When burning your John Wayne DVDs is not an option

Boycotting Ender’s Game is a ludicrous notion - we've been here before writes Donald Clarke


I am here to ask you to avoid all screenings of Foxy Lady 4: Pants for the Memory. As I understand it, the cinematographer – one Legs McSquirty – expressed a suspicion of Chinese people in the late 1970s.

None of this true (so far as I am aware). But a similarly ludicrous controversy is gathering around the forthcoming adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game. Nobody is objecting to any of the personnel who’ve worked on the film’s coalface. There’s nothing much in the story (space cadets train to fight insectoid aliens) to worry anybody who’s seen a Star Wars film. The problem lies with views held by Mr Card himself.

The science-fiction author and sometime Mormon missionary is, it seems, no great supporter of marriage equality. His pronouncements on the matter veer from the mildly irritating to the borderline deranged. “Marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down,” he once said.

Summit Entertainment, which produced Ender’s Game, must have suspected that trouble would come its way. Sure enough, last week Geeks Out, a group that celebrates both gayness and the nerd aesthetic, launched the first calls for “a boycott”. The statement blared: “Do NOT see this movie! Do not buy a ticket at the theater, do not purchase the DVD, do not watch it on-demand.”

Demonstrating a tendency towards moral casuistry that has served the Mormons well (having allowed African-Americans to minister since 1978, they can’t understand why the former prohibition still worries people), Mr Card explained that, following certain legal developments, his earlier opinions, were now of no consequence.

“With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot,” he said. Card once used a similar argument to deflect criticisms of his sometime support for measures banning consensual homosexual acts. Hey, it’s legal now. My views are no longer relevant.

So, Card doesn’t sound much like the sort of fellow we’ll be inviting round to Screenwriter Towers any time soon. A consideration of his opinions makes it that bit less likely I will ever read one of his novels.

But the notion of a formal boycott is absurd. (And not just because it dishonours genuinely courageous people who, in the southern states of the US and in colonial India, instigated proper boycotts.) If we liberals launched a campaign against every film that gave work to somebody with whom we disagreed, we’d never get to attend the cinema again. We’d be required to burn all our John Wayne DVDs. Forget about Howard Hawks or Clint Eastwood.

Such campaigns are really just a vehicle for the self-righteous to parade their own supposed moral superiority. We get it. You support gay marriage. So do I. Now, enjoy the film with the cool spaceships.

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