On Ender’s Game and Separating the Artist From His Work

Because it’s opening tomorrow and this is likely to come up, here are some disorganized thoughts on Orson Scott Card and Ender’s Game.

I loved the book when I read it. I studied it in college, in fact. Great story, the weird video game thing (which I assume they will leave out of the movie) and the brilliant deception and so on. In the years since, I have modified my thinking on it slightly (thanks in large part to John Kessel, whose essay you should all read), but still: cracking story, Gromit.

Am I going to see the movie? Nope(*). I want to make two things about that clear: one, my decision has everything to do with Card’s politics, and two, I’m not going to judge anyone who makes a different choice. Don’t come up to me guiltily and apologize for seeing the movie. It’s your choice. Similarly, don’t harass me for not seeing it; that’s my choice.

* Okay–I won’t pay to see the movie. If it comes on TV/Netflix in a while, sure. If a friend rents/buys it and sits me down to watch it, sure.

There is kind of an ongoing discussion about separating the artist from the work that has gone on pretty much since there’s been art. I once mocked James Lileks for saying he was going to remove all of Sheryl Crow’s music from his iPod after she criticized HRH G.W. Bush in the wake of 9/11–“you do realize she’s still got your money,” I said to the computer screen. And yeah, I’m not going to throw out my copy of “Ender’s Game,” nor of “Speaker for the Dead” (“Xenocide” is a terrible book and deserves to be burned). Lileks was doing it in sort of a petty “that’ll show her” way, but if he’d just said “you know what, listening to her now reminds me of her political speechifyin’ that upset me so much,” I would’ve understood a lot better. The artist, in this case, tainted her work with her outspoken politics.

This is why I’m having trouble separating “Ender’s Game” the movie from Orson Scott Card the loud homophobe. Because Card has put himself in the spotlight as an advocate against gay rights, because he cannot shut up about them, I can’t stop thinking about them whenever I think about him.

He released a statement a while ago that we shouldn’t boycott the film because of his anti-gay views–not because we should separate the work from the man, but because gay rights activists have “already won,” so his anti-gay-marriage stance is “moot.”

Well, sorry. This is a situation he created, and that’s my reaction to it. You guys can all go make your own peace with the situation, and like I said, I won’t judge you. In the long run, it probably doesn’t matter all that much. It’s true that thousands of other people worked on “Ender’s Game” and will profit from your $7-12 movie ticket; it’s a safe bet that most of them are not as bigoted as Card (yay gay Hollywood). It’s true that the author himself will see very little of your ticket money and that you can donate to a marriage equality fund as sort of a “tolerance offset.” But if “Ender’s Game” succeeds, there will be more Card books in the movie pipeline. I don’t think they’d go for “Speaker” next; I think “Ender’s Shadow” is the more likely sequel if “Ender’s Game” does well. And Card will continue to profit and use his money for whatever he wants, which is his right as an American.

But he won’t be getting any more of my money.

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