My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ender's Game Shaped Hole

And don't even get me started that the story's biggest
plot twist is apparently the movie's tag line.  ~boggle~
So on Wednesday last week I wrote an article for Ace of Geeks about Ender's Game. You'll have to go there to read the full text, but the gist is that Card has said and done things SO inflammatory and used his influence as an author directly to continue openly saying such things that I can't justify providing him more money, prestige, whatever to continue to do what he has unswervingly demonstrated is his wont.

I didn't post it here because this a blog about writing, not politics, and even though my social leanings are probably not particularly shrouded in mystery to anyone who's been paying even a tiny bit of attention, I try not to be in anyone's face about them.  I save that for the threesome innuendo.

In your face...get it?

It's also about a movie.  And even though it's about a movie made from a book and an article that focuses on the book's author, it is also about whether or not to watch a movie. It generally felt to me like I was straying far enough outside the bounds of a writing blog to make a generally political point.

However it's Monday--when I try to sweep up the leaves that have been wafting on the thoughtbreeze round the empty rooms of my brain, and try to stack them into some kind of intelligible pile, and I think that Card and Ender's Game and my decision not to see it can all be valuable insights to writers. So I guess it fits--in as much as any given pile of leaves might fit.

For starters, watching people figure out how to not feel bad about seeing E.G. is a marvelous window into the human condition. Watch how people start to squirm when they are uncomfortable ideologically with something but really want to do it....like see a nifty movie. They will start to hop from rationalization to rationalization like a flea running from a comb.  Right before Ender's Game hit the theaters an article went viral about how Card wouldn't be making money from the film.

Now....a moment's thought would have unpacked this idea to reveal that Card wouldn't be getting any ROYALTIES from the E.G. film (and in fact he sold the rights many years ago for a flat fee of a measly $1.5 million). But this is very different from increased book sales, future book sales, and cred to do other projects that he will get if E.G. is a blockbuster. Not only that, but from time to time Hollywood has been known to make a second movie that continues the story of the same characters and settings of a prior movie.  They're called "sequins" or something.

But even though the idea that Card "wouldn't make a penny" was a bit ridiculous, people seized upon this article as the absolution they sought to run and see the movie. This sort of mass reaction among communities is a gold mine for writers to pay attention to.

As the desires go up, the willingness to seize on rationalization goes up as well, and those rationalizations can get pretty flimsy. (A recent popular culture example I can think of that I particularly liked was in True Blood when Sarah Newlin started claiming her affair with Jason was "God's will" even though it was anathema to all she stood for--a portrayal of infidelity among the religious that is both realistic and very human.) I watch friends of mine constantly move to new cities, sleep with people, drop classes, quit jobs, get involved with good looking people they know are no good for them, and do all sorts of things basically because they really want to, and then go looking for the rationale as an afterthought. That's what humans are like.

And really, it's okay.  I want to stress again (and again) that I do not blame or think less of anyone for coming to their own comfort zone in the matter of whether or not they should see Enders Game, or under what conditions. I don't think a call for boycott would be particularly useful or effective. I am as comfortable with those who unapologetically went to the movie as those who came up with a creative solution that they felt would negate Card's damage. Many of my friends aren't seeing the movie, but none of us think less of those who are.

I mean I barely curse them in my voodoo rituals or anything.

Rather than evaluate the quality of these rationalizations and whether I think one or another truly absolves a person of watching Ender's Game (again, a personal decision, not mine to make for others), it is most informative to watch the process itself.  No one minded giving up Chic Fil-A sandwiches that they had never eaten anyway or switching to a new brand of pasta when they couldn't really tell the difference and in both of those cases, not ONE person brought up the livelihood of the poor, innocent, non-bigoted workers who would suffer economically, or how the product itself had no inherent homophobia in it, or how little the C.E.O. really made "per sandwich."

But a geeky movie of a childhood favorite book with lots of explosions and giant bugs that looks like it might be pretty cool? Things get interesting.

Even if you disagree with me so completely that you kind of agree with Card (and if you do, I truly wouldn't mind if you kept it to yourself.....really.), there are fundamental lessons in characterization to be had here.  This is human condition at its human conditionyest.

But another major thing a writer can also pay attention to how their personal behavior can dramatically affect their trajectory as an artist. This is a lesson best learned when it's happening to someone else. An artist can use the attention their work receives as a kind of "capital.". But how they choose to spend this "capital" (especially if they use it to endorse socio-political positions) will never be a neutral decision. I have gotten straight up DEATH THREATS because of some of the feminist positions I have espoused here on Writing About Writing.  A writer (or any artist) who spends this capital on a cause is must be aware of the choice they're making.

Card is getting thrown under the bus by everyone attached to Ender's Game including Hollywood, but he has also lost a lot of readers as well.  With a household name as big as Card, it may not matter to lose a few thousand social liberals, but most aspiring writers can't afford to alienate even a portion of their audience.

Lots of artists have causes and issues they champion without so much controversy or turmoil and the difference is profound, but one that any artist (and especially writers) would do well to pay attention to and understand:

Most artist promote what they love instead of bashing what they hate.  

Card's problem is that he went the opposite direction. He has codified and repeatedly expressed his own bigotry, and his legacy has become one of hatred and intolerance. Only a few extreme readers would have cared if Card had taken an intensely pro-Mormon position promoted the Church of Latter Day Saints, or celebrated their church culture even to an absurd extreme. Almost no one would have boycotted his movie.

There's a lesson to be learned for all writers (and artists) about the vast difference between championing a cause, even a people, and championing hate and bigotry.  If a writer wants to have some feelings deep down in places they don't talk about at parties--and everyone has such feelings--that's fine, but they do have to be conscientious about what they give their voice to--especially their artistic, public voice--and how.


  1. Actually, I believe he's listed as an executive producer on the film, which means he will be making money on the film.

    I refuse to watch it. I'm glad I never read the book, meaning I've never contributed to his income. I also won't watch movies by Tom Cruise because off his asshattery over mental health issues. Which is a shame, because I did enjoy some of his earlier movies, and there are movies of his starring others I had wanted to see, but I won't watch them, not even on TV. My view of him is forever tainted by his actions, and I won't subjugate myself to sitting there and grinding my teeth the whole time. I'd rather give my time and money to more worthy recipients.

    1. Like I said, I know he's going to make money, and the idea that he won't is seized upon by those who sort of WANT to see it.

      I don't know if he's going to make royalties or not. That seems to be a point of contention. Being listed as a producer may have been part of his contract and nothing that will see him any more cash from the movie sales.