UPFRONT DISCLAIMER: Though I am the editor (pro tem) and publisher of Amazing Stories, my personal views remain separate from the editorial policies of the site. I encourage Amazing’s contributors to freely express their views on a wide range of subjects and feel free to do so myself from time to time. That I do so now should not be interpreted as the website’s position, nor of that of its contributors.
I am in favor of boycotting the film of Ender’s Game.
My distaste for Card well predates the current ruckus and in the interest of full disclosure: it goes all the way back to his Campbell Award win and the Nebula and Hugo wins for Ender and Speaker. I’ve always felt that there was something fishy and manipulative about his involvement with science fiction, for reasons that are too convoluted to go into at this current time, (but are not limited to my 1970s view – well shared by others in that day – that his work was not worthy of publication, let alone awards).
My distaste has gathered steam along the way courtesy of Mr. Card and his hateful, disgusting politics and viewpoints.
My purpose in participating in a boycott of the film is to support an effort to make sure that Mr. Card’s gravy train is cut off or at least diminished because I do believe that at least some of his income will go directly to supporting causes and espousing views that I find repugnant.
I’ve read a fair amount of pros and cons regarding the boycott, both here, in other genre media outlets and in the mainstream press. I don’t find any of the anti-boycott arguments persuasive.
Some express concern for the careers and livelihoods of those involved in the making of the film: the vast majority have already been paid and have moved on to the next project. The studio and those who took a stake in the financial performance of the film (back end) are in that business and take calculated risks on a regular basis as part of being in that business. No film of any kind is guaranteed financial success. The success or failure of the boycott will not affect those people nor their lifestyles and well-being any more than the normal vagaries of the filmmaking business already do.
Some express concern for the downstream companies that will be making toys or games or mousepads or fastfood premiums; companies that license properties from film studios are in that business to profit from success; if they don’t anticipate the potential of flops, it is poor management on their part and I feel no responsibility. If they do factor such possibilities into their calculations, they will not be harmed by a successful boycott anymore than they would be harmed by a box office flop.
Some express concern for the young actors and actresses whose careers may be negatively affected. Hogwash on two levels. When those actors and actresses signed on to make the film, there was never any guarantee of success. They too took calculated risks and, while they themselves may not have much personal experience with such, their agents and reps certainly ought to. I also don’t believe that they are going to be denied future opportunities because of their involvement with ‘that disaster that was boycotted’ any more than Kevin Costner was for Waterworld, Warren Beatty for Ishtar or Taylor Kitsch for John Carter. If they are held accountable, I’ll happily join a studio boycott on their behalf and will gleefully point out the huge number of people involved in a Hollywood production while laying the blame at the feet of the studio that didn’t bother to check into the background of the author whose work they optioned.
I find it quite interesting that the vast majority of anti-boycott justifications seem to be predicated on the idea that the movie is going to be hugely successful. That’s not a given – it isn’t for any film. If no one squawked and the film went straight to DVD, no one would be bemoaning the fate of anyone involved – no one would care about their careers and livelihood. I think it’s a bit wrong-headed to presume the film will be a huge success and then base anti-boycott arguments on the consequences of that not happening.
Some raise concerns about the future implications of blacklisting. The term seems to be changing its meaning over time. During the 50s – the McCarthy era – the term referred to a communist witch hunt that was inspired, vetted and supported by the Federal government and taken up by business interests out of fear of being labelled communist sympathizers themselves. This is a far cry from a publicly inspired boycott that has no power or influence other than that derived from its grass roots success. Today the term seems to have become associated with “sinister” boycotts (boycotts you disagree with and that you believe may be successful).
While I doubt that this boycott will lead to any kind of witch hunt directed at authors whose viewpoints are questionable, I must admit that is mere speculation on my part. However, that’s really beside the point: THIS boycott is directed at one single individual author, for very specific and demonstrable reasons.
Furthermore, there is a vast difference between Orson Scott Card and the many other writers, artists and editors in the field who may hold questionable views. Card has used his success and the media access granted by that success to publicly share his views in a manner intended to sway public opinion. Anyone in the US is free to do so. The difference between Card and many others is that the others, for whatever reason, remain largely silent on such matters in the public sphere. Perhaps they have chosen to forgo the privilege of spewing hate publicly in favor of their own careers. Perhaps some of them are even dimly aware that their views are not popular and are best left to discussions with family and close friends.
Regardless – Card CHOSE to ascend the bully pulpit (one largely constructed through the success of his novels) and he must therefore accept the consequences of his own actions. He is free to say what he believes, I am free to say what I believe.
(Card of course went further than simply writing a few editorials; he joined, became an executive member of and no doubt contributed financially to an organization that successfully supported hateful, discriminatory and bigoted legislation here in the US and elsewhere in the world. There is every reason to believe that the work of that organization materially contributed to the physical and mental harm of numerous individuals, perhaps even the death of some.)
Some raise concerns over the morality of holding the art responsible for the artist’s personal views. Where does it end, they ask? What will be left on the shelves if we take every author to task for every objectionable word they’ve ever uttered throughout the course of a lifetime; authors are a strange breed and frequently draw their art directly from their own twisted psyches.
The mistake here is in thinking that the boycott is directed at the ‘art’. It is not. It is directed at the man. That he derives his income from producing art merely provides a convenient tool for expressing outrage and dissent. If Card sold used cars, we’d be boycotting his sales lot. If he owned a multi-national, we’d be boycotting its products and the vendors who sell them. If he was just a misguided working stiff, we’d be shouting at him from the picket line or picking a fight in a bar.
There is further justification, in this particular case, for using that tool. Card used his art as a vehicle to spread his hate. It is therefore entirely reasonable and acceptable to attack that vehicle as a means of registering displeasure with the man.
Free speech is free speech; its expressions take many forms. As others have said, we are all free to speak our minds, none of us should be free from the consequences of doing so.