This Week in the Mercury

<i>Trumbo</i>'s Communist Blues


Trumbo's Communist Blues

Writing Is Boring. So Trumbo Zazzes It Up!

Adapting Virginia Woolf's 500-Year-Old Dandy


Adapting Virginia Woolf's 500-Year-Old Dandy

Profile Theatre's Sarah Ruhl Season Concludes with Epic Orlando

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Of Bigots and Spaceships

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Ender's Game starts playing in theaters tonight, and I've been writing about it a lot lately—here's my review. Part of that is because it's one of this weekend's big movies, but another part is because Ender's Game is based on a book that's tremendously important to me and a lot of other people. Not only did I read Orson Scott Card's award-winning novel over and over as a kid, but the first book reading I ever went to was one of Card's. It was in 1995, at Sam Weller's Books in Salt Lake City, and even back then he was talking about the possibility of an Ender's Game movie. I still have the Ender's Game paperback that Card signed for me, which reads, "To Erik: A survival guide for geniuses."

I reread Ender's Game shortly before seeing the film; I was just as impressed and moved by the novel last week as I had been when I was a teenager. Reading Ender's Game when you're a kid is one thing; reading it as an adult is an entirely different experience. I found myself thinking about aspects of the story, and about Card's writing, in ways I'd never considered when I was younger.

But reading it this time was also profoundly weird, because Card, as he's aged, has gotten less and less... humane. The guy who wrote the insightful, sympathetic Ender's Game, turns out, is a rabid homophobe. And not just in a "Don't ask Uncle Orson what he thinks about gay marriage" kind of way either: Card's actively worked to get his cruel, condescending viewpoints out there, not only by serving on the board of the National Organization for Marriage—a group that fights against civil unions, gay marriage, and now, apparently, the rights of transgendered people—but also by writing anti-gay essays that're so ludicrous that they have to be read to be believed.

(This one's my favorite, and not only because Card more or less threatens to take down the government if gay marriage is made legal, but because seriously: How often does the Mormon church have to distance itself from one of its members being too conservative? That disclaimer is pretty remarkable, at least to someone who grew up in Salt Lake. For what it's worth, Card also seems to have added his own disclaimer to this 1990 piece, in which he... ugh. Just read it, if you can manage to get through it.)

Historically, there's never been a shortage of authors who are racist, or homophobic, or generally shitty—and who nevertheless created fantastic works. But "historically" is the key word: Usually by the time an author's views are thought of as being outdated, enough time has passed that the author is no longer alive. It's easier to look at racists, homophobes, and misogynists of the past and be all, "Ah, that sucks. Still, it was a different time." But Card's time is the same as ours; it's far more difficult to appreciate the work of a bigot when they're still around, still being bigoted. And even though Card reportedly won't directly profit from Ender's Game: The Movie, he's still associated with the film.

I was going to write more about this, but it turns out that Rachel Edidin already did, this morning, over at Wired (where, in the interest of full disclosure, I also write from time to time). Edidin's piece—"Orson Scott Card: Mentor, Friend, Bigot"—is an excellent read, and one well worth checking out regardless of whether or not you plan on seeing (or reading) Ender's Game.

Turns out Edidin's got a signed paperback of Ender's Game, too—hers reads, "To Rachel—a friend of Ender." That phrase sums up, at least for me, the fundamental thing people are going through as they discuss Card, and his work, this week. It's hard to find anyone who's read Ender's Game who wouldn't like to be considered a friend of Ender's—especially if they read the book in their formative years. At the same time, it's all but impossible for anyone who doesn't share Card's bigoted views to want to be associated with the guy in any way whatsoever—even if that means they won't get to see their friend Ender finally make it to the big screen.

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2


Comments are closed.

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC

115 SW Ash St. Suite 600
Portland, OR 97204

Contact Info | Privacy Policy | Production Guidelines | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy