Lionsgate issues official response to growing ‘Ender’s Game’ author controversy

Last night, a Twitter account called “Phoenix Movie Bears” asked me if I had an opinion about Orson Scott Card and his rabid anti-gay rhetoric. As a group of LBGT movie fans, it is an important question to them, and it looks like they asked the question of a large number of people. Some webmasters wrote back that they will be covering “Ender’s Game” because they are interested in it as a movie, and they seemed to accept that without argument. Personally, I have not spent a lot of time on the subject in print because I felt like the most effective way to deal with it was to simply go silent. At this point, publicity is publicity, and “good” or “bad” doesn’t really enter into the equation.

But today, Lionsgate sent out an official statement on what is obviously starting to become a problem for them, and it seems like this is as good a moment as any to weigh in. I’m only going to do this once, because I made the decision at the start of the year that I would not be reviewing “Ender’s Game” or covering it during production. That hasn’t changed. I love the book, and in fact just put it onto my oldest son’s Kindle as one of the many science-fiction novels he was given for his birthday. I hope he enjoys it.

When it comes to supporting Card today, though, I’m unable to see my way clear to ignore his nauseating homophobia. And while Lionsgate seems to believe his current attitudes have nothing to do with their film, I’d say that’s not true. The book may not reflect his views, but as the author, he’s going to benefit from the financial success and high profile of the movie. He is tied to “Ender’s Game” on a profound level, and I have a hard time seeing how anyone could claim otherwise.

Here’s the statement that Lionsgate sent over:

“As proud longtime supporters of the LGBT community, champions of films ranging from GODS AND MONSTERS to THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER and a Company that is proud to have recognized same-sex unions and domestic partnerships within its employee benefits policies for many years, we obviously do not agree with the personal views of Orson Scott Card and those of the National Organization for Marriage.  However, they are completely irrelevant to a discussion of ENDER”S GAME.  The simple fact is that neither the underlying book nor the film itself reflect these views in any way, shape or form.  On the contrary, the film not only transports viewers to an entertaining and action-filled world, but it does so with positive and inspiring characters who ultimately deliver an ennobling and life-affirming message. Lionsgate will continue its longstanding commitment to the LGBT community by exploring new ways we can support LGBT causes and, as part of this ongoing process, will host a benefit premiere for ENDER”S GAME.”

Now here’s my take on things, including a recap just in case you haven’t been following the story. Orson Scott Card is one of the many Americans who are opposed to same-sex marriage, and that by itself is not a wildly controversial position. I think people who are still actively determined to bar same-sex couples from enjoying all the legal protections that come with marriage are on the wrong side of history, and it’s just a matter of time until it’s not an issue anymore. This country may have done plenty of things wrong over the years in terms of protecting the rights of people based on race or sexual preference or creed, but eventually, things change. We move towards progress, inevitably, and we’ve certainly made progress on this issue in the last few years.

What makes Card particularly loathsome is the way he has expanded on those views by connecting homosexuality to child molestation (a disgusting lie that is commonly used by people opposed to homosexuality) and, in particular, the way he’s talked about how he would support the violent destruction of the American government if they did offer same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual marriages. He’s also been an active member of the National Organization for Marriage, a deceptively named group that is more about denying the rights of others than anything else, and he has been a key financial player in that group.

It is because of his financial support of the group that I find myself unable to support “Ender’s Game,” because I have a hard time believing the film will not financially benefit Card in any way. If it’s a hit, he’ll sell more copies of his book, so even if they don’t cut him in on the profits from the film, he’ll still be looking at more money in his pocket, and he’ll spend that money in ways that disturb me. That is his right, but I don’t have to support him.

What really got me this past week was how he is now asking people to show him tolerance, as if he has been victimized. He’s acting like the battle over gay marriage is done and finished and it’s all fine with him now, but I don’t believe this new stance of his. He’s been too angry, too scathing about it in the past, and the comments he’s made are so uninformed that I find it hard to believe he’s written the books he’s written. He called gay rights a “collective delusion” at one point, and laughed at the idea that there’s any similarity between the battle for civil rights based on race and the same struggle for people defined by their sexuality. He considers LBGT people to be indulging in “deviant behavior.” He simply doesn’t believe that gay people should be protected under the law and has said so in quite stark terms. He genuinely believes that they harm society simply by existing, and that no homosexual is ever genuinely happy. He’s so off-base that it’s startling, and over the years, he’s dug in harder and harder on the subject.

I’m glad that Lionsgate is going to throw a special premiere to raise funds for a LBGT organization, and I think that’s certainly a strong gesture. But it is impossible to remove Card completely from the conversation. While i would never call for an overall boycott of the movie, I personally won’t be supporting it. I think that’s a personal choice, and my refusal to give Card any of my money is not about me being intolerant. It’s about me deciding that I don’t want to spend my money that way. It’s a very simple personal decision, and as we get closer to the film’s release on November 1st, someone else here at HitFix may very well choose to write about the film. That won’t bother me. I just personally can’t do it because I am so crushingly disappointed in this author whose work genuinely meant something to me at one point.

The film will have a major presence at Comic-Con next week, and there will be plenty of coverage coming from those events, so I’m curious how you guys feel about this.

“Ender’s Game” arrives in theaters November 1, 2013.