On the Ethical Consumption of Media, Ender’s Game Edition by Jesse Manley

On November 1st, the long awaited adaptation of Ender’s Game will hit theaters, and many science fiction fans cum theater-goers will be faced with a difficult question: “How do I separate Orson Scott Card’s magnum opus from his virulent bigotry?”

Card claims that Ender’s Game isn’t homophobic, telling Entertainment Weekly that, “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.” In a press release, production company Lionsgate stated that, “The simple fact is that neither the underlying book nor the film itself reflect [Card’s] views in any way, shape or form.”

Oh honey.  No one's called it buggery since the 1950s.
“Oh honey. No one’s called it buggery since the 50s.”

Unfortunately for Card and Lionsgate, that’s not how literary criticism works. It doesn’t take a PhD. in English to apply a queer theory reading to Ender’s Game, and subsequently come to some uneasy deductions. The enemies that threaten to destroy life as we know it are called “buggers.” Humanity’s lone hope is a white, male outsider who defies all convention to overcome the horde. I’ll let you decide which is easily read as a placeholder for “The Gay Agenda” and which is Card, himself.

To be fair, Card is hardly the only artist to run afoul of basic human decency. Charles McGrath’s op-ed from The New York Times points out some of the questionable-to-downright-deplorable ethics of juggernauts like Wagner, Pound, Degas, Eliot, Mailer, Caravaggio, Johnson, Byron, Rimbaud, Hemingway, and Dickens.  All of these jerks are dead, so they don’t stand to directly benefit when we consume their media. This makes the pill considerably easier to swallow.

“The enemy’s gate is DOWN!”

But what of the ones who are still alive? The Cards, the Chris Browns, the Mel Gibsons, et al? When we consume their media, we put money in their pocket, and we incentivize their publishers and production companies to consort with their ilk in the future. Do we have to skip their offerings if we want to keep a clear conscience? I hope not, because I’ve been waiting on an Ender’s Game movie since I was 14.

I propose a simple solution: do more good than harm. Want to buy a Chris Brown, Brad Paisley, or Robin Thicke album? Feel like digging further into Ender’s Shadow? Braveheart on Blu-Ray? I am pledging to offset any ethically questionable media I purchase by making a donation to a charity that supports victims that they damage. You cannot eat your cake and have it, too. It’s unavoidable that by paying for their wares, you support them and their politics. But much like polluting companies purchase carbon offsets to balance-out the emissions they produce, one can purchase an ethical offset for consumption of polluting media.

"Eh... close enough." Photo by David Shankbone
“Eh… close enough.”
Photo by David Shankbone

And in order to do MORE good than harm, I am going to make the donation twice the price of the cost of the media buy. That will make sure that it’s not just “an even swap,” and it will make sure that I’m really calculating the true cost of supporting that media. By essentially tripling the cost of consuming unethical media, I hope to force myself to make better decisions about what I consume by placing a representative monetary tax on the questionable content. If I keep having to pay $36 for movies written by bigots, I’ll be much more inclined to jump at the chance to see a movie made by a decent human being.

So, when I go see Ender’s Game on November 1st, I’m going to make a $25 donation to GLAAD. And when I do so, I’m going to make the donation in the name of the Orson Scott Card. And I’m forwarding the confirmation to Mr. Card’s email so he knows just how much his work inspired me to support the LGBTQ community. Just to be spiteful.

I hope you’ll make a similar pledge and join me in a spiteful protest on November 1st.

About Jesse Manley