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7/17/2013

Hate the Artist, Love the Art: Orson Scott Card



I like Orson Scott Card's stories. Pathfinder is the most recent novel I read, the first installment of the same-titled young-adult Scifi adventure series, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Unky Orson, that's what I used to call him, if only in my mind, yet still lovingly so. Until recent events cast a chill on my sentiments, and those initially warm feelings turned into somewhat mixed feelings.


And here is why. Orson Scott Card is an outspoken same-sex marriage opponent. However, to simply label him extremely conservative would be an understatement, because the underlying issue is way more severe. In an 2012 opinion piece he referred to homosexual attraction as a form of  "reproductive dysfunction" and legalizing gay marriage as a "leftist attempt to force anti-religious values on our children." It wasn't the first time he took up a position against homosexuality. Card is known to be a strong defender of traditional marriage, as a devout Mormon he is an outspoken homophobe.




This is what he wrote in an essay on same-sex marriage in 1990:


"Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society. The goal of the polity is not to put homosexuals in jail. The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity's ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships."

Read up on one of his published essays here.


Since 2009 Card is also a board member of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti gay-rights activist group, known for their ill-famed gathering storm PSA, proclaiming that gay marriage is a danger to traditional marriage and to the future of our children.


With all this background info about Orson Scott Card, the person, I found it increasingly hard to separate his personal views from his authorship. There is nothing remotely anti-gay about his stories, not even a pinch of homophobia in any of the ones I've read. Yes, he paints somewhat traditionalist female and male characters, but so do a lot of other authors. As far as I recollect there are no gay characters in his stories - not that that would be an imperative in Scifi/fantasy stories or indicative of anything besides that they're not there. Surely, even consciously not touching upon this subject shouldn't be detrimental to Card in any way.


Thus to some people's dismay, Card's personal views don't affect the quality of his art. According to some it would be easier to boycott him if his works were studded with homophobia. But hey, when is life ever that easy?


Trailer still credit Summit Entertainment
Anyways, now, with the upcoming Ender's Game movie and Card's involvement in the Adventures of Superman series, many people are torn between supporting OSC's art or taking a stand against him and not see the movie. What if he gives large portions of the royalties to the National Organization for Marriage and their activism? What if our money supports causes that we, the readers, don't agree with?



Here is how I see it: with our money, we pay an artist for his art, for granting us hours, weeks of great stories, things to think about, ideas to broaden our mind with. Regardless of his personal views, we pay them for that, and that alone. Hate the artist, but love the art. We don't support Bill Gate's skeet shooting or Charles Geschke's wife buying a fur coat with the money we give them for their products. We pay for the products. We don't have any means of control over any of their money spent, and it's good that we don't. It's their right to do what they want with it.


If you should decide not to see the movie, then that's fine. If you're not able to separate OSC's personal views from his art any longer, that's understandable. It's human nature to be intolerant of the intolerance of others. So, in case his views are as appalling as to spoil the experience of his art for you, then don't go see the film, don't buy any of his books. Stop paying him for his art. That sends a message. What it means for you is weighing your loss of experience against his financial one, really.


But in any way, be consistent; don't pirate his work. And this is important: a true point can only be made by abstaining from his work as opposed to wanting your cake and eating it, aka feeling entitled to pirating and - worst - calling upon others to do so. Saying it's OK to steal from a guy whose opinions you don't share is a moral low blow. It's a dark place, and not that far away from Nazis feeling entitled to expropriate Jews of their belongings...


Openly pirating sends a somewhat dangerous message: it says, since we don't share your opinions we feel at liberty to not validate your personal rights anymore. OSC has the right to think and say whatever he wants. And we're moving towards dangerous territory to argue that he doesn't, simply because we don't agree with him.



"Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute. Orson Scott Card"