As Lionsgate seeks to put distance between the anti-gay writer and its movie of his novel, the row underlines the need for film-makers to think more deeply about fans’ views
Per the UK Daily Guardian:
They say all publicity is good publicity. If so, studio Lionsgate should be reaping the rewards from all the negative hype whirling around the repugnant views of Orson Scott Card, author of the novel upon which its upcoming science fiction movie Ender’s Game is based. Ever since gay rights group Geeks Out launched its campaign for a boycott of Gavin Hood’s film, whose stellar cast includes Harrison Ford, Britain’s brilliant Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin, the noise surrounding the movie has been firmly about Card’s homophobic attitudes rather than the movie itself.
- Ender’s Game
- Production year: 2013
- Country: USA
- Directors: Gavin Hood
- Cast: Abigail Breslin, Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford
Lionsgate’s reaction has been to pretend that Card is a figment of everybody else’s imagination, rather than the source of its own worst nightmares. As the Hollywood Reporter has pointed out, the science fiction writer’s name has been excised from pretty much all publicity surrounding the movie: he is no longer visible on Ender’s Game’s Facebook page, and barely gets a mention on the film’s trailer beyond a tiny two-second glimpse on the end title card.
Card was not present at the film’s appearance at Comic Con in San Diego last night, despite the panel for Lionsgate’s other teen-orientated sci-fi flick, Divergence, featuring source novel author Veronica Roth. Producer Robert Orci simply batted back questions about the controversy in the way Lionsgate has done since it erupted. “Rather than shy away from this, I would reiterate that we support LGBT rights, and human rights,” he said. The studio has promised to hold a fundraiser for gay causes and argued that its movie really has nothing to do with Card’s nasty views, which have been detailed by my colleague Andrew Wheeler over on Comment is Free.
Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield in Ender’s GameThe problem here is that Card has been far from a hands-off figure in Ender’s Game’s gestation period. While the current screenplay, based on both Ender’s Game and parallel novel Ender’s Shadow, is credited to Hood alone, the Mormon author has written at least two scripts of his own over the past 15 years. He is listed as a producer on the film and is said to have refused Hollywood’s advances several times in the 1980s and 1990s due to creative differences. He even gets a voice cameo as a pilot in the movie.
That Lionsgate failed to pick up on Card’s increasing notoriety for all the wrong reasons over the couple of years in which it has been involved in the film ought to be a salutary lesson for Hollywood. In a universe in which fanboy cred seems to matter almost as much as box office results, making a movie based on the ideas of a guy who professes to hate a large portion of your key audience so much that he once said he wouldrather overthrow the United States government than tolerate gay marriage is a very bad call indeed.
Conversely, geek culture has always been notable for its tolerance. But Hollywood is fast learning that the fanboy brigade are not just a great slavering mass of wide-eyed chumps desperate to haemorrhage their hard-earned cash in the direction of the nearest multiplex. Sometimes, the geeks bite back, and woe betide those who are not prepared to listen.
It shows how far we have come that Card, who was arrogant enough to make that statement about gay marriage and the US government only four years ago, now mewls plaintively about “persecution” from “triumphant” proponents of equal rights in the wake of the US’s historic legal ruling last month. How irritating it must be for the author that his two-decade battle to bring his best known work to the big screen has been scuppered by the very people he finds most repugnant in this world – and how wonderfully ironic.
As a science fiction movie fan, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that what might prove to be a rather decent example of the form is being overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Card. Should Lionsgate’s platitudes towards the LGBT community be accepted – the Oscar-winning writer of Milk, Dustin Lance Black, has proposed as much – I’d like to see the film do well. But if all that bad hype does doom the movie, and if studios take a little more care over who they choose to work with as a result, it may just have been worth it.