Orson Scott Card, the outspokenly homophobic author of the book Ender's Game, won't get any of the box office money from the movie that opens tomorrow. So is there still cause for boycott?
Though there has been a call to boycott the film over Card's support of anti-gay causes, Josh Dickey of The Wrap reported yesterday evening that Card will not benefit—at least not directly—from the film's success. Sources "both inside and outside the companies that produced the" movie confirmed to Dickey that Card gets no back-end on the movie, and has already been paid the money he will get from the adaptation through a "decade-old deal." Card's deal for the movie, which lingered in development for many years, was done long ago, and Dickey explained that, by the time the iteration of the project that finally made it to the screen got underway, "Card’s involvement, both creative and financial, had dissolved to virtually nil."
Card has a producing credit, but he wasn't involved in the film creatively, Dickey reports. That goes in contrast to authors like J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, who made deals that gave them a say in the filmmakers' decisions and kept the money flowing. (For what it's worth, director Gavin Hood told us in an interview earlier this month that he did have to meet with Card, "because he had approval rights on the director and they were hiring me as a writer director.") Of course, the success of a film will likely drive book sales, with some of those going to Card.
So is there anything left to boycott? Some have used this news as a sort of go-ahead allowing them to see the movie. "The fact that Orson Scott Card won't make any money on Ender's Game makes it a lot easier to recommend to everybody. It's great. See it," Britton Peele of The Dallas Morning News explained on Twitter. Another user wrote: "As it happens, Orson Scott Card actually isn't [directly] making money off of the Ender's Game film. You can see it with a clear conscience."
But the group that launched the Skip Ender's Game campaign is not backing down. On their page supporting the protest, LGBT group Geeks OUT says: "Pledge to skip Ender's Game and ensure that your entertainment dollars don't support homophobia." And even with the knowledge that Card does not benefit financially from the film, organization member Jono Jarrett told The Wrap that the group is not backing down. "If it turns out that the LGBT community’s refusal to see ‘Ender’s Game’ carries more of a symbolic rejection of Card and his rhetoric than a financial one, I think that’s still a powerful message to content providers," he said.
There are valid reasons both to see the movie and to continue to reject anything associated with Card. As David Wharton writes at Giant Freakin Robot, "I absolutely understand the folks who see this as a moral issue, but I also think on some level the movie should be judged on its own merits — or lack of them — rather than the tangential baggage the source material brings along with it."
And the trick is, by simply reading the book or watching the film you'd be hard pressed to find the influence of Card's frankly terrible views. This is a problem fans of the book have been wrangling with for years. Take, for instance, the 2000 Salon interview Donna Minkowitz conducted with Card. Minkowitz, a self described "Jewish lesbian radical," loved Ender's Game, and was eager to interview Card only to discover just how horrible he was. "It’s one thing to admire a bigot on the page, and another to endure a two-hour conversation with one," she wrote. "And my love and admiration for Card only made it worse. Talking to Klansmen was nothing compared to talking to the author of the most ethical book I’ve ever read."
The Ender's Game film condemns unnecessary violence and preaches acceptance. But even without Card getting any cut of the box office, it's still challenging to reconcile that message with the real-life rhetoric of its original author.