There’s something interesting happening surrounding the Ender’s Game movie, and quite frankly I’ve been debating whether I should bring it up on this site. I’ve wanted to keep S.N.A.G. relatively lighthearted, and free from politics. But in this case, the world of sci-fi and politics have come crashing together at warp speed. I will try to, as much as possible, keep my personal feelings about the controversy to myself, and just focus on the impact it is having on the world of sci-fi, movies, books, and general geekdom.
To start from the beginning, back in 1985 Orson Scott Card wrote what is one of my all-time favorite books, sci-fi or otherwise: Ender’s Game. When I first read it in my early teens, it immediately captured me, brought me into an amazing world of space, and psychology, and politics, and warfare, and family dynamics. And the Battle Room. Really, there was nothing about the book I disliked, and over the years I’ve read and reread that book well over two dozen times, quite likely many more times than that.
It wasn’t just me who loved the book; the year it was published it won the Nebula Award for best novel, and the following year it won the Hugo Award, also for best novel. The U.S. Marine Corps have it on their Professional Reading List, making it required reading for all E1-E4 Enlisted Marines. The American Library Association has it on their list of “100 Best Books for Teens.” And fans the world over still read it, and recommend it, almost 30 years after it was first written.
And that entire time, the author has been a polarizing factor.
Some history on Card: Card was born in 1951 in Washington State, and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. His great-great-grandfather was Brigham Young, former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), founder of Salt Lake City, Utah, and arguably the person most responsible for bringing the LDS church into the mainstream of modern society and making it a religious, and political, force. To be fair, Brigham Young had 55 wives, of which 16 bore him a total of 56 children, so there are more than a few great-great-grandsons/granddaughters of Young’s.
Card was a missionary for the church in Brazil, and then graduated from both Brigham Young University, and the University of Utah. He later settled in North Carolina.
That’s all well and good (and boring), but it is this foundation that Card built on to form some very strong views on controversial topics, and to use his influence and money to support and promote his ideals.
In 1990, Card fought to keep laws that banned consensual homosexual acts 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.” He has since backed off from that viewpoint, saying “I have no interest in criminalizing homosexual acts.”
However, he still felt strongly enough about the subject that, in 2008 in an op-ed piece for the Desert News, he wrote the following: “Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.”
Yes, that’s Orson Scott Card calling for the violent overthrow of the government, because he disagreed with the idea of gay and lesbians getting married so strongly. A feeling that led him to become a board member for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) in 2009, which is a political group that was initially formed to help pass Proposition 8 in California, and has since become a general anti same-sex marriage, anti same-sex civil union, and anti same-sex adoption group.
Which all leads us to today.
As you may know, the Ender’s Game movie is coming out November 1st of this year, with Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, and Asa Butterfield starring. It looks like it could be fantastic. The clips we’ve seen capture the feel of the book, the Battle Room shots look amazing, the actors they picked are perfect. But there has been a growing movement to boycott the movie; a group called Geeks Out, an organization to promote the LGBT geek community, launched an online campaign “Skip Ender’s Game” to boycott the movie, so as to not give Card the money and support of a group of people and their supporters that he actively works against politically.
The movement, like most modern movements like this, started slowly on Facebook, but very quickly grew to the point that Card felt he had to respond… by dismissing the concerns of the people he had upset as “moot”, and saying that the issues didn’t even exist when the book was written (which, of course, they did, as the book was written at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and LGBT partners weren’t even allowed to visit their dying partners in the hospital). But what most angered people about his response was his ironic call for tolerance from the very people he is actively trying to minimize.
The story exploded after that, with io9.com, and eventually the LA Times, Huffington Post, and CNN picking up the story. Bringing into the light what the general public may not have been aware of, that the author of, and a producer of, the Ender’s Game book and movie is outspoken against the LGBT community, but more than that uses his money to further that cause.
Which finally brings me to the end of this. How will this boycott effect the movie? At first, I would have guessed not much at all, and in fact it could have helped the movie by bringing it to the attention of people who would have otherwise ignored it. But there is a growing trend in the U.S. towards acceptance for the LGBT community, which won’t help the box office. Also, the fact that the movie was frankly only going to be seen by the original fans of the book (and their boyfriends and girlfirends), and a good majority of that fanbase supports the LGBT community (OK, so I don’t have any data to support this, and if proven wrong I will recant that, but I firmly believe it to be true based on the response online) and I think that the movie may be in a spot of trouble.
So there you are. A lot remains to be seen. Will the fact that this movie is finally getting made, and by all appearances made well, be enough for people to overlook Card’s politics and get them into movie seats? Or will the knowledge that a portion of the ticket price will be going directly to a man that will use that money to actively further a cause they don’t believe in (and works directly against their well being in some cases) be enough to keep them away?
Only time will tell.