Thursday, March 7, 2013

Should An Author's Philosophy Keep You From Reading?

What's a girl to do? Years ago I was introduced to an author I had never heard of before by a group of students. We got into a discussion of favorite reads and they were flabbergasted that I had not read nor heard of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. While I didn't run right out to the bookstore to pick up my very own copy, the name stuck in the back of my head and, after months of student torment, my husband and I decided to dive in.

We loved the book. We've been looking forward to this year's movie adaptation of the story. We continued reading Card's works; my husband has even found a short story of his that he wants to use in his teaching. We never stopped to explore Orson Scott Card, the man.

About a year ago I found my first clue that there was something to know. I read a comment from someone online declaring that they would not read Ender's Game on principle. They did not want to support a man such as Orson Scott Card. I brought this to the attention of my husband. We both found it curious, but felt there wasn't too much we could do about it since we already read/purchased his books without knowing. Last night, spurred on by the recent The Adventures of Superman reboot controversy, we had a long talk about it.

What's The Issue?

In a Salon.com article discussing the recent media attention around DC's decision to bring Orson Scott Card on as a writer in its new Superman reboot, it was explained as follows:
The “Ender’s Game” author is a current board member of the right-wing National Organization for Marriage and has a long personal history of anti-gay remarks. In a 2012 editorial for the Mormon Times, Card argued that “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.” In a 1990 opinion piece for Sunstone magazine, Card wrote that laws criminalizing homosexuality should stay on the books “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.” 
I couldn't disagree with this man more. In fact, I find his remarks offensive and, quite frankly, a bit scary. Orson Scott Card and I would get into a number of heated, emotional debates if we were ever to sit down and have a cup of coffee. I can fully understand why people would elect not to read any of his stuff or support him in any way based on these beliefs. However, in the stories of his that I read, none of these beliefs were evident. His writing (at least fiction writing) did not appear to preach in any way to the audience it was intended for - which, based on how vocal he is about these beliefs everywhere else, is quite surprising.

My Conundrum

My husband and I genuinely enjoy Card's fiction writing.   I don't think I would be speaking out of turn if I said Card has become one of my husband's favorite authors over the years. However, we, like many others, disagree with his personal beliefs. Is this enough to stay our hand when another of his works is published? Should it be enough?

For years I wrote on my blog Searching for Sustenance about the power of the dollar, about how we, as consumers vote with our purchases every day. We tell the world what we believe in by carefully selecting where we spend our money. It is a philosophy I believe in living in this capitalist society. I have never found a place where I have come to second guess it until now. Does this still work in the arts?

Voting With My Dollar

In terms of food, I spend my money on organics, non-GMO, and certified humane foods because I want the industry to know these are the things I value in my food products. In electronics and  appliances, I look to purchase those items that consume the least amount of energy. In energy distribution I look for the providers that use a greater proportion of renewable energy sources. All of these choices are made with my thinking about the product(s) I receive. However, they also speak to the philosophy of the companies that provide them.

What does one do in the case of the arts, when the product could easily be separate from the producer? I set out to spend my money on a creation I appreciate. I want to show the world that this is the type of thing I would like to entertain myself with. Yet, to do so, I must hand over my money to a producer who may use that money to fund an assault against my personal belief system. This person may use my money to battle ME!

Final Thoughts

I am at a crossroads. I'm not sure what my answer is so far except to say I am still looking forward to the movie adaptation of Ender's Game. I believe I will go see it when it is released, but I am suddenly thinking twice about something that was a given for a long time. I need more time with this.

Finally, I am left in a quandary over how I think DC should handle this entire situation. They have safely separated themselves from Card's belief system in their statement to The Advocate when initially addressing the controversy back in February:
“As content creators we steadfastly support freedom of expression, however the personal views of individuals associated with DC Comics are just that — personal views — and not those of the company itself.”
 Right now the project has been delayed since the artist hired to work with Card, Chris Sprouse, announced he would be leaving the project. Is this the final straw for DC to push Card out? I understand that they have to make a decision based on how much money they will pull in from their books, so, if they let Card go based on the belief that having him write the story will be controversial enough to decrease sales (or halt production completely), then that makes sense. On the other hand, if they let him go solely because of his beliefs, isn't that a form of discrimination itself?

What are your thoughts about this?
Should DC put their full support behind Orson Scott Card?
Would you halt purchasing an artist's works if their personal philosophies conflict with your own?

Thanks for reading!
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UPDATE:
My husband found a fantastic published on Salon.com today entitled What happened to Orson Scott Card? written by Steven Llyod Wilson, an Ender's Game fan. This excerpt is my favorite:
There are some in the comics world who are really angry about the events, arguing that this is an instance of judging the artist instead of his art. Of not letting a gifted storyteller tell a story because of people disliking his politics. If the story he wrote for Superman has nothing to do with gays, then what does it matter, the argument goes. The problem is that there is no separation of the artist from the art. And when that art in question is a figure of the cultural significance of Superman, the choice of who gets to put words in that mouth is about more than a literal reading of whatever script he turned in. How do you reconcile the symbol of truth, justice, and the American way being written by someone who loudly proclaims a violent revolution to topple American democracy if the majority doesn’t agree with his opinions?
Check out the rest of the article for Llyod's appraisal of where some of Card's politics may have been evident in his most famous work.
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 Here are three responses to this post from around the Internet.

6 comments:

  1. The Damsel in Dis DressMarch 7, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    Thank you for a well-written and well-thought out post. I have many of the same questions.

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  2. It is a tricky question to answer, and honestly, I'm not sure how what my answer is either. I don't approve of his views, but there's also the fact that there are lots of people who have different views from mine. Do I boycott each person? That seems a little judgmental. I think the tough thing here is there is no clear cut answer.

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  3. My pleasure. I don't know if you saw it (I just added the link while I think you must have been reading), but my husband found another great article on the topic from Salon.com called, "What Happened to Orson Scott Card?" Here's the link:http://www.salon.com/2013/03/07/end_game_for_orson_scott_card_partner/

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  4. That was one of the things my husband and I discussed last night. I began to think, "Am I being irresponsible for not researching the personal philosophies of all of the authors I read?" Then I thought about HOW MUCH WORK that would be!
    Also, thinking about this idea of "people with different views than mine" - isn't that part of why we read? To expand our horizons, to see the world from perspectives other than our own...

    There really is no clear cut answer, is there? I have to say, as a former math teacher, I find that a little disconcerting (and fascinating!).

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  5. I first ran into this type of issue with music years ago. The song, "I feel good," cam on the radio, and I was bopping my head to it, when a friend said, "How can you like that song? James Brown was a wife beater!" Really threw me off for a while, but I finally decided to separate the artist from his art. It's a bit like the controversy that gets stirred up whenever an athlete is arrested for something. Should we still root for them on the field? Great post, Nicole. Very thought provoking. ~Tui

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  6. This is a very interesting post on a tough topic. I have also being wondering about other authors such as Lovecraft. I don't have an easy answer for this - instead I deal with it as each case comes up. It's important for us all to grapple with such issues, and not push them aside. I know I don't enjoy Card's work the way I did before I knew his views. As you said, however, we do want to expand ourselves by reading works by people who think differently. So I've been actively seeking work by more authors who are POC, disabled, marginalized, and those who have traditionally been missed or passed over.

    Fictional Planet

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