Like many other people, one of my first forays into science fiction was the extremely classic Ender’s Game. For those who haven’t read it, you probably should. It’s about a young boy who is trained to help stop an insect-alien invasion of Earth. (Which is different than Starship Troopers, trust me, but when Earth really meets a race of insects that’s peaceful, they’re going to take one look at our literature and we’re going to be pretty screwed.)
Of course, if you’ve been following anything about this movie, you know that the writer, Orson Scott Card is... well, let’s just say passionate in his defense of a political view that’s opposite of a lot of people’s including mine. Basically Card believes that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married. (That’s the nice way of putting it. He believes a lot of things I’m not going to post here.) While personally, I don’t care what anyone does because I’m too busy leading my own life to really focus too much on what someone else who means no harm is doing.
But of course, that has launched the giant debate: should we ignore all of Card’s work because of this belief?
The thing is, I don’t think we should be ignoring his work because of this. I think we need to keep an artist’s work separate from their beliefs.*
Ender’s Game is good science fiction. I read it well before I knew anything about Orson Scott Card. (I read it in the days when Google was not widely available or yet invented, so you couldn’t plunk down the name of someone and learn everything about them in mere seconds.) So, I’ve read the information. I checked the book out of the library (so I guess I screwed him out of the commission... take that, I guess?) and even though I find Orson Scott Card the man a reprehensible, I find the writer very good.
Last year the CEO of Chick-Fil-A said some similar things, and the outrage was huge on both sides. “How dare he say that!” one side said. “He has ever right!” the other said. “Hey, I own a restaurant and I want as many people as possible to shop there so I’m going to keep my mouth shut about things like this!” no one thought of saying. But people attempted to organize a mass boycott of Chick-Fil-A while another group attempted to organize a mass buy of greasy chicken nuggets, just like it says to do in the Bible. (Right after gluttony is a sin, I guess?) But I remember one comment that came down then, and I apologize to the comedian that said it (Google has failed me!) but they said something along the lines of “I drove around for four hours looking for a place that supported my political views for lunch.”
It’s a movie. It’s a book. It’s not two hours of Orson Scott Card screaming about his political views on gay marriage. Like I said, it exposes some deep anti-Insect Alien propaganda, but he’s hardly the first. (I however, welcome our alien overlords, whether they be insect, lizard, cat, or some other crazy thing. Please don’t be alien robot, though. That crosses the line.) Also, I read the book, what do I do now, get one of those Men in Black flashy brainy thingies to erase my memory? Because I tried after going to see the Last Airbender, and those things are expensive.
Again, I’m not saying that I respect anything this man says. I think what he said was horrible. But he’s one of a billion and a half people that has worked on this movie. Do I boycott Harrison Ford, Han Solo himself who actually spoke out saying that People like Orson Scott Card have lost? Do I boycott Assistant Gaffer Frank Cunningham who just wanted to make a movie? Do I boycott my teenage dream of seeing this movie put up on the screen, albeit starring Chris O’Donnell who was the greatest actor of my generation apparently?
The Orson Scott Card situation is an extreme example, of course. It’s an example of someone that got in front of a camera and said his beliefs (which I can respect, even if I think he has his head up his ass) and they happen to be terrible beliefs. For other examples of extreme “should we boycott” also see Polanski, Roman, who’s The Scottish Play, which again I saw before I knew who he was and had access to his crimes, (damnit, Google, why weren’t you invented sooner?) was one of the defining moments in my understanding and loving Shakespeare. I can’t imagine a world where I haven’t seen his Macbeth... it came along at the right time, at the right moment for me to hit on Shakespeare. I didn’t know who he was, or what he’d done. What he did was terrible. What he created changed the course of my life.
We have to separate the art from the artist. Do you really want to dig deep into your book/art/movie collection to see what everyone has said and done and boycott them for it? If you dig deep enough, you’re going to find a reason to boycott everything. Ender’s Game is not Orson Scott Card’s anti-gay screed. It’s a violent science fiction book. That looks like a great movie.