(Welcome to an impromptu four-part series on my intense love/dislike relationship with Orson Scott Card, posting daily this week.)
Orson Scott Card is an extremely prolific writer, primarily of science fiction and fantasy. One of his books is being made into a movie. He can’t seem to focus on one series at a time, and he can’t seem to decide when a series is over, returning to it years later with something completely different. He has created several distinct universes in which his characters reside, and he’s done it well enough that they stick in my head for decades after reading. Several of his books are on my favorites list. He’s also actively against most things I’m actively for, including basic human rights for all people.
There are people now getting concerned about Card’s involvement in the film adaptation of Ender’s Game. The studio doesn’t seem to be replying to the controversy. Many people are predicting Card won’t be involved in publicity, but others are saying his personal views are enough to taint the entire movie regardless. I’m not even going to pretend that his books aren’t themselves problematic from both feminist and queer points of view, because they are, but more on that later.
One quote from the first article says this: “Orson’s politics are not reflective of the moviemakers,” says one person involved in the film. “We’re adapting a work, not a person. The work will stand on its own.” If your life has been anything like mine, you’ve heard this idea at least ten times before, perhaps couched in religious terms: “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” (If your life has been anything like mine, you’ve also never seen that idea put into practice by someone who said it.)
It’s an essentially impossible distinction to make in the oft-quoted religious cases (that is, it’s practically impossible for someone to hate the sin of homosexuality while still loving and supporting the homosexual person throughout all aspects of their life). I find it much more realistic to apply to this movie. The person quoted is asking you to love the movie without considering your feelings for the author of its source material, who happens to be a producer on the film, if I’m not mistaken. You can love this movie while still hating Card, they’re saying, and I agree.
Ender’s Game is from a time when Card didn’t blatantly include his queerphobic views. Maybe he didn’t feel as strongly. Maybe he didn’t feel confident enough to include it. Maybe it was a calculated move, to build up his reader base and be established before attempting to casually indoctrinate unsuspecting readers. No matter the reason, the novel on which this movie is based is not actually all that queerphobic.
More importantly, this is a movie adaptation. A lot of the novel has been changed. Some of that is part of the natural transition from pages to screen. Some of that is clearly in response to a changed social climate from the penning of the book. (Major Anderson in the book is male; Major Anderson in the movie is female.) I’m not familiar with the director or producers, but I have some faith that they’re paying enough attention to realize that queerphobic content in the movie will be met with an internet smackdown and lower ticket sales.
Do I have my misgivings about the movie? Absolutely. But that’s because I always have misgivings about film adaptations of books. Sometimes they turn out brilliantly to me. Other times, people talk about how amazing they were, but I just can’t enjoy it. I already know that there’s no possible way for the Battle Room scenes to live up to what’s in my head when I read the book. I’m already disappointed in the ages of the actors. But it’s an adaptation, and things will blatantly change, and things will be different from the way I imagined them from the book. That’s okay. That’s how it works.
Am I considering not seeing it on the basis of Card’s involvement? I’m considering it. Card’s portion of the profits is both completely unnecessary to his wellbeing and likely to go straight into anti-queer organizations. I wonder if that’s a strong enough reason for me to say, “Well, my social responsibility says I can’t go.” But how much of my ticket will go to him, and is it enough to make a greater donation to a queer-positive organization to offset that? Does the act of my attendance make it more likely that he’ll be a part of future films? It’s a personal decision for everybody, and I will support everybody in their individual – and private – decisions.
As for me, I’ll probably see the film. I love the book, even if I vehemently disagree with Card’s personal views. I’d like to see how the adaptation compares to my headcanon, how it compares to my friends’ headcanons. But I do feel that social responsibility, so I’m making sure as many people as possible are making a fully informed decision at the movie theater. And you can expect me to send the cost of my ticket again to an organization that can fight back against Card’s queerphobia.