The organizers of a boycott against the upcoming movie "Ender's Game" are not satisfied with the filmmakers' attempts to make amends with the gay community. Their campaign, "Skip Ender's Game," protests the anti-LGBT views of Orson Scott Card, the original book's author, who stands to profit from the film.
"Regardless of everyone's good intentions, they still cut this guy a check," says Jono Jarrett, a founding member of the boycott's sponsor, the "queer geek community" organization Geeks Out.
The film's director Gavin Hood and producer Roberto Orci spoke about the boycott to the gay and lesbian publication The Advocate in an article posted this week. They argued that the story – its author's public anti-gay stances aside – has parallels to the struggles of the gay community and that the film examines issues of equality and identity.
The boycott's organizers claim their concern is not the with the art itself, but with where the money goes – specifically to Card, though details of the contract he has with the studio for the book's rights are still unknown.
Card was a board member of the National Organization for Marriage (he appears to have stepped down only recently), which leads efforts to oppose same-sex marriage. He has also made many controversial public statements about gay rights, calling homosexuality a "dysfunction" and arguing that the government should be overthrown if it permits same-sex marriage.
"It's about my dollar, and I don't want a single cent of the money I work so hard to make to go to that man, after what he said," Jarrett says. "He is welcome to his opinion but he has no right to my money."
Months before the boycott was announced, industry watchers expected the film adaptation of the 1985 sci-fi book to draw scrutiny from gay rights activists. Lionsgate, which is producing "Ender's Game," made clear in a statement that the views of Card do not reflect the studio's. It said Card's opinions "are completely irrelevant to a discussion of 'Ender's Game,'" and the film "not only transports viewers to an entertaining and action-filled world, but it does so with positive and inspiring characters who ultimately deliver an ennobling and life-affirming message." The studio has also promised to host a LGBT benefit with the film's premiere.
Even Orson Scott Card addressed the controversy in statement saying, "Ender's Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984." He called the issue of gay marriage "moot" with the Supreme Court's strike down of the Defense of Marriage Act in June. "Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute," he said.
Organizers of the boycott, however, are skeptical of the filmmakers' intentions in reaching out to the gay community and Card's reasons for toning down his anti-LGBT language. "He's not a fool. He's got a lot of money riding on this program," Jarrett says.
But even those not involved in the film who consider themselves allies of the LGBT community have grappled with the decision to boycott. While some have made the case for boycott, others are not so sure it's the best way to show their support for gay rights. Think Progress' Alyssa Rosenberg has written extensively about being torn about supporting the film, as she calls the book a "foundational text." Dustin Lance Black – writer of the film "Milk" about LGBT hero Harvey Milk – called the boycott "misguided," arguing that it targets an industry that is overwhelmingly LGBT-friendly. A New York Times editorial said, "what Geeks Out has in mind is closer to blacklisting."
Jarrett says 4,000 people have signed the petition but Geeks Out is even more encouraged by requests to hold alternative events around country the night of the film's Nov. 1 opening. He also says he is open to the opportunity to discuss the film and its messages, albeit by waiting for it come to out on Netflix or by renting it from the library. "We're welcome to have a conversation. Conversation is free. Movies are not," he says.