of it. Being petty and exclusionary is diametrically opposed to that goal, and it weakens our shared culture, and our shared celebration of art. As I’ve said before, this behavior is not uncommon, but it is childish. With this in my head, I can’t justify supporting a man who has devoted so much energy to denigrating people for their attractions. It just turned me off so much that I lost all interest in the film.

I’d like to ask anyone who happens to read this to examine their beliefs in light of these ideas. I don’t want you to not go see the film, just like I don’t want you to stop eating at Chik-Fil-A. What I mean is that across any number of overlapping fandoms, e.g., the Avengers, Sherlock, MLP, Supernatural, Doctor Who, the reason we flock together is because we understand one another. Because we can revel, even exult in unabashed engagement with who we are. Is there really room for hate and prejudice in spaces like that? If you’d answer yes, I’d then ask you, “If we eliminated that hate and that prejudice, what else could we be doing with that space?” At least, that’s what I’ve taken away from all this. My personal disgust for Card aside, I think we’re in a place where we’re going to have to start making decisions about the future of our shared culture, especially in the face of the obvious fact that people with ugly views can make good art.

5 thoughts on “Why I Didn’t Go See Ender’s Game

  1. I’ve thought about geek culture and tolerance a lot myself lately; in fact I’ve been writing on geek citizenship the last few weeks at musehack.com and earlier at nerdcaliber. A few thoughts.
    1) The shared love of things is the core definition of geeks – it’s about passion and application.
    2) The idea of ostracism really runs counter to #1. I don’t consider it acceptable in culture period, but in geek culture it’s “even more anathema” as it were.
    3) As many geeks have experienced ostracism, it’s further hypocritical to practice it. I don’t consider the experience of ostracism core to geek culture, but a lot of us know what it’s like.

    Therefore I really can’t support Card or his works simply as the man, whatever works he’s written, is simply a nasty piece of work.

    You’re right that we need to ask what our shared culture is about and think about it consciously. Ostracism and prejudice run counter to what we do, and they divide us and do damage.

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  3. Thank you so much for making Card’s views so clear to your readers. I have struggled to convince many of my colleagues and even friends that they should not see the movie because of Card’s outlook.

    Nevertheless we have huge names such as Harrison Ford (http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/oct/08/harrison-ford-enders-game-gay-marriage) telling society to ‘separate’ authors and their work. A point I hope people can clearly see fault in when success of Ender’s Game would be directly linked to a profit to Card.

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  5. I”m still on the fence about this, largely because as you say, boycotts have ilttle impact, and my $9.50 one way or the other isn’t giong to change a damn thing.
    And (whine) I really loved the book.
    But I don’t eat at Chick-Fil-A, and never will. I know, again, that my choice to spend nary a dime there doesn’t affect that corporation one iota, but I couldn’t live with myself, knowing how vocal the owner/management is about their views on homosexuality.
    But that one was easy because I hardly ever went there anyway. I mean, I make noise about it to others when they talk about going, simply stating that I never eat there and why I made that choice.
    This one is harder because, as I said, I wanna!
    But I guess I ought to put my money where my mouth is, and skip it.
    I know, you didn’t write this so I would do that, but that’s the end result anyway.

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