Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Politics and Art

It's not like I don't know that those two things have been intertwined for like forever. People have used their art to express strongly held political beliefs for centuries. Picasso's Guernica comes to mind right off the top of my head.

I'm thinking about another intersection of art and politics these days. There is a movement advocating that people boycott the movie Ender's Game due out this fall. Orson Scott Card, the author of the book that the movie is based on, has been very vocal about his anti-gay and anti-marriage equality views. The LGBT community doesn't want to support Card and are calling for a boycott of the film.

I happen to be pro-gay rights and pro-marriage equality. I find the things Card has said publicly about these issues to be hideous stomach-turning hate speech. I'm not sure boycotting this movie is the right way to make those feelings clear, though.

The movie does not espouse any anti-gay ideas. At least, no one I've heard is arguing that. The film company making the movie is known to be friendly to the LGBT community. Card supposedly got paid up front for the rights so he's already been paid. Boycotting the movie won't stop the money from it from flowing into Card's pockets.

Near as I can tell, no one is advocating that people boycott Card's actual book.

Now I've opted not to see certain movies because of how I feel about the people involved in making the film. I won't see Woody Allen movies and I won't see Roman Polanski movies. I don't care how talented they are. I think they're both pedophiles and I don't want any of my money in their pockets. Knowing what actors are like in their personal lives does color how I view them on screen. Russell Crowe makes me want to snarl. I generally avoid his movies.

Something about this boycott feels wrong to me, though. Not only are they not punishing the right people, in my opinion, I worry about movements to boycott an artist's work based on that artist's political leanings.

I have a lot of dearly held political beliefs. I was raised in a very liberal Democratic home and I have not strayed from that path. I voted for Obama and think George W. Bush might possibly be the worst president in United States history and pretty much broke this country in ways that will take decades to fix. I don't spend a lot of time ranting about it, but I'm not shy about my views either.

I'm pretty sure there's a whole lot of people who disagree with me (hence the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004). I would still like them to buy my books. I'm sure my world view informs those books in some ways, but I don't intentionally put politics in them (except maybe the one that's coming out next year, but that's another story). I don't think Republicans should boycott my books because I'm a Democrat so it makes me nervous when we boycott Card because he's a homophobic idiot.

Although Card didn't just mention those beliefs. He served on the board of the National Organization on Marriage which was instrumental in getting Proposition 8 passed in California, banning gay marriage. If someone makes a point of getting involved politically is it then okay to boycott his work based on his beliefs? I helped raise money for John Kerry and Barack Obama. Is that enough to make conservatives boycott my work? Where's the line when privately held beliefs become public fodder?

I don't have a conclusion to this issue. I wish I did. All I see are murky gray areas and I can't quite figure out how I feel except confused and unsettled.

Anyone want to set me straight?


Anonymous said...

Seems to be somewhat of an age old dilemma. I think we can appreciate or not appreciate one's work in spite of who they are or what they represent or stand for. I sure love a lot of music by various artists, none of whom I respect as the people they are (their beliefs, character, lifestyle, poor decisions/choices, etc)....but, that doesn't indicate that the end product they are delivering is not sheerly awesome! If I were not to read a book because of the author that wrote it, or listen to music because of the musician, or watch a movie because of the producer, than I wouldn't be reading anything, listening to anything, or watching anything.

Maureen McGowan said...

YA and sci-fi authors have had a (justified) hate-on for Card for a while now. It's only since the movie that the general public has found out about this.

I liked the book. Didn't love it. But liked it. I thought the premise was amazing and some of the scenes were gripping, but overall, it lacked something for me. And I read it before I heard anything about the author. I do admit that learning about the author did not make me want to pick up the book again to analyze what worked and didn't work for me.

But I do want to see the movie. And unless it gets panned, I will. And I agree that a boycott of the movie is hurting the wrong people.

But maybe all this threat of a boycott and the media coverage has done what the boycott organizers wanted already? It's drawn attention to the issue. It's outed Orson Scott Card as a homophobic a-hole to people outside the sci-fi writers community. (who've known it for years).. Maybe that's enough.

Anonymous said...

you raise such a good point, it's far to boycott Card, but not the movie, where the intentions were solid to begin with.
I can usually see past the asshole if the talent is there. Oh and I'm right there with you on Bush as well.

Eileen said...

Interesting point, Maureen. You're right. I didn't know about Card before all this started. I haven't read Ender's Game, either. If the point was to raise awareness about Card and what he's done, I think they've done a good job (and maybe I just helped a little?).

The true irony for me? I probably wouldn't have gone to see the movie anyway. I wasn't really interested. Still, I'd like my reasons for staying away to be solid. :-)

Ginny Bean said...

I understand the grays here. I believe in economic boycotts and use them myself to make me feel like I have a little bit of control in my life. That said, I don't want people to not buy my stuff because I am a liberal. (and proud of it.) I am not ashamed to say it, but I don't think it has a place in my public life. So I don't bring it up. Oh, except for my personal facebook. And petitions (recall Walker, etc.) . And contributions. And, if I am asked. Hummm.

If I am entitled to my beliefs, others are entitled to theirs. (I can just hear Ron yelling - but not if they're WRONG!) LOL!

Online voting said...

If I were not to read a publication because of the author that composed it, or hear to music because of the instrumentalist, I think they've finished a good job.

Eileen said...

Yep, Ginny, you see my dilemma. Of course, neither of us are serving on national boards of organizations, either. Maybe once you take it that far, you recognize that you will be judged for your politics? I mean, we all have opinions, right?

Maureen McGowan said...

To be honest, I didn't know about Card when I bought Ender's Game. I just heard that it was an action-packed middle grade book that did very well and so I figured I should read it, given the genre I'm writing in now.

But in chatting with some of my more hooked-into-the-sci-fi-world friends, I learned about Card. I guess he hijacked a few keynotes at conferences etc to spew his hate speech. (And from what I've heard, it was hate speech, not a rational stating of his opinions. His reasons for being against gay marriage are all full of hate-mongering rhetoric.) I've heard of writers boycotting conferences because he was one of the featured authors, etc.

And I think I agree with that. Or at least not going to his talk or panel at the conference...

But thinking about this more, I think his art is his art, and Ender's Game is not homophobic. And the movie should probably stand on its own.

Still, I do hope this controversy has raised some awareness.

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