Five years ago, we lived in a house over the fence from Middleton Grange's school auditorium. Some mornings, when I went to hang the washing out, I'd hear the cheerful strains of Queen coming from that hall, and it really used to piss me off. How about we have a rule, I thought, where if you teach that someone's burning in Hell, you don't get to use their music?
What they were doing, I guess, was separating the art from the artist. And that's something all of us do sometimes, right? How many books, how much music would we have if we only consumed the art of people we'd happily have in our house? I'm sure there has to be a line somewhere, but where do we draw it?
It's easier, I think, when the artist is dead, and belonged to a previous era. As a student of Renaissance Lit, I can't tell you how tired I got of being told how racist/sexist/anti-Semitic Shakespeare was, by people who'd never read another Renaissance dramatist. Context. Maybe read "'Tis Pity She's a Whore" and get back to me.
Allow for the era and the environment in which the art was produced. And yet... I find it harder to deal with some of the weird racism and sexism in Robert Heinlein's writing. Except that's in the writing – the attitudes bleed through into the art. That's different.
Maybe there's more chance of 'seepage' with writing, more chance of the attitudes coming through in the text. What about visual art? Look: here's Ariel between Wisdom and Gaiety on Broadcasting House in London. The man who created it sexually molested his own children. Does it look different now? Does our experience of his art change when we know about his personal life? I know I'm more uncomfortable with his portraits of his daughters than I am with his typeface.
I do know people whose position is very much Death of the Author. The art exists on its own once created, so why would the prejudices of its creator matter? I know others who, once they know something about the creator, find the art forever tainted and never the same. I know sometimes people think "ironic" Nazi art is okay, and then it turns out the creator is a Holocaust denier. So perhaps... art is created between the object and our perception of it?
Which is all very deep and abstract and Late in the Bar After a Few Daiquiris. I've pondered this concept, and discussed it with people in bars, and there's one thing I'm really sure of.
I'd really like it if you didn't go see Ender's Game.
Now, I own a copy of the book Ender's Game, at least in the most technical sense. I paid for it and everything. I bought it new, so some of that money went to Orson Scott Card, and Orson Scott is a homophobe.
I'm still running across people who don't know this, and who are really upset to find it out. Ender's Game is a hell of a book, especially if you read it at just the right time of your life. But when I say he's a homophobe, I don't mean he just doesn't really like gay people. I mean he wrote stuff like this:
Already in several states, there are textbooks for children in the earliest grades that show "gay marriages" as normal. How long do you think it will be before such textbooks become mandatory — and parents have no way to opt out of having their children taught from them?
How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.
Card also believes that people are made homosexual as a result of rape or childhood sexual abuse. This belief does seem to come through in his novella Hamlet's Father.
That in itself might not matter. Ender's Game itself isn't homophobic, right? It has all those scenes where boys wrestle naked, for a start. And I might accept that, except that Card is a member of the board of directors of the ridiculously-acronymed National Organization for Marriage.
You might not have heard of NOM, but still be familiar with their work. They're the people who brought you the unintentionally hilarious Gathering Storm ad:
NOM spent millions of dollars supporting Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in California. They have actively campaigned to unseat senators who support marriage equality, and put up signs in the districts of others saying, "You're next." NOM featured on The Daily Show and The Rachael Maddow Show after they were caught using crowd footage from President Obama's inauguration as if it was from one of their own rallies. Internal NOM memos released by a judge show their deliberate use of wedge tactics – using female and African-American spokespeople to drive wedges between them and the gay community, and to enable them to counter criticism with claims of sexism and racism.
NOM do everything they can, including lawsuits and appealing to the Supreme Court, to conceal where their money comes from. One of the few contributors we know about is the Mormon Church.
Being a good Mormon, Card tithes a tenth of his income to the LDS. Even if he doesn't directly financially contribute to the organisation he serves on the board of, and that's a pretty big if, the more money he makes, the more he gives to the LDS, who fund NOM, who fund bigotry and are pretty unethical about how they do that.
And how does Card make his money? By selling his art.
There are a lot of things you can say about geeks. But one of the other things is that they're pretty damn pro-gay. The fuss over Card's Superman comic has at least some people involved in the production of Ender's Game worried about a backlash.
Now Summit faces the tricky task of figuring out how to handle Card’s involvement. The first big challenge will be whether to include him in July's San Diego Comic-Con program. Promoting Ender’s Game without Card would be like trying to promote the first Harry Potter movie without J.K. Rowling. But having Card appear in the main ballroom in front of 6,500 fans could prove a liability if he’s forced to tackle the issue head-on during the Q&A session.
“I don't think you take him to any fanboy event,” says one studio executive. “This will definitely take away from their creative and their property.” Another executive sums up the general consensus: “Keep him out of the limelight as much as possible.”
Homophobia is a liability. I find that quite satisfying. There is just no way you could put Card in front of a Comic-Con audience. They'd eat him alive.
It's a hell of a cast. Ben Kingsley. Harrison Ford. Viola Davis. It was a hell of a book. But there is no way I'm paying money to see Ender's Game. I'm not giving money to someone who oversees the kind of persecution and dishonesty that NOM indulges in. I've fought so hard on my side of this for so long: why the hell would I fund the opposition?
Please don't pay to see Ender's Game. I'm asking really nicely.