Ender’s Game

November 4, 2013

The Controversy:

I can’t say a word about the movie without first talking about the controversy:  Orson Scott Card, author of the novel this movie is based on, is a vicious homophobe, and there’ve been extensive calls to boycott the film, to express opposition to his views and deprive him of income.  As someone who once counted Card among my favorite authors, and who avidly read his “how to” book on writing science fiction when I was a wee thing, count me among the heartbroken to learn of his current radical, bigoted stances.

I’m just going to throw some links out. More pixels are burning on this film than just about any other over the last few years.  Lots of good reading out there:  Cory Doctorow on not boycotting the film; likewise, an editorial from The Advocate; and John Scalzi’s take.  Also, plenty of people aren’t seeing the film because rather than loving the book, they find it deeply problematic concerning issues of child abuse and preemptive violence. John Kessel’s famous essay on the problems of Ender’s Game is here.

The vitriol toward Card and his work is proportional to the degree that many of these same boycotters loved Ender’s Game.  It’s a book that many people discovered as teenagers, it brought them to science fiction, and it carries such a message of tolerance and peace, that to discover its creator essentially hates them and their loved ones is too much to bear.  It’s a betrayal as deep as what Ender feels at the end of the story.

Another link for you:  Nick Mamatas, discussing complex political aspects of boycotts.  Really, Card is currently making bucketfuls of money on book sales (this is how most writers make the bulk of money from adaptations of their work), and whether he makes money from this particular film is moot because its success or failure will determine his ability to make further deals in the future.  The best that can happen from all this is that more people are now aware of his truly lunatic views.

Rather than not see a movie I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a good long while, I’ve made a donation several times greater than what I paid to see it to the True Colors Fund, which helps homeless LBGT teens.  I like to think this will do more good in the long run than depriving Card of pennies or attention would.  It’s something positive, at least, amidst all the anger.

Why Did I Want to See This?

1) I want to support movies based on high-concept science fiction novels, in the hope of increasing the chances of seeing movies based on oh, let’s say Ringworld, The Stars My Destination, The Left Hand of Darkness, Cyteen, etc.  Also, selflishly, I have friends whose books-to-movie/TV projects might hang on whether Ender’s Game succeeds or fails.  James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series, for example.  I want them to succeed.

2)  My well-documented big spaceship fetish.  Pretty, pretty spaceships.  (It’s an illness, I know.)


I really liked it.  Really.  It’s been twenty years since I’ve read the book but I remembered enough of it to be impressed at how much the movie covered in not a lot of time, and to spend the third act hoping they wouldn’t frak up the end.  There was a moment when I thought they might. (Spoiler:  they didn’t.)  The story is streamlined, but it’s all there, including Peter and Valentine, and Ender’s thematic journey is well-constructed.  I cried at the end, right when I was supposed to.  Battle School was stunning, as was Command School.  I really liked that Petra was bigger and beefier than Ender, who was so physically unassuming.  Nicely done. (I was surprised to find out that Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Petra, is only a year older than Asa Butterfield, who plays Ender.  They really are peers.)

But goddamn it, when are these movies going to figure out they don’t need that prolog and voice over, especially if they’re just going to repeat the exact same footage and information ten minutes later (and much more effectively!) in the story?!  STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP. IT.

Oh, and One More Thing:

When the book first came out in the mid-1980’s, video game culture was still new, and the book tackles issues that were being raised about the effects of virtual violence, and the distance between the player and the violence the player was inflicting.

I propose that in this era of unmanned drones and evidence of drone pilots suffering PTSD, this aspect of the story is as topical as ever.


19 Responses to “Ender’s Game”

  1. Great post. Your note about Ender’s betrayal being akin to fans’ betrayal is such an apt, stinging parallel.

  2. Great analysis. I admire your thought process, as always.

  3. Casey Peter Says:

    You lost me at “vicious homophobe”. As I’ve followed his blogging at hatrackriver and other venues before/during/after the smear campaign, I find this whole “trash the homophobe writer” to be just crap. I do not agree with Card’s stance re: gay marriage, but “vicious homophobe”? Yeah, whatever.

  4. JillC Says:

    Thank you! As one of the first genre books I fell in love with (yes, as a teen), I’ve been on the fence about seeing the movie. Mostly due to Card’s heartbreaking life views, but also for fear it just wouldn’t be done well. You’ve helped me make up my mind!

    And hey! When do we get a Kitty movie 🙂

  5. Toni Says:

    I had heard there was controversy about the movie, but couldn’t find details. Thank you for clearing that up for me!

  6. Hart Says:

    Very nicely put. I’ve been torn because I really DON’T want to support this racist homophobe, but in the end, my son and I read this together when he was in 3rd grade and he asked me, “Mom, can we go see this?” He is 15. He just doesn’t do that very often, and that trumps whatever asshattery Card gets up to. I love your idea, though, of a positive donation in the other direction.

  7. In addition to what’s already been said about Card, I’m also annoyed that they cast Ben Kingsley as a Maori character, when there are plenty of famous Maori actors out there (Temuera Morrison and Cliff Curtis spring to mind).

  8. LupLun Says:

    I had not really heard of any controversy, actually… I must be falling out of touch with the internet.

    My real problem with the film was that there was both too much and too little. Having not read the book, I can’t say how much was cut out, but one thing that was definitely cut out was the point. I never got any sense of the movie having anything interesting to say. The characters are flat, and the themes are sketched only in broad strokes. I’ve seen this in a lot of movies based on larger narratives- they put so much effort into getting all the events on screen that they forget all about making us care about the people involved.

    I got the feeling that it would have been better divided into two movies, one for Battle School and one for Command School, because the story shifts gears rather significantly around the time Ender graduates- a new significant character is introduced, old bit players get upgraded to supporting roles, and the story as a whole ceases to be about Ender trying to become a leader and starts being instead about him learning to be a leader.

    It looks great, though. Yay.

  9. Well put. Thanks for the links!

  10. carriev v. Says:

    The movie got so much more of the content than I was expecting — my expectations must have been very low!

    I will say — the acting was very flat, but I’m not sure I can blame the actors for that. It’s like every character had one job to do, and by gosh they did that one job. But the story’s there.

    Thanks for the comments, all.

  11. Brenda Kirton Says:

    We want other people to be tolerant of our beliefs, should we not extend the same courtesy. Their have been various different actors or singers or other performers whose lifestyles I think are horrendous. ( and no I don’t mean sexual orientation), but I decided long ago not to influence me into thinking their bad behaviors are correct. If their output shows their views on the world, then I am not going to watch or listen their stuff. Carrie I like your solution to offsetting your moral carbon footprint.

  12. Not to pull the “I’m older than you” card, but to think that many people found SF via Ender’s Game is both very sad for me, and also explains a lot about what those people might expect from a genre.

    I mean, I read it and enjoyed it, and read a couple sequels until my interest in Ender tapered off, and I read Card’s Seventh Son series, but they weren’t books that would have drawn me into the genre had I not already been there, I think. Nothing like as good as Le Guin and Tiptree, Delany, Russ, or, more recently, Bull, McHugh, and others.

    Interesting to think about, though.

  13. Casey Peters, I am one to give others the benefit of the doubt, but if you don’t think Card is a vicious homophobe, I’m not sure you’ve been paying attention. Unless your requirement for the definition involves direct physical violence.

  14. carriev v. Says:

    Ann, I think it’s generational — the people I meet who came to SF through Ender’s Game were generally teenagers in the 80’s and 90’s.

    Me, I got here through Clarke. 🙂

  15. Rico Anthony Says:

    James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series was great! I hope they do make those into movies. When I read them, I was also shocked to see that one of them was dedicated to you. Then I remembered that you love space opera, and now I see you are friends.
    I would also love to see The Spinward Fringe series become movies.

  16. Jill Says:

    As a Card fan, I was disappointed to see so many people disturbed by his work because he is purported to be homophobic. I looked it up, I know he is LDS and probably is against gay marriage (people are free to have opinions whether you like them or not). I found that he has been declared homophobic because he spoke out against the ‘homosexual agenda.’ I don’t see how speaking out against an agenda makes someone bigoted. He obviously doesn’t agree with it, and just like the other side speaks his mind. I have yet to ban from my reading people who are for the homosexual agenda (which I don’t agree with and that doesn’t mean that I hate people who are homosexual by the way). Has Card come out to say he hates homosexuals and they should all be fixed or imprisoned (or shot)? No. Doubt it. He probably even has a friend or knows someone who is homosexual. I don’t know him personally, but I do love his tales. I liked Carrie’s tales once too, and I love her movie reviews, but I guess if she can’t broaden her mind to other beliefs, perhaps it’s time for me to move on from her limited view as well. An open mind goes both ways.

  17. Trouble Sturm Says:

    What I hoped for was notably absent. The Demosthenes and Locke debates on the ansible network were some of my favorite scifi depictions of likely uses of computer network for public and political discourse… the phrase “homosexual agenda” is itself rather bigoted. It ffeeds on paranoia and dehumanizes people by lumping them together u der some

  18. I should maybe have attempted to write that with a computer, rather than from my phone; I accidentally hit post while attempting to edit…

    The phrase “homosexual agenda” is itself rather bigoted. It feeds on paranoia and dehumanizes LGBTQ people by lumping all homosexuals together under some vague sinister group with unclear goals. Most homosexuals have very little on their agenda beyond simply living their lives, and possibly pursuing love with people they find attractive. There is some desire to not be hated, bullied, beaten, or fired simply for who we find attractive, but that really seems a universal desire, not an exclusively homosexual one.

    Back to the movie, I had rather hoped to see Demosthenes and Locke at least mentioned. That scenario was one of Science Fictions better guesses on how networked computers would be popularly used.

  19. carriev Says:

    Jill, did you look at any of the links? If Card were just a guy with an opinion that would be fine. But he’s served on the board of a national organization working to oppose gay marriage, and in the past he’s written, in an essay column he did for a conservative website, things like how sodomy laws should stay on the books and how if gay marriage is legalized it would be grounds for armed rebellion against the government. He’s actively worked to harm LGBT standing in society. That’s what people are upset about.

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