You can read my own review of the Ender’s Game movie by scrolling down a bit. If you don’t care to, I can summarize it as being quite favorable.
Many of the other reviews I’ve read about the movie have two things in common. The first is that I doubt that many of the reviewers have actually read the book. (I think some of them may not have seen the movie.) Criticizing the coldness of Ender’s character, lamenting that there was no adolescent kiss in the Battle Room or saying that there is a missed opportunity for satire totally misses the point of the original story. Obviously they were disappointed that this wasn’t a romanticized, easy-access story like The Hunger Games. In short, often they just really didn’t get it.
The second thing that they have in common is a frequent mention of the morality of going to see the movie considering that Orson Scott Card has turned into a raving, right wing lunatic. Card’s reputation over the last decade has suffered because of frequent rants condemning gay marriage and comparing Obama to Hitler. The literary community was stunned several years ago when he released a reworking of Macbeth which chalked the main character’s personal issues up to a bunch of sexual identity factors, clearly taking aim at the Gay community. Because of this, many feel that it is inappropriate to go and see the movie because they are indirectly contributing to Card’s personal finances, and they want to take the moral high ground. Now, I completely and strongly disagree with Card’s views and concede that he’s probably lost a few screws lately, but the idea that boycotting the movie is in any way taking the high ground is delusional and narrow minded in many ways.
First, as John Sclazi points out in his Blog, any financial benefit that Card may get from the movie is likely already in his pocket. Boycotting Ender’s Game would have no effect on that and therefore would have to be entirely on principle.
Secondly and more importantly there is a lack of context in looking at the principles here which once again suggests that critics have not done their homework and are providing very superficial information. Let’s examine some interesting context for discussion of principles.
1. Ender’s Game was one of the few scifi books to win both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards for best novel of the year. It is, in my opinion, which is shared by many, one of the finest scifi novels written. In the book, there is no evidence of Card’s right wing or socially conservative ideas. Yes, the idea of a Battle School for kids and a world military organization seems a little fascistic, but it works in the context of the story and is not unusual for any plot and setting based on warfare.
2. I have read a large number of Card’s books. If anything, the novels published in the first half of his career seemed to give homosexuality at least a neutral, if not a positive, spin. He is the only writer that I can recall from the many scifi books I read in my youth who included any gay characters at all. You don’t find them in Herbert’s works and I don’t recall any in Heinlein’s work. But I can point to a good half dozen characters in Card’s novels that are openly or discreetly gay. In fact I often wondered whether Mr. Card may have some sexual identity issues of his own, especially after reading Songmaster and Wyrms. Now he goes back and says that those characters were supposed to have a negative connotation, but that was certainly not the way I perceived them. I always wondered at the conspicuousness of their frequency.
3. Card is a fervent member of the Mormon Church, being a direct descendant of Brigham Young. He has written several historical novels relating to the LDS and is a church deacon. Once again, however, except for some broad metaphorical symbolism, these beliefs generally did not bleed into his scifi writing.
4. However, one can’t help but look at item #2 and #3, and ask some interesting questions about what kind of personal issues Card may have had to resolve for himself.
5. If you look at most of the Redit discussions or wiki entries, you see a clear pattern of Card having been very contradictory in his attitudes over the years. He defended Sarah Palin, but declared that he didn’t agree with any of her policies. He calls himself a Democrat, but supported Gingrich in the last electoral contest. In fact, it would be valid to say that most of his better characters simply do not represent or espouse the values that he’s been advocating in the past decade or so. There are a few statements that are consistent with his Chruch’s beliefs, as one would expect, in the 1990s, but they seem far more measured and tempered that what he’s been spouting lately. His novels have also deteriorated in quality dramatically. The Empire series is nothing but a platform for political rhetoric. The new Ender books are tepid at best, and you often see a co-writer credited. One might be excused for wondering if Card has had some kind of crisis or event in the past decade that has galvanized his formerly centrist views or caused him to retreat more inflexibly to the tenets of his religion. Whether he’s become bitter in his old age, jaded by 9/11 or confused by the death of two of his children. Or whether there is a neurological issue leading to the stroke he suffered in 2011.
The bottom line is that I’m not at all sure that this is the same man that wrote Ender’s Game in 1985. While one may strongly condemn the stands and statements that he is currently making, that doesn’t impact on the genius of this original work. Do we investigate and condemn the personal lives and politics of historical writers when reading their books? Do we routinely consider the principles of reading the works of Byron or Jefferson or Twain? Do we tarnish Heinlein because of his political views?
Or is the present outrage the result of people being able to look cool and progressive by making a publicly visible stand? I would boycott a speaking engagement or signing op by Card, or perhaps I would go and heckle him. I met him once, maybe 25 years ago, and he seemed an OK guy. I’d be interested in seeing how much he’s changed and, if possible, expressing my disappointment to him, because, like many, his books undoubtedly had a positive formative influence on me as I was growing up.
But having it affect movie reviews or promoting the boycotting of the movie just seems to be so phoney and opportunistic. I can think of better ways to express my political ideas and beliefs that to try to brand a movie that really has nothing to do with it other than a name.