Don’t boycott ‘Ender’s Game’; donate to the Trevor Project instead

Konrad Juengling asked for my opinion about his article about Boycotting “Ender’s Game”. This is a topic that I feel strongly about, so I’m putting it here.

Dear Konrad,

I agree with you 100% when it comes to your opinion of Orson Scott Card as a human being. His own political and social beliefs are reactionary, despicable and vile. The fact that he is such an activist about his beliefs upsets me. I think we need to fight against him, and against people like him who want to impose their own personal views on the rest of us.

However, when you say that these views are present in “Ender’s Game”, or that the world depicted by “Ender’s Game” reflects these same bigoted views, you are just plain wrong.

The Ender’s Game books – and here I speak to the entire long story-arc presented in the four books from “Ender’s Game” all the way through “Children of the Mind” – are among the best articulation of humanist philosophy that I’ve ever come across. In the later books, when Andrew Wiggin is an adult, he is an atheist and a moral relativist, and one of the most intelligent and articulate characters in the series.

If anything, “Speaker for the Dead” (the second book) pokes more fun at Catholicism than anything else.

But even confining the analysis to just the first book, Ender’s Game — the book on which the movie is based — there is absolutely nothing moralistic or “conservative” at all in the story or the world portrayed.

Just to give you some personal context: The first time I read “Ender’s Game”, I was in 6th grade. It has been one of my all-time favorite science fiction novels ever since. I have re-read the book dozens of times. When I first found out the Card was a Mormon, I was actually shocked, because after reading the Ender’s Game series I had assumed he was an atheist. When I found out he was homophobic, I was even more surprised, because there is nothing like that in the books.

And when I’ve re-read the books since finding out about his personal beliefs, I still cannot find any hint of it in this particular series.

[Note: I’ve read some other stuff of his that is more blatantly political, and it’s trash. Just so you know: I’m not defending him globally as an author, by any means. Just this series.]

It’s a bit of a puzzle.

Why would Card write the Ender’s Game series the way that he did, given his personal views? Why would he create a world where the main character, an incredibly sympathetic character, argues passionately for people to understand that “when you understand how other people see themselves, you come to realize that everyone is, in his own eyes, good”?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  But I do know that the  compassionate, understanding, humanistic message of the “Ender’s Game” books stands apart from the personal views of Card — and the philosophical message expressed by the books is one that I agree with 100%.

So, in conclusion, what to do about the movie?

Personally, if the movie AT ALL reflects the book, then it will be amazing.  Although you can potentially deprive Card of some amount of income by not going, you will also be depriving yourself of an experience of a truly great science fiction story.

So what will I do?

I will spend $18 (or whatever it is) on going to see Ender’s Game.

Then I’ll donate $100 to The Trevor Projects, or to GLAAD, or to NoH8, or to any number of campaigns that fight for our rights.

In the end, economically, that will do more to fight against Card’s personal beliefs than refusing to see his movie will.


Ender's Game Movie Poster

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  1. Joe says:

    I am sure Greg would not feel the same if the author of Ender’s game was Charles Manson or Ted Bundy

    • Greg Stevens says:

      It’s difficult to say. How about you show me a serial killer who has written an amazingly insightful series of books about compassion and understanding people who are different from yourself, and I’ll figure out who I feel about it then? 🙂

      Nobody (either me or you) is very good at judging weight hypotheticals like this, or knowing exactly how he “would” respond without the actual details of a real situation.

  2. Neal Miller says:

    So why not have your pie and boycott it too? As I described previously, there are enough convenient ways to see the movie while minimizing the amount of money you invest (by proxy) into curbing gay rights.

    And where the books are concerned, it’s even more convenient to enjoy Card’s literary works without knowingly contributing to a repressive cause:

    – Borrow the books to a friend.
    – Buy them in a used book store, or used on Amazon.
    – Buy them on eBay.
    – Patronize your local library (and donate a few bucks while you’re there).

    It’s not like you have to choose between enjoying a phenomenal book series, and refusing to contribute to Card’s National Organization for Marriage.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Once again, Neal, I see where you are coming from but I simply don’t agree with the principle. Hundreds of people worked on the production of this movie, and not all of them should be “boycotted”. The work itself is not objectionable, and I would actually rather that MORE hateful and homophobic people be exposed to the “Ender’s Game” books than fewer, because of their message.

      So let me ask this of you: suppose you found out that not the writer, but some OTHER member of the large team of people who worked on a movie that you enjoy (or would have expected to enjoy) was hateful and bigoted? Let’s say, one of the assistant producers, or the casting director. Would it make sense, to you, to boycott that movie using the same logic that you have outlined here?

      Because with the incredibly huge number of people that it takes to produce a big-budget film these days, changes are good that almost every recent movie out there has at least ONE asshole who has worked on it in some capacity. 😉

      • Neal Miller says:

        “… Because with the incredibly huge number of people that it takes to produce a big-budget film these days, changes are good that almost every recent movie out there has at least ONE asshole who has worked on it in some capacity. ;-)”

        All very true, but the majority of those thousands of people have already been paid in full for their work. Their compensation is not influenced by the success of the movie. I wouldn’t mind hearing from someone more knowledgeable about the industry, but I suspect that the number of individuals making a box-office-dependent cut of the gross is fairly small.

        And while it’s possible that Card completely sold the rights to his story for a fixed price, it seems for more likely that Card negotiated for a slice of the box receipts, and probably merchandising rights.

  3. I was going to post something similar, but I think I will post a link to this post instead. I refused to read Enders game because of the authors views. A told a gay friend about my refusal to read the books (perhaps I was expecting a medal or something), he told me that I was foolish to judge before reading them.

    I was confused by what he was saying so I decided to give them a go. I have only read the first two books so far but they are basically about how we can treat others in a disgusting manor just because they are different. I feel that the second book, Speaker for the Dead, is Orson Scott Card exploring the reasons he sees people differently and explores the pain he causes them. Demosthenes’ Hierarchy of Foreignness is a fantastic summery of the way he thinks and I think it is interesting the way Ender treats the unknown. You seriously wouldn’t think a homophobe would be able to write a character as compassionate as Ender.

    It is very hard to explain without reading the books, but after only reading the first two I understand what you are trying to get at. I’m not trying to justify his opinions at all, but the books have some very interesting themes about how we treat people.

  4. Neal Miller says:

    Or, you could donate $100 to Trevor Projects/GLAAD/NoH8 etc., suppress your desire for immediate gratification, wait until this summer and watch the movie on Netflix, or any other streaming (or DVD rental) service. That will do even MORE to fight against Card’s personal beliefs, while allowing you to watch the movie. Or, if you’re willing to break a few copyright laws, you can watch the movie, and ensure that Card gets nothing from you whatsoever.

    Personally, I don’t have an issue with his personal beliefs. Lots of people have bigoted beliefs; too many to boycott, certainly. However, in Card’s case, it’s his actions that give me grounds for pause. Any number of jerks can say “I don’t support gay rights.” But Card goes beyond that. He’s a jerk who doesn’t support gay rights, and goes to great lengths to ensure that gay people don’t get them.

    And he’s using your money to fund his efforts.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      I understand your reasoning, Neal, but I still don’t feel fully comfortable with the principle.

      As I said, the book (and the series–the Ender’s Game “universe” if you will) does not reflect any of the elements of his philosophy that I find objectionable. In fact, in many ways it appears to advocate the OPPOSITE philosophy: moral relativism, atheism, ultimate compassion and seeing strangers as they see themselves.

      So here we have a situation where I fully support the story AS AN ARTISTIC CREATION, even if I don’t support the person in his private life.

      And remember, the movie production itself involves hundreds and hundreds of people — all of whom benefit to one degree or another from the movie being a success. It hardly seems efficient, or without collateral damage, to direct an economic attack on the movie.

      Much more efficient simply to fund those political movements directly vested in opposing Card’s PERSONAL views, in my opinion.

      One last thought, just as a twist that you (and Card also) may not have thought of: Reading the Ender’s Game series is more likely to turn a young impressionable reader atheist than anything else. It’s also likely to turn a young impressionable kid into a moral relativist. I don’t know why Card chose to write the books that way, but for whatever reason: I actually want AS MANY YOUNG PEOPLE exposed to these books as possible.

      I was already a relativist and an atheist when I read these books. But if I hasn’t been, the deep relativistic philosophy in “Speaker for the Dead” and the compelling and revealing critique of “faith logic” that exists in Xenocide would have definitely pushed me in that direction!

      So I don’t want people boycotting these stories — quite the opposite. If someone really embraces the philosophy put forth by Andrew Wiggin in these books, he’ll become exactly the kind of open-minded progressive citizen that I like.

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