Ending Card's Game

Yeah, sorry for the atrocious triple-pun, but this is me trying to put thoughts to (virtual) paper regarding the current controversy surrounding DC's hiring of celebrated SF writer and anti-gay rights activist Orson Scott Card to do a Superman story (and who knows what else - some are thinking Green Lantern now that Geoff Johns' run is finally ending). DC's PR problems continue, this time apparently losing all the good will they might have generated with their books featuring gay characters, most notably Batwoman and Earth 2's focus on Green Lantern Alan Scott. Card famously came out against gay marriage some years ago and joined the board of directors of the National Organization of Marriage (NOM), which spends its money advocating against same-sex marriage on a state and federal level. Worse, his comments on the record have bordered on hate speech, strongly suggesting that homosexuality is abnormal and plainly saying that it is the result of abuse, rape and molestation in the person's formative years.

As you can imagine, outrage followed, first from more comic book readers, and once the news broke out in the always controversy-starved media, from members of the LGBT community. There have been calls for boycotts and even for Card to be fired from the assignment, and general condemnation of DC Comics and their long line of publicly embarrassing moves. This in turn provoked fans of Orson Scott Card's work and opposers to same-sex marriage to defend the decision, tell the "libs" to calm down and so on.

And it's fair to ask if it makes sense to shun a person's work for their political views. After all, don't we regularly read the works of long-dead authors who were probably misogynists, racists and religious intolerants? Isn't The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic, etc.? But for some, that's not really the point. An opinion is just an opinion, and may or may not come out in the work. I doubt very much Card's Superman story is going to be about the sins of deviant homosexuals vs. the sanctity of traditional man-woman marriage. But Card's detractors are saying that since he's a prominent advocate of this particular point of view, putting money in his pockets by buying his comics is tantamount to putting money in NOM's pockets. That your dollar isn't just going to a person with views that oppose yours, but that it's in fact going DIRECTLY to opposing yours. And this is quite apart from the bigotry element inherent in those views, or the appropriateness of a person like this writing for Superman, of all characters. (I've found Righties quick to condemn Gail Simone or Dan Slott's views on gun control as if there were an equivalence, but one can't possibly say they are inappropriate writers for Batgirl and Spider-Man, respectively. Or haven't they looked at these characters' origin stories lately?)

Or one could say that since you're giving your money away to large corporations all the time, it's all going to the Right Wing agenda anyway, no matter how "Liberal" the content actually is. Then again, social media is the new democracy, and each of use can use his or her voice to inch a change along, by swaying public opinion one way or another. All I'm saying is, the issue's a lot more complicated than the Twitter Wars can allow it to be.

Me? The fact that it's NOT a New52 Superman story (Adventures of Superman is an out-of-continuity Superman book à la Legends of the Dark Knight) meant I was probably going to pick it up (and still will, from the third issue). So I'm letting Card's politics get to me? I guess so. I mean, I didn't read the Before Watchmen books and I thought Alan Moore's arguments weren't very convincing. It's not like my pull list is BEGGING for me to add more on top of it. But it goes beyond the financial, in this case. When you support a creator with offensive views, you feel like you're agreeing with those views, and that person is using the fame and money -you're in part giving them to broadcast those views more effectively. I do find Card's "politics" something I cannot encourage with my patronage, and he's not the first I would avoid, not like the plague, but with a casual dismissal. Does no one remember Marc Guggenheim's gay-baiting comments back when he was writing Amazing Spider-Man? And lookie there, he's writing the Arrow digital comic for DC these days.

Obviously, you can do what you like. This isn't a call to arms, it's an attempt at a reflection on the whole affair, the mixed feelings it has generated, and just one piece in my analysis of DC's long public relations nightmare. This is a polarizing issue, so I'll thank you in advance to keep the comments respectful.


Anonymous said...

I'm with ya on this. There are any number of current controversies that can be debated with good points on either side, but when it comes to LGBT rights, it is a matter of denying people their opportunities to be happy for no good reason. That's pretty much the exact opposite of what Superman is about.

That shouldn't be enough to formally disqualify someone from writing Superman, but it's enough to make me spend my dollars elsewhere, and doubt DC's good will just a little bit more.

For a very long time, it took a certain amount of courage to espouse LGBT rights in a public setting, so I could understand DC backing away from an LGBT spokesperson back then. But these days, momentum is clearly in favor of LGBT rights ... so why give work to the vocal homophobe?

snell said...

Rambling thoughts:

The issues of what justifies a reaction, of whether to refrain from a person's work or to organize a boycott/drive for dismissal, is always a curious one.

For example, my mother to this day refuses to watch Woody Allen movies because of the whole Soon-Yi Previn affair. Of course, that will have zero impact on Allen's behavior; but if it makes her feel better, that's her right.

Of course, there are doubtless many homophobes creating comics, and one must ask if pouncing on Card (& Card alone) would do anything to change that. Writer X or Artist Y could very well be on some board and tithing all their money to oppose gay rights, and be just as effective as Card at spreading bigotry, and we would never know.

Yes, Card's very vocal, but is he really a public figure who drives the issue? I'd wager that 95% of people you ask (outside of the geeks) have no idea who he is, or his stands. And driving him out is unlikely to make comics pure.

I'm not planning on buying Card's work. But in some cases I suspect the fervor--which, even if it succeeds, will do little to advance the cause--is, like my mother, more about making oneself feel better. There's nothing wrong with that. But mobs with pitchforks do make me the tiniest bit nervous.

Matthew Turnage said...

If I avoided the work of people I disagreed with politically, socially, or morally I'd probably be left with very few comics, novels, movies, music, etc. that I would enjoy. And that would only be those whose stance I know. I don't really buy into the idea that if you're supporting the work of someone with a given set of views, you're tacitly supporting their cause. We don't know what sorts of causes most creators give their money to, and I really don't see why it matters.

Having said that, I believe everyone should follow their own conscience in such matters, and I applaud a well-reasoned approach such as yours, Siskoid. If someone feels they cannot support the work of a creator because of their views, don't buy it. Tell others your reasons, and encourage them to join you if they are of like opinion. But I find it unacceptable when people call for someone to lose their job over their views. As an American, it flies right in the face of our Constitution, and I don't think people calling for such an action are really thinking about the implications. Or the legalities, for that matter.

For what it's worth, I'm still going to be picking up the print version of Adventures of Superman from the first issue. Although frankly, as a Superman completist, I'd be getting it no matter who was writing or drawing it. ;)

Siskoid said...

Let me ramble back at you Snell:

I think the virtue of organizing a boycott or other such act of censure is that it raises awareness of the problem. Card does use his profile to further his cause (he gets more interviews and attention than I do, for example, whether he registers with the mainstream or not). So it becomes fair game for others to use his profile to denounce and condemn, but also sensitize and educate. And I think that's where such things come from.

Matt, I agree with you that asking for someone to be fired from a private company is extreme and ludicrous. However, I do find some worth in educating said company that their hiring practices leave something to be desired. DC was also severely criticized for the absence of female writers and artists in the New52's staff composition, and that was fair game. And indeed, we might cite the case of Gail Simone, fired off Batgirl and immediately rehired due to instant fan pressure. So that instant democracy - the people have spoken so we better listen - does work in some cases.

In Card's case a vocal boycott may well educate DC on the hiring of creators who advocate certain values, and it's up to the company to decide if the publicity are worth the PR hassle and potential loss of revenue (on that book). And that's a legitimate way of making society progress in that direction.

googum said...

A friend lent me Ender's Game, since she loved it. I think I liked it until about ten pages from the end, when it became obvious nothing was going to be wrapped up and this was actually book 1 of who knows how many. Since I would've avoided it entirely if I'd known that going in, I was done with Card then.

But Card is, put politely, at best a polarizing figure--ah, he sounds like a terrible person. It's not like DC's hiring him to reinvent Superman, so why bother with him? Is it that hard to hire someone that doesn't suck? You can't tell me there's no one out there that wants to write Superman, would do a good job, and is super nice...

Austin Gorton said...

After all, don't we regularly read the works of long-dead authors who were probably misogynists, racists and religious intolerants? Isn't The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic, etc.?

I think in the case of works like that historical distance is on their side - we can read, for example, Merchant of Venice and put the antisemitism in the context of its time, with the knowledge that society has, in general, gotten past the beliefs espoused, or at least gotten better.

We're also safe in the knowledge that the money we may spend on that material isn't going directly into the coffers of a writer or some organization with whose agendas we may disagree, because the author espousing those beliefs is long dead (and most of the works are in the public domain).

Or one could say that since you're giving your money away to large corporations all the time, it's all going to the Right Wing agenda anyway, no matter how "Liberal" the content actually is

There's definitely some truth to that, as well as to the notion that there may be plenty of creators with whose opinions you disagree who are but which just better at keeping their beliefs to themselves. Perhaps that makes them the best agents for their particular agenda, because people who would otherwise boycott their work are ignorant (or, conversely, it may all be a wash as people who would agree with the creator don't support them as fervently since they're similarly in the dark).

For example, I know for a fact that Bill Willingham's political views are vastly different than mine, but at the same time, I've never encountered anything as vitriolic, incendiary or over-the-top from him (I follow him on Twitter) as I have from Card, so I feel more comfortable buying Fables each month even though Willingham and I don't see eye to eye politically. Yet, for all I know, Willingham could be funneling just as much money into the same organizations as Card while keeping quiet about it. I guess that's just a risk I'm willing to take.

At the end of the day, it'd be pretty hard to not contribute money, eventually, to a large corporation, unless you really wanted to upend your life and live some kind of off-the-grid existence. So I think it's just a case of picking your battles, knowing in the end you may be inadvertently helping a cause you disagree with, and someone like Card makes it easy by making so clear and visceral his particular beliefs.

I also believe that any private company has every right to hire whomever they please, but I also believe anyone has a right to express their dissatisfaction with those hiring policies. After all, just because they may have a right to hire whomever they want doesn't mean their hiring policies will automatically be right.

If DC wants to hire, I dunno, nothing but white male writers, for whatever reason, that's their right, but it's also my right to express my dissatisfaction at that decision, to inform others of my reasoning, and to choose not to buy their products as a result.

As for Card specifically, I won't be buying his Superman issues, but I wasn't planning on buying them anyway (I'm down to all of three or four regular DC titles, for no political reason other than most of what I've read hasn't impressed me enough to keep me reading/buying). But I generally try to avoid his work so as not to line his pockets (and the pockets of NOM) directly with my money.

Craig Oxbrow said...

There's plenty of other stuff to pick up.


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