On October 25th, a film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Ender‘s Game will be hitting the UK. Now, I won’t be seeing it, even if it gets the best reviews, even though the novel it is based on is a brilliant piece of sci-fi; one that is incredibly important to the genre. Why? Because Orson Scott Card is not a very nice man. He is on the board of the National Organisation for Marriage, a homophobic and hateful organisation. I can’t let him have any of my money, as doing so will fund a movement I find morally disgusting. It’s a shame, as Ender’s Game is a great story, and isn’t the only great story the man has written.
I am certainly not the first to touch on this, and refer you to what The Nostalgia Chick had to say on the matter, because she is very good at saying things. Also, Alyssa Rosenberg has written a rather excellent piece on the varied responses available to those who want to see the movie, and support other people involved in the project, but are uncomfortable about giving Card money.
I certainly won’t judge anyone who doesn’t join this boycott. As soon as you start playing the game of trying to track where you money ends up, you’ll find the oddest connections out there, and never be able to track it all. For instance, Warbutons have previously funded The Conservative Party, and as such buying their bread may well lead to more money for the Tories. While I doubt many would argue that the Tories are as bad as the National Organisation for Marriage, those who would never vote for them may want to avoid the bread. While boycotts are perfectly justifiable, it is exhausting and ultimately impossible to find out exactly where all the money you spend will end up.
There is one line that must be kept clear when considering all of this. If buying the product won’t directly lead to cash funding ‘Bad Things’, then I don’t see the problem. H.P. Lovecraft was scared of everything, being for most of his life homophobic, xenophobic, racist, misogynist and many other unpleasant things. This can make reading some of his work particularly unpleasant. One shouldn’t ignore the unpleasant parts of this man but, as he is long dead, he won’t be funding any ‘Bad Things’. Furthermore, I suspect that if Lovecraft wasn’t so deathly afraid of everything and everyone different from him, then he wouldn’t have been able to writer such spooky stuff.
This isn’t to say people who cannot read Lovecraft because of his views, which were so central to his writing, are wrong. This is very much a personal thing, and if someone finds them too much then that’s completely okay, although sometimes you will be missing out on some otherwise great stuff. It is also okay if you just don’t care about the views of a dead artist, and just take pleasure in their art. If you cannot do that, then you cannot listen to The Beatles, or any of John Lennon’s solo work, as he was a neglectful father, a drunk, and a wife-beater. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t carry a tune, or that it is tragic that he was shot down so young.
As ever, when it comes to Unpleasant People and Bad Things, it is all a little subjective. Does an artist’s views tarnish their work, even if they aren’t always directly present in that work? Is it only when reading their stuff will lead to a little more money for a cause you disagree with when you have to boycott? That’s something you’ve got to figure out for yourself. All I ask is that you consider the question.