Let me preface this. I don’t want to make this a political blog. The goal of this site is to encourage discussion and critical thought concerning modern art, specifically comics. However, art has a nasty tendency of side stepping its way into political or moral issues and these are worth addressing. So every once in a while, I will try my best to address them in a thoughtful manner. That having been said, if you aren’t interested in reading a post about civil rights and the roles of the artist and consumer or just want to read comic reviews, feel free to skip this. I’m looking forward to engaging with folks on this issue as I know there’s going to be disagreement and my opinion on some of the topics has switched before and may do so again, but I’m not going to force this down anyone’s throats. (insert non-PC gay joke here)
Last week DC announced that they were hiring Orson Scott Card, the highly acclaimed sci-fi writer of “Ender’s Game”, to write the first two issues of the online series “Adventures of Superman”. There was a large uproar from fans in response (one that may have been part of DC’s marketing plan). If you’re unaware of why this may have occurred, as many are, I’ll let Mr. Card’s own words get the point across.
So if my friends insist on calling what they do “marriage,” they are not turning their relationship into what my wife and I have created, because no court has the power to change what their relationship actually is.
Instead they are attempting to strike a death blow against the well-earned protected status of our, and every other, real marriage.
They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes.
The dark secret of homosexual society — the one that dares not speak its name — is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.
If you really want to keep reading, here’s Mr. Card’s detailed outline of his beliefs concerning gay rights: http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2004-02-15-1.html
At this point, I hope we can agree that Mr. Card’s views are rather outrageous. This essay should not devolve into name calling, but there is one word that by definition should be used: bigot. Orson Scott Card is a bigot. His interviews, writing and everything else he has put into the public sphere makes this clear.
His writings and views upon this subject are surprising at the very least. “Ender’s Game” is a very thoughtful novel about the nature of violence. Its characters are compelling and sympathetic, while the plot is well-paced and intriguing. It is excellent science fiction. What, if any, should our response as readers be? Is it problematic that a talented writer is so active in promoting discrimination?
My initial reaction is no. Artistic works ought to be judged on their own merit. I am actively opposed to banging your adopted eighteen year old daughter, but still love “Midnight in Paris” directed by Woody Allen (and it was a better picture than “The Artist”. There, I said it). Ernest Hemingway was a misogynistic son-of-a-bitch, but “For Whom the Bell Tolls” still resonates as one of the greatest novels written about death and ideology. There we go, problem solved, we can all go home and read “Adventures of Superman” when it debuts.
But it’s not that simple. Mr. Card doesn’t just believe that gay people should not be given the same rights as straight folk or that they will destroy the infrastructure of a civil society (I wish I was exaggerating, if you think I am, read his article), it’s that he supports these beliefs with his time and money. Mr. Card is on the board of the National Organization for Marriage, a hate group which devotes all of its time to passing legislation with the sole purpose of denying non-heterosexual couples equal rights. This is where a problem begins to emerge. When you buy a copy of “Ender’s Game” or “Adventures of Superman”, you’re giving money to Mr. Card and he’s passing it along to NOM (Why did such a terrible group get such an awesome acronym? This feels wrong, like calling the American Front LOL.) The problem lies not with judgment of the art, but with our role as consumers.
It isn’t necessarily immoral to buy from people and organizations which support immoral things. There is a certain amount of responsibility to consider though. When I want chicken, I go to Raising Cane’s instead of Chick-Fil-A, because it’s tastier and they don’t donate their profits to NOM. I’ve eaten at Chick-Fil-A before and it’s tasty stuff, but given the option, I’d rather not do it again.
Big picture, yes, it’s always possible to track the money to something bad, but it doesn’t mean we should pretend this doesn’t matter. Civil rights matter, personal responsibility matters. We may only be talking about drops in the bucket, but I certainly don’t want my drops going to support legislation like Prop 8. So that’s why I won’t be buying “Adventures of Superman” and why I won’t be going to see “Ender’s Game” in theaters this fall. They may both be good, but until NOM no longer serves a purpose, because all Americans are treated equally, I’m not going to help fund them or Orson Scott Card.
Isn’t that a fun word to say?
There’s something to be said about DC’s editorial responsibility in this situation as well. Superman is an iconic figure. He inspires us, gives us hope, and tells us that we’re stronger than we think we are. The best Superman stories present a character who is a pillar of goodness and strength without dissolving into simplistic morality tales or two-dimensional absurdities. Stories like “All Star Superman” have moved me to tears time and again. If it’s not clear already, I really, really like Superman. He will most certainly be featured in an article on this site, because Superman is awesome in the truest sense of the word. ‘Nuff said.
So what does it say when the company who controls the legal rights to this character, known and beloved across the world, allows someone who does not believe in equality or social justice to write him? There is little doubt that the editors at DC will not allow Mr. Card to inject his personal beliefs on marriage or social equality into his writing. It’s still ironic that they put a story about a man who believes in elevating all humanity into the hands of a man who believes in quashing part of it.
Companies should not refrain from hiring writers and other artists due to their personal beliefs. Tor ought to continue to publish Mr. Card’s novels as long as they are worth publishing. (I think his comics are sub-par, but would love to hear a defense of Ultimate Iron Man) However, DC Comics also has a responsibility to safeguard the character of Superman, one who is cherished and admired by people of all ages, backgrounds, races and orientations. Orson Scott Card should not be prevented from writing, but Superman should be protected from Orson Scott Card.