Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why I'm Not Going To Watch Ender's Game--Possibly Ever - by Chris Brecheen

It's true that Orson Scott Card would only get a "few cents" of my movie ticket price, but even that is not okay. 

In just a couple of days from this writing, a movie that just about every science fiction geek has sworn they would love to see made into a movie will be coming to the big screen like a lifetime dream realized. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, has moral questions. It has plot twists. It has intellectual quandaries. It has a fantasy fulfillment hero who most geeks (with a propensity to be "gifted" themselves) tend to identify highly with. It's got neat fights with smart combat. And by the end, it has some serious fucking explosions! This book hits just about every "must read" list of science fiction and mainstream alike. 

Plus giant bugs.  I mean come ON. It will be like Starship know....not stupid.

So why on Earth wouldn't a geek like me be salivating to see it? Why is it, that even though it's a winter release (facing down a lineup of romantic comedies and Christmas feel good movies instead of summer blockbusters in its own league), in what should rightly be the biggest collective jeans creaming since The Avengers, there is instead a trepidation on the part of many in the geek community about exactly how much support to give this movie, if any? Why are so many simultaneously wetting themselves to see this flick and struggling to justify doing so?  And why has there erupted a deluge of convoluted ways to rationalize a viewing instead of the usual shameless pitching of tents at two in the morning to wait in line, dressed like a Borg or Legolas or something?

You normal.

Well, unless you live in a cave or haven't been on the internet since before the badger video went viral, you probably know that Orson Scott Card is a flaming bag of unwiped anal sphincters.  Actually, I should take that back, because it's really insulting to all those anal sphincters out there in that moment before they get wiped.  This guy takes bigotry to a level that is so breathtakingly offensive that any comparison to fecal matter would actually be talking him up.

To understand my distaste, first I need to make a disclaimer. 

Normally I am the first guy in and the last one out when it comes to fighting for the art/artist divide. Artists are people. And people have widely divergent opinions on politics, religion, and in some cases morality. And that's okay. I hate Tom Clancy's politics, but his books are like popcorn, and I don't regret a dime I spend buying them just because he and I disagree. He makes good art; it's worth money. End of story. 

But more than that even, people are just fucked up. They have foibles that would shock you. They are morally weak sometimes. They have frailties. Every single person has done something that is almost certainly worse than the worst thing you can possibly imagine them doing. That's just who we are. 

In fact, that's a big part of what makes Ender's Game so interesting. - Ed

So if Michael Jackson wants to hang his baby off a balcony, I think that's incredibly messed up, but it doesn't somehow make Thriller not a incredible album. If Picasso wants to have affairs and tell his wife about them in his art instead of actually telling her, that doesn't make Les Demoiselles d’Avignon not one of the most incredible paintings ever painted. It just means these humans are human, and because they're so good at their art that they've become famous, someone was watching when they were acting in a moment of human weakness.

If Orson Scott Card were just "sort of" an asshole, quietly eating his Chic-Fil-A sandwich and stating, when asked, that he preferred traditional definitions of marriage and didn't think gays and lesbians should be able to marry, I would be okay with that. Or if he had once gone on a tirade after not getting sleep at a convention the night before, and being accosted by his fifteenth Comic Book Guy clone during his walk to the "Bugs In Literature" seminar that he got wrangled into as a promotion by his agent, who he found out might be shtupping his wife, I would hold my nose and enjoy the fucking shit out of this movie. 

But that's not what he did.  

Not by a long shot.
First of all, Card doesn't just hold a "disagreeable" position. He holds an utterly reprehensible one. It is revolting. He didn't just say "I don't think LGBT's should be allowed to get married" or "I think they're wrong." He didn't say "not in my church" or "think of the children!" It's not even a case of tacit approval or conspicuous silence.  Card openly....publicly...on the record....praised the government of Uganda for how they are handling LGBT issues in that country.

And how exactly are they "handling" gays and lesbians in Uganda?  

By killing them.
Yeah, Uganda is the country that's been in the news for passing the "Kill the Gays" bill. They put people in prison for life after multiple offenses. Many gays are killed and the practice of "curative rape" on lesbians is commonplace. It was only after international pressure that the death penalty as a punishment for gay acts has been mostly reconsidered--not that it doesn't go on plenty above the law.  This is the same country that Card got up and publicly praised for their solution.

Let that sink in for just a second.  

"Remember kids, killing people is awesome!" -Ed

Now I could go all Godwin on you if I wanted to, but I trust your ability to connect the dots to the fact that Card  isn't just some right wing guy I wish would stop shutting down my government and who has a different take on school vouchers or abortion. Card has basically told a country kicking off a genocide that they've got the right idea.

Card also has actually used his leverage as a successful artist to support these beyond-the-pale positions. While it is not unheard of for an artist to use the attention they get to soapbox, they usually compartmentalize their art and their cause. If someone turns a camera on them, fine; they use the attention to champion their pet issue.  But in Card's case, no one particularly wanted to hear him outdo David Duke on the Bigot-o-Meter. In fact, he's sort of a source of embarrassment to most fans of Ender's Game and they really want him to stick to his work and shut the fuck up about his raging homophobic bullshit. But Card couldn't let well enough alone. He had to use the "cred" he got as an artist to try to proliferate his disgusting position on his fellow human beings forcing it out there by using his status as a well-known author to muscle into mediums to spread his tripe.

So no. I can't see this movie. I can't even handle the three cents that would be going to Card to help him gear up for his next rant.  I don't want to know that I provided the pocket change that helped him buy a soft taco that provided the calorie that he used to tell people that someone who loves differently than he does ought to be killed for it.  I just can't.  I thought about one of the half measures or alternative methods, but eventually I arrived at the fact that if I can't give up a movie--just one movie--how real is my support of an ideal?

The geek community is nothing if not creative, and I've seen some pretty interesting solutions to this from my fellow sci-fi nerds rationalizing how to see this movie, even though Card makes them sick to their stomach. Solutions from donating ten times the ticket cost to an LGBT charity to paying for another movie and sneaking into Ender's game are only two among dozens I've already heard of.  (Though I suspect most will probably just go, feel bad up until the first of The Games scenes starts, and then not brag about having seen it at parties.) I commend everyone who finds their own zen in this. I can't judge.  

I really do want to stress that part of it. My conclusions are mine. If I talked you into denying Card YOUR three cents too, that's awesome, but I do not think a boycott of this movie would be tactical or effective. I simply cannot bear the thought of supporting that level of bigotry. It would be, to me, like handing Pol Pot a nickle.

Now I know that probably some day Ender's Game is going to be on in front of me in a time and place that will have been genuinely (not wink-wink-nudge-nudge) not of my engineering, and I'm not going to run from the room screaming or anything. If the damage is done in terms of Card getting his three cents to support his addiction to being a shitheel, there's nothing to be done.  At that point I expect to have the typical geek reaction to movie adaptations of beloved source material.  The reaction not of if I will be disappointed, but rather how disappointed I will be--gauged on scale from "Aww, Lord of the Rings added a silly romance sub-plot!" to "What the fuck were they thinking during the ENTIRE process of making Spider Man 3?"  But until that moment, I will NEVER see Ender's Game as long as Orson "The Uberbigot" Scott Card is alive to benefit from it.

"Stop. Do not see my movie." - Ed

[Chris Brecheen has his own blog at Writing About Writing and if you ever run out of Ace of Geeks articles to read, he wouldn't complain too much if you stopped by to check him out.]


  1. I will never again read anything he has written.

  2. Has Card ever addressed Uganda himself? Or do you mean that he is a member of N.O.M., an organization that went on missions to Uganda to spread anti-gay propaganda?

  3. I absolutely do not dispute that Orson Scott Card has some absolute shit spewing out of his mouth, but I think a citation or link to a direct quote by him needs to be included in this article.

    1. You're right. Formatting was a pain since I had to send this article to the person who would actually be posting it. I didn't even TRY to do hyperlinks.

      Salon has a pretty good article that catalogues his spectacularly bigoted words, including some recent fiction, his latest round of direct quotes, and his history with N.O.M.

  4. He's not a "member" of N.O.M., he's on the board of directors. I do not know about direct quotes regarding Uganda, but there's a big difference between being a member and on the board of directors.

  5. He's a raging bigot, pure and simple. And I've seen enough articles and quotes from him over the years, that I'm glad I never read any of his works, and never will. And I won't be watching the movie, not even on TV/cable. I refuse to support in any way, shape, or form, such a person. And I've seen in several places that he's an EP on the film, meaning he will get income from its release, even if they aren't "royalties" like from a book.