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» Disturbing fiction, disturbing fact

Books & Commentary & Movies 08 Nov 2013 01:31 pm

Disturbing fiction, disturbing fact

In every regard, “Ender’s Game,” which was number one at the box office last week, looks like a movie I would enjoy.

It’s based on a novel I admire, in a genre I like, with an actor, Harrison Ford, whose pop-culture credentials (Han Solo and Indiana Jones) are impeccable. Yet I doubt I will ever see it.

“Ender’s Game” tells the story about a future Earth, imperiled by a warlike, alien species. The government selects children to train for an anticipated attack by the enemy. One of humanity’s best and brightest is young Ender Wiggins, a gifted strategist who plays a key role in the coming battle. The book has smart things to say about giftedness in children and the atrocities of war.

When I first read the novel about 20 years ago, I liked it well enough to seek out a collection of Orson Scott Card’s short fiction, which includes the stories “Lost Boys,” with a great surprise ending, and “Eumenides in the Fourth Floor Lavatory,” one of the most disturbing pieces I’ve ever read. (That’s a compliment.)

But since that time, equally disturbing information about Card has come to light. He is a homophobe in the worst sense of the word, one who loudly and proudly promotes an agenda rooted in a deeply conservative Mormonism., which has made a hobby of sorts writing about the author, notes some of his more egregious comments, including a belief that homosexuality is rooted in childhood molestation, that sodomy laws should remain on the books to punish gays for their crimes, and that it would be morally defensible for the public to rise up and overthrow a government that redefines marriage in any way other than between a man and a woman.

“Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down,” Card wrote in 2008.

It’s been somewhat amusing to watch the studio, director and actors put space between their work on the film and Card’s conservative views. They talk about how great the book is, and how a work shouldn’t be judged by a writer’s political statements.

Card himself has somewhat modified his stance, especially after the tide of public and political opinion turned against him; in July, he asked marriage-equality supporters to show him tolerance and not to boycott the film.

I’m not boycotting “Ender’s Game” or asking anybody else to do that either. Film is a collaborative medium, where hundreds of talented people in front of and behind the cameras labor to create a finished product. To tar all those folks with Card’s intolerant brush is foolish.

Nor am I naive enough to believe that my $9 (or whatever a ticket goes for these days) is going to make or break Card, who is not receiving a share in the box office gross, or anybody else associated with the movie.

No, I’m not going to the movie because I know that I wouldn’t enjoy the experience, that in the back of my mind I would be thinking of Card’s comments and how venomous I find them to be.

People sometimes ask why a straight male is so passionate about the issue of gay rights, sometimes insinuating that maybe I’m not so straight.

My answer is simple and a little corny: I believe people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This means all people, regardless of race, religious affiliation (or lack thereof) and sexual orientation.

Gay rights is the civil rights issue of our era, I’m convinced. Decades from now, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will ask us where we were and what we believed during these tempestuous times. I’m comfortable with the answer I’ll provide.

But I also believe we have the right to speak our minds, out loud and on paper, and I defend Card’s right to do exactly that. He has the courage of his convictions.

When a person is an entertainer, it can be a liability to share opinions. Readers sometimes say that my humorous writing is not so humorous now that they know my leftist politics.

I understand that, because it would be challenging for me to read or re-read another Orson Scott Card book knowing his beliefs as I do now. More than any other art form, a novel is like climbing inside the head of the author and spending an extended amount of time in his company.

I don’t want to be in Card’s company anymore, and likely will never be able to square his brilliantly imagined fiction with his intolerance. Maybe that’s a failure of my imagination.

cschillig on Twitter

Originally published in The Alliance Review on Nov. 7, 2013

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One Response to “Disturbing fiction, disturbing fact”

  1. on 22 Nov 2013 at 1.Susan Denning said …

    I want to see this movie but I have not allowed myself to go. If I do go, I will feel compelled to double or triple what I spend at the theater and send it to the Human Rights Campaign or the United Negro College Fund.

    Thank you for being an ally! Knowing that there are educators like you makes me hopeful for young people who are trying to figure things out and for other kids who get to see a role model worth emulating. Sadly, we can’t measure what you have prevented by standing up for GLBTQ folks of all ages, but I know you are not looking to win awards. You are doing what you believe to be the right thing to do. I repeat, thanks.

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