Boycott the Ender’s Game boycott!
It’s witch-hunt time again. Ender’s Game, a new, Hollywood sci-fi film is facing calls for a boycott because of the author of the book’s views on gay rights and of gay marriage.
Orson Scott Card, who wrote the novel in the 1980s, has argued on the record (in a Mormon magazine) that laws against gays ‘should remain on the books’, and more recently, that same-sex marriage legislation should not be passed. True to form, gay-rights groups, most notably Geek Out, are calling for a complete boycott of his work.
The admirable fact that Card has conceded to the democratic process seems lost on his detractors. Since the passing of gay-marriage legislation in several American states, Card has admitted that the issue is now moot and that he has effectively lost the argument. This has not stopped a number of groups and individuals who continue to agitate against his right to artistic expression.
Owing to fears of negative publicity, the film’s distributor, Lionsgate, discouraged the author from appearing at a Comic Con screening of Ender’s Game; all this despite the fact that none of Card’s books contain anything even remotely anti-gay.
The danger of the actions of groups like Geek Out is two-fold. Firstly, a commitment to freedom of speech means supporting the right of anyone to say whatever they want, no matter how distasteful or against the grain. Demanding a boycott of an artist’s work encourages a herd mentality in which people who don’t toe the line are punished. Card’s life and the reception of his work has already been damaged by personal attacks and efforts to exclude him from his professional sphere; all of this because he chose to exercise his democratic right of free speech.
The second danger surrounds the ever-recurring debate on the mixture of art and politics. What is so puzzling in this case is that Card’s art in no way reflects his political convictions. Geek Out, to achieve their own illiberal aims, are trying to tarnish his art by falsifying a link with his views. Even if successful, art and its appreciation should remain entirely separate from the personal life or political convictions of the artist.
We celebrate Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl as one of the finest cinematographers that ever lived. No one is calling for a boycott of Woody Allen’s films despite persisting allegations of paedophilia. Should we boycott this harmless sci-fi blockbuster? No. Geek Out should leave Card, and us, alone.
Emmet Livingstone is a writer based in Montreal and a former spiked intern.
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