Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ender's Dilemma

When do you stop supporting someone you disagree with?

The latest example in my life is Ender’s Game. I loved the book the very first time I read it. I still love it. Of course, I was a younger manchild in those days, and the internet wasn’t the monolithic force it is today. You weren’t able to type any question into Google and have seven million answers bounced back at you with 0.14 seconds. You weren’t able to type in an author’s name and find out that he’s been a diehard opponent of same-sex relations and marriage for many years. You could read a good book, or watch a good movie, and be blissfully unaware your dollars were helping to contribute to someone who’s views you find repellant. Sure, you could discover any secret you wanted, even back then, but you actually had to work for it. It wasn’t as easy as typing a sentence into a computer; it required dedication and research.

Because of this, I lived most of my life not knowing Orson Scott Card was homophobic. And not just the kind of homophobe I grew up around, that saw being called “gay” a fight-to-the-death kind of insult, but the “change society” kind of homophobe, with a long history of funding and aiding anti-gay rights causes. Or L. Ron Hubbard. I knew he’d started scientology, but I didn’t really know how cult-like its practices and beliefs were. And what about Chuck? I could watch Delta Force and all its attendant explosions without flinching at the virulence of Chuck Norris’s social conservatism. Maybe if Isaac Asimov were still around and writing today, he’d do something that would make me weep, too (but I doubt it—my faith in him remains untarnished).

So I ask again: when do you stop supporting someone you disagree with? Ender’s Game is now a movie, and I’m sure O.S. Card will see money if the movie turns a profit. Even if he didn’t, there is a principle involved here. Should we be encouraging exclusionary zealots to turn a profit when they act on those beliefs? I don’t think Ender’s Game is homophobic, but it’s creator is, and while a person’s thoughts are still, for the time being, their own, when a homophobe acts to promote their damaging, narrow, hateful viewpoints, shouldn’t those of us who disagree take a stand? Money talks, after all, and if all the hate-mongers found their funds drying up, wouldn’t that be better for everyone (except the hate-mongers, I suppose, but screw them!).

Or do you judge a person’s work outside and in isolation of their personal life? So what if Card’s a nut; Ender’s Game was awesome, so read it, buy it, watch the movie, he should have success because he created something wonderful, even if he does stupid stuff the rest of the time. Take Mandy Patinkin. He was wonderful in Princess Bride, good in Criminal Minds (while he lasted), and great in Homeland, I’m told. Who cares if he’s now about three short steps from being a Unabomber? 

(Why do I judge him so harshly? I was friends with him on Facebook, the place where “friendship” is loosely defined as “someone I haven’t blocked yet,” until a few months ago. I cut him loose when he posted and applauded a letter from some Canadian woman who’s basic message was: “Why should we care about torture and war crimes when we’re doing them to people who don’t like us, or might not like us, or might know people who don’t like us?” She thought everyone who had a problem with water-boarding, indefinite incarceration-without-charges, those soldiers that urinated on Taliban corpses, and anything else that showed respect or decent human values towards our “enemies” should get shot themselves. That kind of attitude is scary, amoral, and unacceptable, so I de-friended Inigo, which hurt a little, but then, Inigo only wounded Count Rugen as he had hurt Inigo himself; he didn’t hunt down Rugen’s dad, water-board him to death, then tea-bag his corpse.)

I guess in this era of open information (or at least, easily accessed information), you can’t be willfully blind to the flaws of your would-be heroes. So do I ignore those flaws, or do I ignore the stuff produced by the flawed? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying boycott Superstore because their CEO is a Broncos fan (I don’t know if he is or not, just making it up as an example) and you’re a Steelers boy. But if someone does something you see as amoral or criminally wrong, should they get the proverbial cold shoulder? And if so, for how long? As long as they keep up their evil works? Ten years after? Forever?

What I do know is I won’t be going to see Ender’s Game, the movie. I will probably reread my copy of Ender’s Game at some point in the future, but I won’t ever buy another one (or anything else Card writes, though I will confess, that won’t be so much of a punishment). It’s a pretty small gesture, but it isn’t nothing, so that makes it more than I usually do. (Baby steps, right?)

(On a related note, I’ve always been confused by book burnings. In theory, you gather hundreds or thousands of copies of a book you abhor and torch them. This sounds dramatic, but doesn’t this in reality just cause the sales of the book in question to spike? Haven’t you actually directly benefited the author and publishing house? Or maybe I’m missing the point.)

(Or another related note, I’m so clueless when it comes to sports that, after writing my little Broncos vs. Steelers example, I Googled those teams to make sure they both played in the same league. My dad would despair.)

1 comment:

  1. If you ask the whackadoodle friend of my MIL, she'd say she's protecting children by burning books. She gleefully confessed that she once stole a set of Harry Potter books from a school library and burned them so The Children couldn't read them and be corrupted. I'm glad she didn't make that confession while I was visiting or I don't know how I would have responded, but it wouldn't have been polite.

    As for your other dilemma, I don't know what the answer is. I boycotted the drive-in down the road from us for a while b/c the family running it had strong anti--choice views that I couldn't support. And then my friend invited me to watch the new Star Trek movie there and I realized what a gift it was to have an actual drive-in movie theatre down the road from us when there are only a handful left anywhere now. So I caved. I felt like a hypocrite, but I had fun. So, I am a hypocrite.