Pieces of this post have been sitting on my computer since the summer so with the movie coming out I decided to fix it up and post it in the hopes of getting my blogging back on track
So the film “Ender’s Game” based on the book of the same name by Orson Scott Card is coming out soon. I’m not here to talk about the many issues with Orson Scott Card, his political views are well-known and written by his own hand in most cases. What I wanted to talk about is my own relationship with Ender’s Game and this new trend I’ve been seeing where people who choose to blacklist a film/show are accused of censorship.
I have a long and complex relationship with “Ender’s Game” both the book and the film, so my feeling on it are more complicated and gray than my feelings for OSC. I read EG at the right age, the perfect age, the age where I felt like no one understood me, adults were ineffectual against my harassers and I had a lot of anger inside that I wanted to get out somehow. I identified with Ender, his struggles and isolation but it was the character of his sister Valentine Wiggins that I left the book loving. The character of Valentine showed me the difference between pacifism and weakness. Ender changes the world through violence and ignorance but Valentine changes it through her words, through arguments meant to sway public opinion. Valentine was the first capitol-A Academic I read about, the one I’ve probably spent a lot of my life trying to be. When you feel that close to a character you want to see them brought to life, want to see more of them. Also the fact that Valentine is being played by Abigail Breslin, on of my favorite young actresses leaves me hopeful for a great portrayal.
And the casting is another reason I want to see it. Viola Davis is in it. I love Viola Davis and have been truly disappointed in the work she’s been offered post-Help (the less said of her magical negro servant who sacrifices everything for her young white charge in “Beautiful Creatures” the better, looks it’s The Help with magic!). Nowhere has the racism of Hollywood been more blatant lately than the post-Oscars careers of Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis and the roles they’ve been offered.. Generally an Academy Award nomination (let alone a win) results in an avalanche of offers for the actors. Spencer has talked about how this definitely wasn’t the case for her though she’s taken an excellent view of it, acknowledging the disparity of Hollywood while planning ahead:
Well, it must have started ringing at some point, because you have some pretty great projects coming up, like Diablo Cody’s movie and Snow Piercer.
Well, the funny is thing is that I got the Diablo Cody movie and I got Snow Piercer before I got any nominations, so I knew I had both of those projects in November. I don’t want to sound as if [I'm complaining]. The reality is that there are so few roles out there for women and for women of color, and I’m a character actor, this I know. And I’m getting to see more of the roles that are out there, but there aren’t many. And zilch have been studio movies. Zilch. So my challenge and my opportunity now is to take the opportunity to create my own work. I’m fine with that.
In addition to these reasons people will argue that you have to give Science Fiction films your money so that Hollywood knows that SF/F sells and therefore makes more movies. I understand this argument, it was the one I made for the super-insanely disappointing movie “Sucker Punch”. It looked campy and great in the trailer and was the first women-headed film that production company had done in seven years so I wanted it to make money. Despite the ineptness and horrible stereotypes of it’s script I wanted it to succeed just so Hollywood Execs would not be able to say, “See movies with female leads don’t make any money let’s not do it again.”
And I want Hollywood to make more science fiction films. I want them to make more diverse science fiction films (which speaking of Octavia Spencer I am so hyped for her sf/f outing Snowpiercer!). I don’t, however, want them to give OSC my money. I don’t want them to think that OSC films are the way to go. The very last thing we need is a “Prentice Allen” TV series or a “Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus” movie or his homophobic masterpiece “The Songmaster” – the miniseries.
Ultimately the fact is that no one can predict how Hollywood will view the success or failure of something. Executives are not a conglomerate, they are individual people with their own minds, they have their own prejudices and assumptions and that effects how they perceive something. If they took every success as proof of the American public’s wants/needs ‘Alien’ would have been followed by a slew of tough, amazing protagonists in SF/F films who just happen to be women (we got a few, I’m looking at you Linda Hamilton but far from a slew). The success of Grey’s Anatomy would have lead to a slew of TV shows that had a diverse cast and a writing room that was mostly women. How many shows last 10 years?
The fact is that Hollywood takes the success of things that they champion as proof that the people want it, while things they are unsure of/don’t want to think about/deal with/make more of are called flukes whenever they succeed.
So what really cemented my decision not to pay to see this film?
The response coming from OSC and his rabid supporters. First there’s his horribly demeaning and condescending letter:
“Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.” — Orson Scott Card.
Ok let’s break the outrage down to it’s component parts, shall we?
Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.
First of all, to act like there weren’t already LGBT folks advocating for rights back then is disingenuous at best, ignorant at worse. His homophobic masterpiece “The Songmaster” was written in 1980 so his views were already well established then and he was authoring his homophobic columns by 1990. So at least personally he was fully aware such issues exists during the length of the 80s. But the most horrible thing about this line to me, is that it shows OSC lack of imagination. Yes, it was written in 1984 and as a sf/f author you should be able to imagine the future of our world that reacts to real life issues. The fact that your future includes no GLBT folks says a lot about you and nothing about the time it was written. Especially since you have authors at the same damn time coming out with groundbreaking pieces that explored gender, race, class, sexuality, ability and a whole slew of other identities in wholly new ways.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.
Again I call bullshit. Legal protections have never ended a debate or discrimination in this country, yes they allow for more rights under the law but marginalized people have always known that the laws are applied unevenly. We know that just because a law says were equal doesn’t mean we won’t be hurt/killed/denied our rights. Also we know for a fact that just because something is law doesn’t mean people will follow or acknowledge it. For a recent example look at the ACA and the recent gov’t shutdown.
And the last bit of ridiculousness:
Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
This is the most offensive bit of the whole thing. First of all it recast GLBT folks as intolerant of those with different opinions. Leaving aside the straw man argument that OSC sets up here, explain to me why I have to show tolerance towards someone who never showed it to folks like me? See I’m not intolerant of your opinion in general but when your opinions are on MY RIGHTS which have shit all to do with your life then you’re damn right I’m gonna hold it against you. So basically you spent all this money to deny me rights, wrote columns on how I and people like me are the downfall of society and used to sit on the board of an organization explicitly set up to deny me rights (National Organization for Marriage, he resigned in mid-2013 right when controversy for his film and opinions were heating up, fancy that) and keep me a second class citizen but I’m the one who needs to show tolerance for you OSC? By giving you my hard earned money?
Which leads us to the fans who somehow champion the idea that by not going to see his movie and encouraging others to do the same I am somehow silencing him and his voice. I’ve seen this entitlement in fans a lot, for some reason they will argue that choosing how you want to spend your money and sharing that with others is censorship.
Let me be clear I have NO power in Hollywood. I cannot stop a film from being made. I cannot change the story to suit my ideals. I can’t whiten a character or change their gender. I have no power over the media, what I do have power over is what I choose to give money to. Choosing not to give OSC my money is not silencing him in any way, I am not telling him that he cannot hold his opinions, write his book, write his homophobic columns; what I am saying is that I refuse to give him any more money or social cache by contributing to your movie being a success. That is the only power I have in light of the Hollywood machine.
That is not silencing people, silencing people with money and power is what NOM did with the money and cache OSC provided for them. Also even if he’s no longer on the board I don’t trust he still won’t give them his time, money and attention. Am I punishing him for his opinion? No. I’m choosing not to participate in a system that would end up with putting money in his pocket.
I still want to see Abigail Breslin & Viola Davis though. Maybe I’ll stick with my initial plan of paying for a film, something featuring GLBT folks and women of color, something I think should get more money/press/billing and then sneak into “Ender’s Game”.
It’s still voting with your wallet but in a cheating, sneaky way – it’s like rigging the election with your wallet. It’s the capitalist American way.