Hollywood presents itself as a place where tolerance, diversity, and creativity flourish, but in truth blacklists and demands for rigid ideological conformity are far too common. The followers of all things ???cool??? and ???hip??? are willing to starve dissidents of food, money, and shelter. The quality of creative work counts for less than the political beliefs of the creator… and just about everything is ???political??? these days. Such is the current tale of one of America???s finest living authors, Orson Scott Card.
Card???s novel Ender???s Game, first published over 25 years ago, is widely hailed as one of the great masterpieces of science fiction. It won both the coveted Hugo and Nebula awards. Few sci-fi novels have outsold it. The author has written a number of popular sequels. The first of these, Speaker for the Dead, stands as tall as Ender???s Game in science fiction history, and also won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.
Orson Scott Card is no one-trick pony, either. He has authored more than 60 books of different styles and genres: from the sci-fi he is best know for, to military action, biblical novels, and even books of poetry. Each book takes us not only to a different place and time, but teaches us how to think in bigger more complex ways.
It took a surprisingly long time for a film adaptation of Ender???s Game to come together, but at last it has been completed, and will premiere this November 1st. Perhaps Hollywood decided the time was right because movies with young protagonists – such as the Harry Potter series, Twilight, and The Hunger Games – have been doing very well.
The hero of Ender???s Game, Andrew ???Ender??? Wiggin, is a teenage boy living in the future, when the human race is losing a horrific interstellar war against a mysterious race of insectoid aliens. The desperate human military selects young people of exceptional intelligence, and begins training them at an orbital Battle School to become leaders in the last stand against the alien fleet. The story follows Ender???s intense training, and his personal relationships with teachers and fellow students. Audiences expecting ???Hogwart???s in space??? are in for some big surprises, for Ender is a youthful protagonist unlike any other.
If certain gay rights activists had their way, no one would be able to experience those surprises at the movie theater. There has been a long-running effort to boycott the Ender???s Game movie, and anything else Orson Scott Card is even tangentially associated with, because he has been a critic of same-sex marriage. (It is customary to describe him as an ???outspoken??? critic, presumably because criticism of gay marriage is grudgingly permissible, provided one remains completely silent.)
Card doesn???t have much to do with the film production, beyond writing the book it was based upon, but that doesn???t matter to the people who have decided he must be hounded from the public square, his works and reputation destroyed. He was hired by DC Comics to work on a Superman story, but the Thought Police immediately pounced, driving away the illustrator of the series.
Ender???s Game contains nothing at all relevant to the gay marriage debate; this is an attack on the author, not the work. ???I think none of Mr. Card???s views on gay marriage are part of the thematics of the film,??? said star Harrison Ford at the San Diego Comic-Con last month. ???He has written something that is, I think, of value to us all.???
As it happens, Card believes recent Supreme Court decisions have essentially settled the gay marriage issue. ???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,??? he wrote in a statement to Entertainment Weekly.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Orson Scott Card is not a rabid right wing ???ditto-head.??? In fact, he has called himself a Democrat for his entire political life. However, for Card the party has moved far away from the party of Henry ???Scoop??? Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, which he identified with for so many years. His core values come from his deeply held religious beliefs.
Unlike those who bow to Government as their god, people with a deep-seated belief in God don???t have the luxury of changing their values with the winds of the political mob. Unfortunately, there is no big tent on the Left. Those who are not in agreement with certain mandatory positions are not only thrown out of the tent, but pursued and attacked until destroyed.
Savagely attacking people with opposing views is not the right way to win a debate, although it???s certainly much easier than crafting and defending a compelling argument. Obviously, such treatment of gay-marriage proponents would not be tolerated for an instant. They would not hesitate to label it bigotry, or even fascism. A more appropriate word is totalitarianism: the politicization of everything. It is disturbing that anyone in the Western world wants to travel down that path, since we know perfectly well where it leads.
It???s sad to see such intolerance coming from people who generally regard tolerance as the highest virtue. Tolerating what you agree with is easy. For the word to have meaning, it must be applied to the different, the unusual, and the unpopular. Intolerance isn???t much of a problem until it has power behind it. It can be hurtful when expressed through words, but it becomes something altogether more sinister when it leads to action.
The attempts at taking away a man???s income just because he is (or was) on the ???wrong??? side of a political debate is wrong, and at its core, un-American. To make any progress in this difficult climate, the ???politics of personal destruction??? must become a thing of the past.
Anyone who has been to a multiplex recently knows that Hollywood is in desperate need of fresh stories. The last thing it needs is greater insularity. Our popular culture will stagnate further, if people with challenging ideas steer clear of Tinseltown because it???s too hostile for anyone who comes from outside its preferred cultural and political sphere.
The bitterest irony of the Ender???s Game boycott is that Ender???s story is about tolerance. It begins as a space war saga, but it travels through some dark places to illuminate the importance of understanding, compassion, and communication. It???s not easy to walk in the shoes of humans, aliens, and even a literal deus ex machina… but only someone with the hard-won strength of mind and heart to follow such a difficult path can learn to speak for the dead.
Most tales with a teenage protagonist are coming-of-age stories. Ender Wiggin helps, and in some cases forces, the entire galaxy to grow up. The process is terrifying, agonizing, exhilarating, inspiring, and mind-blowing in equal measure. By the time Ender is done, his name will be both a prayer and a curse, and he will learn that confronting his demons is even harder than defeating his enemies.
If that sounds intriguing, rest assured that it is. But you???ll never know for yourself unless you read, or watch, the saga that begins with Ender???s Game. Those of us who already know the story can only marvel at the wrong-headedness of efforts by those who claim the mantle of ???tolerance??? to suppress it.
Do we really need another reminder that people who burn books don???t learn anything from them?
[Note: the above was written in cooperation with my friend Rusty Humphries, who has one of the largest national audiences in talk radio today with “The Rusty Humphries Show” from Talk Radio Network. He’s also a political consultant, a much sought-after speaker, an actor with numerous credits to his name, and a friend of Orson Scott Card. Your humble co-author is a longtime fan of Card’s work, who never dreamed he’d have a chance to stick up for the author of some of his favorite books, and was honored to have the opportunity.]