Following Orson Scott Card's plea for potential Ender's Game filmgoers to ignore his anti-gay activism, Lionsgate Studios released a statement that works hard to put further distance between the film, being marketed as the next Hunger Games-type Young Adult blockbuster, and the author of the book on which it's based. And here's one sign that the studio is, at the very least, seeing a potential boycott of the film as a threat to their project: the studio has pledged to host a "benefit premiere" of the film. Here's the statement, sent to The Atlantic Wire on Friday, in full:
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.
Lionsgate didn't immediately return a request for more specific information on the planned benefit.
In a way, the studio is right to ask viewers to separate their work from its creator. Ender's Game is not an anti-gay screed. The book (and potentially, the film) no doubt has fans who consider themselves LGBT or LGBT allies. And that's OK. The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf recently made an eloquent argument for the value of artistic, historical works by creators with horrible ideas:
[We] would be wise to stay open to the possibility that inhabiting the art of someone whose aesthetics or personal moral beliefs we find abhorrent might nevertheless end in our gleaning something valuable from the experience. The opportunity to learn in that way won't survive, for most students, in a world where rejecting bigotry is thought to require rejecting everything produced by every dead bigot.
And while, unlike Walt Whitman, the figure on whom Friedersdorf based his essay, Orson Scott Card is still very much alive, that argument holds artistically here. But the studio's decision to hold a benefit in the wake of an impending boycott speaks to another element of the franchising of the book: where the money goes. Seeing Ender's Game does not imply an endorsement of its creator's worldview. It could, however, work to his financial benefit. For some, that might feel like donating a portion of the ticket price to the National Organization for Marriage.
In handling the issue of Orson Scott Card, Lionsgate could learn from their previous experience with the Hunger Games. They ran into a bit of a problem when a lawyer for the studio last spring tried to shut down an anti-hunger campaign started by a group of fans, pegged to the release of the first film. That campaign came from a spin-off of the Harry Potter Alliance, a group of fans who have previously done "mission work" in the name of the Harry Potter books and films. After an outcry from fans, Lionsgate completely reversed course and expressed interest in getting involved with the project.
While the idea of connecting a piece of popular culture to a wider social issue is certainly not a new one, studios are still learning how to handle the socio-political associations imbued upon their properties by the people who take them to heart, especially when those issues are as charged as same-sex marriage. Ender's Game, as the next big Young Adult hope, is simply the latest experiment in negotiating that tension.