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Orson Scott Card And The Equality Struggle

Richard Lee Byers considers the ‘Ender’s Game’ boycott

Previously, I wrote about DC Comics hiring author Orson Scott Card to script a Superman story. Mr. Card is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, and because of this, All Out launched a campaign urging DC to fire him on the grounds that someone they viewed as an advocate of “hate” and an opponent of “equality” shouldn’t write an iconic character exemplifying American ideals.

DC eventually postponed the project (permanently, it appears), and I assumed that thereafter, I would encounter less discussion about Mr. Card and his beliefs. Obviously, I was wrong.

“Ender’s Game,” a big-budget movie adaptation of the author’s award-winning, bestselling novel was on its way, and Geeks Out called for a boycott of the movie. Their reasoning was similar, if not identical, to the reasons All Out gave for protesting the Superman project. They too viewed Mr. Card as a man who fought against equal rights for gays, and they asserted that people who believe in equality shouldn’t give him their support.

Because movies are a more popular form of entertainment and bigger business than comics, the “Ender’s Game” boycott attracted more notice than the Superman controversy. A lot more.

As I’m writing this, it’s Sunday night of the “Ender’s Game” opening weekend. According to ABC News online, the movie has earned $28 million. Apparently, that’s about what Lionsgate projected, and they’re satisfied.

In other words, the movie is a success, and there’s no indication the boycott hurt its box office. Who knows, it may even have benefitted as Chick-fil-A did after its Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy denounced same-sex marriage. People who might otherwise have patronized McDonald’s or Burger King flocked to his restaurants on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, and it’s conceivable the “Ender’s Game” flap inspired opponents of gay marriage to hit the multiplex.

Thus, on the surface, it looks like the boycott failed. But I’m not certain that’s the case.

If the goal was to punish Orson Scott Card the individual, then it manifestly failed. But no matter what you think of his views (I disagree with them), that objective would be spiteful, mean-spirited and irrelevant to the advancement of gay rights. So I hope that few if any of the boycotters were so motivated.

If the goal was to punish Lionsgate for doing business with Mr. Card, then the same comments apply. The boycott didn’t hurt the studio, and it wouldn’t have advanced the cause of same-sex marriage even if it had plunged it into bankruptcy.

But if the true goal was to generate discussion of same-sex marriage and gay rights, then the boycott enjoyed a measure of success. The kind of success that actually can promote social change.

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