This weekend brings the theatrical release of the big-budget sci-fi drama ‘Ender’s Game’, starring Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley, and based on a beloved award-winning novel. In many respects, this seems like a sure bet to dominate the box office. Unfortunately, the film arrives steeped in controversy – not over anything in the movie itself, but because original author Orson Scott Card is… well, he’s not a very nice person, and a lot of people really don’t want to support him by paying to see his movie. Are you able to separate the art from the artist and give the movie a shot, or are you among those planning to boycott the film? Vote in our poll.
The novel ‘Ender’s Game’ was first published in 1985 (a prototype short story version of the tale previously appeared in a 1977 magazine) to much success and acclaim. The book was a bestseller and won two of the most prestigious prizes in science fiction writing, both the Nebula and Hugo Awards. The author also extended the story to a popular series of sequel and spin-off novels.
Here’s the problem: Orson Scott Card is a bigot. He’s a flat-out homophobe who has frequently decried the “homosexual activist agenda”, has publicly supported efforts to make homosexuality illegal, and has even advocated overthrowing the U.S. government in order to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage. He’s a nutjob, and an unpleasant individual.
Fortunately, none of the author’s views on this subject are present in ‘Ender’s Game’. The book has nothing to do with the topic of homosexuality. It’s actually quite a good story that could potentially make a good movie adaptation with a little prudent trimming. (The book has a very implausible subplot about a young child who schemes to take over all the governments of the world, and a pointless epilogue that was tacked on to set up the sequel. Both of these would be best excised from the movie’s screenplay.)
In anticipation of the film’s release, Card (who acts as a producer on it) has attempted to backtrack a little from some of his most extreme outspoken views, but not enough to be convincing for anyone. (He says that the issue is “moot” since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, but he didn’t exactly say that he’s had a change of heart about anything.) The studio Summit Entertainment, director Gavin Hood and star Harrison Ford have all bent over backwards to publicly separate their movie from this controversy. Nevertheless, the prospect that box office success for the film could put millions of dollars in Card’s pocket, which he may well use to fund organizations that promote his intolerant agenda, such as the so-called National Organization for Marriage (on which he served as a board member until just recently), has been met with great distaste from many potential viewers, who have called for boycotts.
Of course, this all brings to mind similar controversies involving other disgraced artists such as Mel Gibson (anti-Semite), Roman Polanski (rapist) and comics author Frank miller (misogynistic loon). Like many in their potential audiences, I have mixed feelings about all of these.
Personally, I don’t plan to see the ‘Ender’s Game’ movie. Some of that has to do with Orson Scott Card, but a lot more is simply due to my indifference toward the project. I don’t see too many movies in the theater these days, and I have no desire to waste my time or money on a film made by the director of the godawful ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘. I wasn’t likely to buy a ticket to this under any circumstance.
Can you separate your feelings about the artist from his work?