Wednesday 2 May 2012

One adult for "Ender's Game" will cost you $16.50 and a piece of your SOUL!

Here's the dilemma. I recently discovered that Orson Scott Card, writer of Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, is so opposed to same-sex marriage that he is on the board of director's for the National Organization for Marriage, which is an organisattion who were originally established to prevent the legalisation of same-sex marriage. While reading into this I also discovered that he had a history of saying some fairly repulsive things about homosexuals.

From the way I am presenting this information you have probably picked up that I am not riding the same political, philosophical or religious train as Mr Card, and that these discoveries prompted conflicted feelings towards both Ender's and Speaker, both of which I still count amongst the most influential books in my life.

This isn't the first time I have had my politics run up against those of an author (or artist) whose work I respect. Much of my fantasy writing is clearly influenced, both in style and theme, by Poe and Lovecraft, but I do not share their politics or philosophies. Lovecraft's writing gives the very clear and distinct impression that he was racist, homophobic, antisemitic and misogynistic, and I am not going to defend his beliefs with that old "product of his times" chestnut. Plenty of his contemporaries showed no evidence of these prejudices. Irrespective of these beliefs Lovecraft was an amazing writer and storyteller with a unique and horrifying imagination, and his impact on contemporary popular culture is, in my mind, quite often deeply understated.

Likewise, William S. Burroughs was a man with a skewed and ever changing view of the world that at different times led him to Scientology, an obsession with narcotics and the belief that playing with guns was a good idea. Amongst his many accomplishments are Junkie, Naked Lunch, the Nova Trilogy and the accidental shooting of his wife during a "game' of William Tell. Despite not being as widely regarded as I believe he should be, Burroughs had a habit of influencing influential and popular writers. Without his books late Twentieth Century literature and everything that followed and is yet to follow would and will be a very, very different game.

If these names don't register with you perhaps it might mean more to you to know that Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) was a devoted libertarian and gun enthusiast , Ernesto Guvera (The Motorcycle Diaries) was homophobic, C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) was a Christian Apologist, and Stephanie Meyer (The Twilight Saga) is a Mormon.

The way I perceive the universe doesn't run concurrently with any of these people, nor do I expect that it will for the handful of people who read my blog. Some of these people's beliefs bother me at the essence of the ideas behind them, while others bother me only when they are abused, but I cannot deny that I see something worthwhile in each of their bodies of work. More than that I am of the opinion that there is always something to gain from engaging with media that supports views other than our own. Something that is beyond the simple assimilation of differing views, but something that is in the act itself. Even more so if done willingly. Without differing views we end up reenforcing a bubble, and just because we engage with something does not mean that we automatically lend credence or validity to the ideas espoused within it.

I have known many people who I perceived as open-minded and still perceive as intelligent who have disregarded books solely on the philosophies of their author, most commonly when someone mentions Ayn Rand. It is apparently acceptable to hate on Ayn Rand and her books without actually informing yourself on her ideas or reading her books. I blame South Park for some of this, but the rest is a kind of  popularly enforced cultural ignorance. I'm not on Ayn Rand's bandwagon by any stretch of the imagination, but I can't deny that there is something deeply profound and astute happening between the pages of The Fountainhead, and to a far lesser extent Atlas Shrugged. As a matter of interest my only real complaint towards either book (especially the latter) is that they are absurdly long, and could have been written more concisely.

The reason I bring all of this up is that Ender's Game is currently in the process of being made into a film. The book itself does not condemn same sex marriage, and in fact there is even an intimate scene between two boys in which their affection for each other is expressed with a kiss. At this stage I doubt very much that Card is going to include any new materials to push his current agenda considering how long and hard the author has fought for a faithful adaptation of his book. So the work itself isn't something I take any issue with, but the creator is quite literally a fascist. So, the question you have to ask yourself is: Will any of the money earned by the film go towards opposing same sex marriage?

Honestly? I don't know. He may have already been paid in full for the film rights to the book as well as any role he had (as Producer) in the production of the film. He may be opposed to using the money from his art to fund his own agendas.

In the case of many of those that I mentioned earlier the question of separating the artist form their work is a much simpler one, because they are deceased, and unless their estates are up to some funky stuff I am unaware of we aren't running the threat of funding a cause in which we do not believe by buying their works.

Where do I come down on all of this?

I do believe that a work should be set apart from its creator and regarded and judged on its own merits, but should also be regarded and judged as a part of a whole body of work that includes the creator. Similarly I will not support those that condemn a work on the basis that it does not align with their own views, but while I think there is always something to gain from engaging in media that runs contrary to one's own philosophies, religions, politics and world views inherent in the act itself, I do get tripped up when you introduce the possibility of my own indirect funding of an agenda to which I am actually opposed. Would I have bought and read both Mein Kampf and Zweites Buch so as to better understand the ideas and events that lead to the holocaust if I thought for a moment that the money would go to further the causes and ideals valued by their author? Fuck no!

Ponder on it folks.

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