Boycotting ‘Ender’s Game’ Is the Wrong Response to Orson Scott Card’s Homophobia


For those of us who read Ender’s Game as seventh graders experimenting with science fiction (years before we experimented with “gay stuff”), it’s with great anticipation that we wait for the big-screen adaptation that finally hits theaters this fall. Starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Abigail Breslin, and Hailee Steinfeld, the film already seems like a pretty awesome (-looking, at least) adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel. But while fans are anxiously awaiting the movie’s release, those who find the outspoken author’s religious and political beliefs offensive have already begun their plans to boycott the movie.

Card, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (he is a direct descendant of LDS leader Brigham Young), has been very vocal about his personal opinions on a variety of political and social issues, particularly homosexuality and same-sex marriage. In 1990, Card wrote an essay entitled “The Hypocrites of Homosexuality” in LDS-centered magazine Sunstone, and came to the following conclusion about the acceptance of homosexuality within the church community: “The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place,” he writes, “and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity’s ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships.” It’s pretty straightforward when examined in a religious context: Card’s religious beliefs define his personal opinions in terms of sexual morality.

Of course, this has caused the expected outrage among consumers of Card’s fiction, and, despite the author’s continuing success as a writer, they plan to extend massive boycotts of anything Ender’s Game-related. The group Geeks Out has launched a campaign called Skip Ender’s Game. They claim that Card is an anti-gay writer and activist (pointing to his position as board member of the National Organization for Marriage) and point to another quote from “The Hypocrites of Homosexuality” (which comes right before the quote I pulled above):

Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.

What’s the problem here? Well, both Card and the members of Geeks Out are entitled to express their opinions either in print (in Card’s case, back in 1990) or on the Internet (as the Geeks Out members have done this year). But the Geeks Out campaign’s calls to action (“Do NOT see this movie! Do not buy a ticket at the theater, do not purchase the DVD, do not watch it on-demand. Ignore all merchandise and toys. However much you may have admired his books, keep your money out of Orson Scott Card’s pockets”) seems to having the opposite effect. There’s no such thing as bad press, you see. The group already posted a BuzzFeed-ready list of the “top 20ish homophobic responses” to the boycott on Facebook, Twitter, and in blog posts. And they seem to be propagating the idea that the art of Ender’s Game is homophobic, rather than the fact that the novel’s author expressed his religious opinions in an article written 23 years ago.

In response to the Geeks Out campaign, Card perhaps has the best possible comment about the notion of boycotting the film:

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,” he writes. “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 recognised 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.”

To launch a mass boycott of an studio-funded film based on a novel written by someone who also — two decades ago — expressed how his religious beliefs informed the way he looks at the evolution of societal norms is a pretty silly non-event, one that only brings more attention to Ender’s Game, as well as the Geeks Out group (which, I’m betting, was the major goal of its campaign). To see Ender’s Game in no way amounts to personal support for Card or homophobia, just as seeing Twilight isn’t a show of support for abstinence and re-watching a Roman Polanski film is not an endorsement of statutory rape. There comes a time to separate the art from the artist, and considering there’s nothing in Ender’s Game that mirror Card’s religious views or opinions of homosexuality, a gay-themed boycott of the film is a silly and childish reaction, picking on an unrelated cultural artifact completely separate from a decades-long fight for acceptance and equality.