Today, while eating lunch, I saw an interesting op-ed in the LA Times titled “Should You Boycott ‘Ender’s Game’ Film Because of the Author’s Views?“. This got me thinking — which was dangerous because I was coming off a migraine, and didn’t have the energy to write something up. So, I’m writing it up over dinner 🙂
For those who aren’t familiar with this controversy: Hollywood has taken Orson Scott Card’s bestseller Ender’s Game, and turned it into a movie. Some folks are calling for a boycott of the movie because OSC has taken some extremely homophobic positions in the past. The producers of the movie are distancing themselves from Card, holding benefits for GLBT organizations and saying the story in the movie does not reflect homophobia in any way. Card has issued statements indicating he will follow the law of the land.
What are my thoughts? Simply put, if you are going to boycott, make sure if affects the people you want it to affect.
Far too often, alas, we don’t do that. We get upset at the price of gasoline, and so boycott the pumps for a day. This affects the station owners, who are barely making a profit anyway. It does nothing to touch the oil companies — they’ve already sold the oil to the stations.
So my question is: Will a boycott of Ender’s Game affect OSC at all? He already made the money off the movie when he sold the story; it is unlikely he has profit participation (writers rarely do). All a boycott will do is lessen the likelihood of him selling a second story to Hollywood. Given that’s not where he makes his primary money, it’s probably not a big concern. [ETA: This is also true if the movie leads to other books on his material — his income will be limited for source authors are paid bubkis, and it is unlikely he would also do the screenplay.]
Who will a boycott hurt? It will hurt the studios, and all they employ, by further dragging down profits. It might hurt the blockbuster science fiction genre. Depending on where the film is in production, it could hurt special effects artists, actors and such. Further, given the prevalence of GLBT in the Hollywood community, it may very well hurt the people it is supposed to help. It will certainly impact any donations that might have gone to GLBT causes out of guilt of association with Card.
So how do you protest Card’s homophobia without boycotting? Simple. Send in a donation — perhaps on a Card — to an organization that promotes GLBT rights in the amount of your ticket — and send it in honor of Orson Scott Card. Show — with your donation — that Card’s audience does not support homophobia. If you must boycott, boycott his books — those directly profit him. Better yet — buy his books used, and again donate the difference between the price of the new and used book to a GLBT-positive charity. [ETA: This is especially true if the movie makes you want to read the book — buy the book used or read it in the library so he doesn’t not receive a royalty.]
Boycotts are rarely effective unless they can have a financial impact on the boycotted directly. Skipping a day of gas doesn’t hurt the oil companies — buying an electric car does. Boycotting Ender’s Game doesn’t impact Card or help the GLBT community; making donations in Card’s name does.
5 Replies to “Effective Boycotts”
I simply want to note that if Ender’s game the movie turns into Ender’s game the series of movies it is very likely to impact Card’s bottom line. Look at George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series. Leaving aside the direct impact of the show itself, all the books in Martin’s series made it back onto the best seller list as a result of the show – many of them years after the original publication date.
I actually thought about that writing this. But I also think that, given his position, his financial benefit will be limited in that it will be the fee to use the material — he wouldn’t be the actual screenwriter that adapts the material (and writers don’t make that much — it is the producers and directors). As for the impact on his published books, that’s why I made my comments about buying them used — those that are aware enough to think about a boycott will make the attempt to buy used.
I note that OSC is credited as a producer on the Ender’s Game movie , so his financial gain from it may be better than you suspect. Most of the other people you mention as gaining from the movie don’t strike me as having back end participation – they’ve gotten their salary already, and I don’t think the movie bombing hurts them.
Finally, there is also the issue of what he will do with the money. If I thought my money was going for him to purchase a palatial mansion, that would be one thing. But it will go to support the National Organization For Marriage (where Card was a director until recently) or to foment violent revolution (if we take what it says in the linked article seriously:
All good points. We really do need to find out what his financial participation in the production is. That does fit with my essential notion: Only boycott if it will affect the person you want it to affect.
Some interesting suggestions for alternatives to the boycott from Alyssa Rosenberg.
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