Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ender's Game: To See or Not to See?

The movie adaptation of Ender's Game is shaping up to be both the most anticipated and most problematic would-be blockbuster of the year. One of the most popular sci-fi novels of the last 50 years is coming to the big screen in a cloud of controversy because of author Orson Scott Card's outspoken personal beliefs opposing homosexuality and same-sex marriage, suggesting Barack Obama aspires to become Hitler, and all kinds of other things that fill would-be moviegoers with righteous indignation.

Many people who are deeply offended by Card and his loud, public support for intolerance are encouraging boycotts of Ender's Game. Many of the Nerds of a Feather team are both deeply offended by Card and ravenous sci-fi fans, so it seemed like a good opportunity to take the temperature of the room and get different perspectives from our bloggers on whether or not they plan to see Ender's Game, and their reasons for their decision.

Vance - Will Likely See It
Vance says: "It's been a few years since I read it, but before I knew anything about Orson Scott Card or what he thought about anything at all, I enjoyed reading Ender's Game. I've since read some of the heated essays decrying the book as an apologia for Hitler, but I don't believe any of that, and for a number of reasons. I don't like Orson Scott Card, I wish he'd keep his advocacy for bigotry to himself, but I also live and work in Los Angeles on film projects, as do a number of my friends. Card's made his money off the adaptation, and whether it succeeds or fails won't change that. I feel like I can enjoy the film outside of the context of the guy who wrote it thirty years ago, and inside the context of the hundreds of professional storytellers and craftspeople who tried to breathe life into this film and whose careers could suffer if it tanks, so I probably will go see it. But screenwriter (not of Ender's Game) Craig Mazin made a great point this week about movies being an emotional experience, and I totally understand if people feel the negative emotional associations they have with Card will necessarily diminish any potential enjoyment they might get from the film."

The G - Won't See It/Might Stream It
The G says: "A lot of the discourse over Ender's Game centers on the supposed juxtaposition between the values of author/Card, who appears to write books with messages of peace and tolerance, and activist/Card, who gets so upset about the private lives and sexual attractions of men and women other than himself that he threatens to overthrow the government. Now, it would be one thing if activist/Card were just passively pissing into the wind, but we don't call him activist/Card for nothing! As it happens, over the past 8+ years, he has used the influence and money earned from his success as a science fiction writer to aid organizations seeking to restrict and deny rights to the LGBT community. Of course he is free to do that too, provided he does so non-violently, but others are equally free to decide, on that basis, not to give him any more money or influence. Now, he has made some comments about the issue being "over." Does that mean he will no longer use his influence/money to restrict the civil rights of others? If so, then my personal boycott of things he's involved in ends. But right now I don't see clear evidence that it is.

"Of course, this is an easy decision for me, because as much as people point out the clash of values between menacing activist/Card and beacon of light author/Card, the fact of the matter is that, well, I'm just not a fan of author/Card. Sorry, but I'm just not. I didn't love the book. I thought it a bit contrived. And written for 15 year olds. Now, that probably has something to do with the fact that I read it as an adult, rather than at age 15, when most people seem to discover ENDER'S GAME. And you know what else isn't as good as it seemed at age 15? More than half the books I loved at that age (*cough* David Eddings *cough*). Still, for those who feel otherwise about ENDER's GAME or author/Card but share the same ethical concerns about activist/Card, there's always the option to offset the ticket price with a donation to a cause you believe in, and which runs contrary to the expressed views of activist/Card. Maybe the severed spirit of author/Card -- the one that temporarily possessed the human Orson Scott Card as he wrote Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, only to be supplanted by activist/Card (who, of course, is responsible for the subsequent sequels) -- would even thank you from his perch in kumbaya heaven."

Jemmy - Plans to Play the "Newborn At Home" Card
Jemmy says: "I first read Ender's Game during high school, and loved it. To be honest, by the time I finished the book, Ender's Game had seized a village in my heart. But these days it's an increasingly small village with a declining population. Where it was once a thriving metropolis, now that village is a small Upper Podunk middle-of-nowhere incest-ridden village where the population is getting old, ornery, conservative, and intolerant (and some of the residents may or may not have two heads). The thing about the Ender Saga that made it so special was that Orson Scott Card used it to preach love and tolerance, two important values I want to instill into my own son. But now the very same author preaches (and is an activist for) intolerance and hate. I cannot abide by that. So no matter how much I love Ender's Game, I don't think I'll see the movie, at least in the theater. I'll play my "newborn at home so I can't go" card, if anyone asks...

"...Okay. I came off a little too strong there... I've had a few more seconds to think about it, and I am now wondering how principled a man I really am. There's a small (okay, increasingly big) chance that I'll break down and go see it. After all, Ender still owns a village in my heart..."

Zhaoyun - Will Totally See It
Zhaoyun says: "Let's try an experiment: pretend someone comes up to you and says 'They're making a movie of this story where a kid genius has to use his mad war games skills to save, like, the entire world from creepy insectoid aliens, and even better he does so in, shall we say, a rather morally ambiguous way.' Be honest--you would totally go see that movie, because it sounds like a great sci-fi movie premise, and one with darker undertones than a lot of the silly fare out there. But then that someone drops the bomb: 'oh yeah, it's based on a book by international public opinion pariah Orson Scott Card.' Booooooh, you say--Card's an opinionated fathead! I'm gonna team up with other politically conscious nerds and use my consumer power to punish him financially, and when he makes a few million dollars less his wacky opinions will collapse with all the rest of his shattered dreams! But what, I ask you, could such a consumer boycott possibly accomplish? Card has already wrung the last few nuggets of cash from the Ender's Game idea (Ender's Shadow? What was that crap?), and Ender's Game was his only really good novel anyway, so all a boycott -- of the tiny nerd minority of the populace, mind you, since the average movie consumer either a) doesn't have the slightest interest in the political controversy over Card, or even worse, b) is titillated by it and will actually go see the movie because of the controversy, rather like rubbernecks stopping what they're doing and pulling over just to get a better view of a horrific crash -- would accomplish is convince studio execs not to make any of this writer's other, mediocre novels into movies (I doubt they'll take much convincing!) and hurt all the other people involved in making this film, who themselves probably all hate Card for his inflammatory comments and for being generally unpleasant.

And let me tell you, Card really is a colossally arrogant jerktoid--I've met him in person, and I don't think I've ever been hit, before or since, with so powerful a tsunami of self-congratulatory adulation and just general contempt for 'untermenschen' like me and my friends--but I liked the stories he was telling back when I innocently assumed he was just a quiet, humble author, and why should I let my appreciation of good stories be poisoned by an intense loathing of the one who spawns them? I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm a hedonist to whom denying myself the pleasure of seeing an undoubtedly entertaining sci-fi extravaganza film for the dubious joys of boycott-hood sounds like crazy talk. Seeing Ender's Game=17 hedons; boycotting it because Card is an ungeheures Ungeziefer= -2 hedons for forcing me to think about Kafka!"

Mikey - Will Probably Rent It
Mikey says: "I am conflicted on how to approach this situation. On one hand the movie looks great and it is book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. On the other hand, I don't want to financially contribute to OSC or the causes he chooses to support. I was thrilled when DC caved to the pressure and took him off of Superman, however, the movie is a whole other bag. While I don't want to support OSC, I would be willing to bet that there are numerous creators behind this film that I would definitely want to support. Others have pointed out that it is highly likely that there are members of the LGBT community and supporters of it that worked very hard on this film. I think I will take the route and rent this from my local video store (in the Midwest we still have these!) and contribute the $10 I would have spent on a worthy cause."

And our most epic take from our resident nerd with the most complex ongoing relationship with the work of Orson Scott Card:

Molly -- Wouldn't Miss It
Molly says: "Listen, I've been waiting fifteen years for this movie. I'm not going to throw away my DVD of Braveheart because Mel Gibson cracked his nut, and I'm not going to skip out on something I've been looking forward to for half of my lifetime just because I found out Card is a douchebag. I also think he's a great author. Enderverse, Hatrack, Homecoming, Empire -- these places and characters have all been either pleasant or really pleasant experiences for me. The only time I've been left with a bad taste in my mouth after reading something by Card is when it wasn't fiction. I've written about how I wish I never saw the wizard behind the curtain before. At the end of the day, I still buy OSC's books but I don't read his blog.

"I do think that we as a society have a responsibility to care at least a little about where we put our money. It's one of the only voices we have to influence the world around us. I also think that Card has a right to be a bigoted rich fanatic; he just has more money to influence the world than I do, and some of that money used to be mine. It's not perfect, but this discourse is important, and in some way OSC being outed as jerk is a great thing because we're talking about it. Older kids like me who are already fans and younger kids reading Ender's Game for the first time (or only seeing the movie) are learning the harsh truth that you can't blindly follow the guy with the aliens-and-video-game-war lollipop into his van because he might use that van to run over your friends and neighbors because an ancient tome and a 17th-century con man told him to.

"I struggle with it -- how can I exhibit my social values if I'm supporting those who actively seek to undermine them? The huge overlap between conservatives and Christians (Card is a Mormon) means that this group tends to evangelize out of habit and that they believe their opinions are the right ones. This, I think, is a real challenge for progressives since we tend to take a "live and let live" perspective. Where I want to exhibit my social values, conservatives tend to inflict theirs. This is terrifying, but I also support their right to attempt it, however broken the system and however much I totally disagree with them.

"I don't eat at Chik-Fil-A anymore for two reasons -- I can get waffle fries at other places, and the anti-gay money was flowing from a company-funded charitable endeavor, not an individual. So yeah, I'll give up my six bucks for a paperback and ten bucks for a movie even though I know a portion of that may end up somewhere I wouldn't put it myself because of Card's beliefs. But OSC is entitled to voice his stupid opinion on his stupid blog and put his money wherever he wants. As long as the battle room scenes are better than the Quidditch scenes were, I'll grin and bear it.

"PS. Zhaoyun is totally wrong about Ender's Game being Card's best. EG was just leading up to Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide, which are the real meat of the Enderverse.

"PPS. Here are things I fear will be disappointing about the Ender's Game movie:
1. The big picture -- I don't want this movie to be just an action movie. It's a set-up for a much more important story about man coming to terms with what he's done and making peace wherever he can.
2. Harrison Ford. I love him, but his acting has been on a steady decline for many years now.
3. The eeriness of extremely young kids flexing their tactical skills and large vocabulary -- and beating the shit out of each other -- will be minimized by the older-than-the-characters actors.
4. Battle room CGI. /fingers crossed"