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Culture Isn't Chick-fil-A: Why You Shouldn't Boycott 'Ender's Game'

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by Sam Adams
November 1, 2013 1:31 PM
24 Comments
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Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford in 'Ender's Game'

In the runup to today's release of Ender's Game, Alyssa Rosenberg linked to her article about whether or not viewers who object to Orson Scott Card's opposition to gay marriage should boycott the film. Rosenberg suggests a number of approaches, ranging from to simply not seeing the film to employing "moral offsets," donating the price of a ticket (or more) to organizations that support gay marriage. It's an eloquent exploration of the politics of consumption, and I don't mean to dismiss it when I say I lean towards a simpler answer:

No, you should not boycott Ender's Game.

Partly it's because, as the New York Times's Juliet Lapidos wrote, the proposed boycott is "closer to blacklisting," an attempt to make a pariah of a a public figure with divergent views. (For the purposes of this piece, I ask you to stipulate, along with a majority of Americans, that gay marriage should be legal, and that those who oppose it are on the wrong side of history. You may disagree, but that's not really the point at hand.) Rosenberg freely admits she'd like to see Card become "radioactive."

Let's stipulate as well that, even if Card, as was recently reported, won't see a dime of Ender's Game's profits, it doesn't matter, since he stands to reap substantial reward from his novel's increased profile. Whether or not a penny of the box-office take ends up in Card's pocket, every ticket sold benefits him indirectly. Yes, most of the money will go to the movie studio and the director and the actors who had the clout to demand back-end points in their contracts. But morally, it shouldn't make a difference how little Card makes. Profit is profit.

But here's the thing: Culture isn't Chick-fil-A. Boycotts are blunt instruments by nature: You can't hurt the owners of a national chain without hurting the people who work for it. But at least when do you, the most you're missing is a (by all accounts delicious) chicken sandwich. Your understanding of the country and its culture isn't impoverished by not sampling Chick-fil-A's wares.

The same can't be said for Ender's Game, or The Passion of the Christ, or any cultural product made by people you or I or anyone else might consider loathsome. Roman Polanski raped a teenage girl and fled the U.S. rather than do his time; Chris Brown is an unapologetic abuser of women. But the former remains a vital artist, and the latter's popularity is largely undimmed. For the most part, I choose not to listen to Brown's music, partly because he's vile, partly because it's terrible, but I've also seen fathers hoist their teenage daughters on their shoulders at one of his shows, and as someone who attempts to understand where the culture's at, that's not something I can just ignore.

I'm not saying you should see Ender's Game; it's pretty meh, although Asa Butterfield is a star by anyone's reckoning. But the cultural dialogue, and even progress itself, isn't served when we ostracize or tune out those who disagree with us. If it's not okay for right-wingers to have a cable network that only reports the news they want to hear, then it's not okay for progressives to cherry-pick their cultural products. We all make decisions about what we do and don't consume, and it's impossible to get to everything. By all means, see one of the movies Rosenberg recommends as an alternative; a double bill of Ender's Game and Dallas Buyers Club might yield fascinating results. But don't ignore it. If you want to engage -- or even do battle -- with people who don't share your views, you have to understand them first.

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24 Comments

  • balashi | November 4, 2013 10:54 AMReply

    Wow, the underhanded, passive-agressive, superiority-complex that is the defining characteristic of the liberal mindset is in full fledge here.

    I've got a reason not to boycott the movie, and I don't need six pedantic paragraphs to share it ... it's simply this: How about get the hell over it and stop being a whiny-ass bleeding heart!? Everyone has an opinion, most of them are wrong - yours are wrong and mine are wrong at different times - but we're all human and we all have to share this miserable rock. Please don't make it any more miserable than it already is with your constant whining. Just go or don't go, but get the hell over it. The guy doesn't like gay marriage - I don't like mustard - who gives a shit!?

  • Sisco | November 3, 2013 2:02 AMReply

    I think is was a half - assed article, I learned nothing from nor did I understand the point. Endear Game is a bad movie. It looks bad , the cast is bad, the music, the whole package is bad bad bad. To liken it to passion of the Christ is ridiculous. Bad analogy. Artists are people , people are flawed , just like this article. Boycotting because the writer is against gay marriage is just bad form. Boycott the movie because it's a really bad film spewed forth yet again by the Hollywood machine . Boycott because they actually spent 100 million on that garbage instead of doing something useful with that money. Boycott the movie because Harrison ford has done a good film in 20 years. Boycott that film and all the trash they feed us.

    Gay marriage, it's a personal opinion. I think gay people should get married if they feel like participating in another bullshit institution. Personally I think the idea if marriage is a complete joke, it was only useful for business and land owners. Most people who married in the past didn't even like each other let alone loved.

    Tolerance is the issue . Tolerate the bigots and small minded they're the once that help us to evolve, as example of backward age- old cycle thinking. Use them as example of what not to be .

    Lay off Polanski. Judge these people by the art that they produce. They're not your friends they're or your co-workers. Artist use different mediums to express they're view of the world. If you are looking to like artists by they're personal , political opinions will leave you very bored . Most artists are assholes. The art is the only way we make our peace with this place.

    You're next article should be an apology for wasting my time.

  • pol | November 2, 2013 5:34 PMReply

    Or -- I'll boycott whatever the hell I want to boycott and promote boycotts of whatever the hell I want.
    "If it's not okay for right-wingers to have a cable network that only reports the news they want to hear... "

    They do. They have many. They are a malignant plague across talk radio. This is culture war, not show and tell. Grow up.

  • Mike D'Angelo | November 1, 2013 8:58 PMReply

    I don't really understand what you're advocating here, Sam. "By all means, see one of the movies Rosenberg recommends as an alternative; a double bill of Ender's Game and Dallas Buyers Club might yield fascinating results. But don't ignore it." I was planning to ignore Ender's Game for the same reason I ignored, say, Kick-Ass 2: because it looks eminently ignorable. I certainly don't plan to see it, and never did (barring an unexpected barrage of rave reviews, which did not materialize). But I certainly don't want to be the progressive equivalent of Fox News, so instead I should do...what? Not being snarky; I honestly don't get it. Or are you speaking exclusively to people who want to see the movie but are forcing themselves not to for political reasons?

  • Sam Adams | November 2, 2013 1:26 PM

    I'm not mandating everyone see the movie (whew, right?), just that it be treated like any other. "Don't make crap movies" seems like a fine message to send; "Don't associate with X sort of people" not so much.

  • ietcetera | November 2, 2013 12:25 PM

    I agree. Is it just the official term "boycott" that Sam has a problem with?

    "I'm not saying you should see Ender's Game" but you're saying we shouldn't not see it?

  • Curtis Jensen | November 1, 2013 6:44 PMReply

    If this were simply about separating the artist from the art I might agree. Sadly the book has already topped the Publisher's Weekly and New York Times Sci-Fi best sellers lists in 2012 and 2013 as a result of the publicity generated by the film production. Those are actual profits going into the pockets of a living artist. It is a small logical leap to conclude that a block buster film will draw curious new readers to buy the book and therefore line the pockets of a passionate and dedicated bigot who has demonstrated he will give time and money to promote hatred. Turns out that culture is actually more impactful than Chick-Fil-A and skipping Ender's Game is an even more important moral and ethical act than skipping a pickle laden chicken sandwich.

  • James Irwin | November 4, 2013 1:25 PM

    Turns out your last sentence is your own best argument against your own point. The actual contents of the book (or film for that matter) do more to oppose Card's espoused views than any boycott could do. Infact, anyone reading the book or seeing the film will be exposed to humanistic and moral values and philosophies that are in stark contrast to any of his personal publicly known views. The content of the story fights it's own battle of opposition to Card's views. Sure, you can deprive Card of some pocket change (and, how much of those sales in 2012/2013 were due to the publicity of the film and how much to the notoriety of the controversy? I'm betting more on the latter) but the value of his creations actually feed the culture with the kind of ideas that actually grow the type of thinking that will oppose his views. The boycott does more to deprive the populace than it does to deprive Card.

  • balashi | November 4, 2013 10:58 AM

    Throughout the history of mankind, murderers, rapists, pedophiles, arsonists, swindlers, cheaters, liars, bigots, racists, sexists, and lawyers have ALL made profits off of the things we buy in the marketplace. It's a fact of life - everyone is wicked in some capacity. Everything you buy every day will ultimately continue to fund someone's existence who does wicked and evil things. You might shop at a store owned by a man who will beat his child to death ... does that mean you aided in child abuse? Of course not ... so just get over it - if you want to go to the movie, go - if not, don't. But this "we're going to change the world by not going to a movie" ... it's just Junior High level thinking... stop it, all of you!

  • John | November 1, 2013 5:00 PMReply

    Jesus, you people are pathetic. I miss the days before the Internet, when brainless wonders like yourselves could only voice your vapid, ignorant opinions to indulgent friends and family. If you preach equality and freedom, then act like it. Simply because someone's views differ from your own does not give you the right to lambast them. One can like the art, but not the artist. If you can't grasp that fact, then move along quietly.

  • balashi | November 4, 2013 11:00 AM

    Careful, John... you need to adjust your groupthink! Individual opinions will NOT be tolerated in out nation! I'm sending the gestapo to your house to get you!

  • serena | November 1, 2013 5:12 PM

    You're one of those "turn your brain off while you watch a movie" type people, aren't you?

  • Steveb | November 1, 2013 3:34 PMReply

    Yea, food is not a part of culture at all...

  • Taylor | November 1, 2013 3:04 PMReply

    I don't really think you can compare this to Chick-fil-A... After all, Chick-fil-A said they were against gay marriage, didn't want gay employees, and despised gay culture. That was an entire institution making homophobic policy and therefore resulting in a (deserved) boycott. Ender's Game, however, isn't homophobic. The man who wrote it is a homophobic loser, but we have no reason to believe the studio, director, actors, or anyone on the film for that matter, shares his warped world view. This is not an institution, it's one guy. The film also has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality. I've read the book and it's not even hinted at once (although there are some obvious sexism problems.) If you walk into a Chik-fil-A you're giving money to an institution that discriminates against gay employees and costumers. If you see this movie, you're seeing a movie made by thousands of people, most of whom are allies/gay themselves. Just because the original author was a bigot, doesn't mean the movie will relay his sentiments. This film takes no stance whatsoever because it's not about romance.

  • balashi | November 4, 2013 11:05 AM

    Wow, the MSM has REALLY had its way with you if you think that the owner of Chik-Fil-A or ANYONE in that organization ever said anything even remotely close to resembling a desire to ban gay employees! Please, find me any quote from an ACTUAL Chik-Fil-A executive who ever said this - I'll be waiting...

    Also, try to comprehend ... a corporation is not a living entity - Chik-Fil-A is not a sentient being. Therefore, Chik-Fil-A cannot express an anti-gay agenda or "make homophobic policy." If you would like to identify individuals WITHIN that corporation who have done so, then again, please provide some actual evidence of this, and then we can condemn those individuals. But, the logic of THIS article (that not everyone involved in the movie is homophobic, and therefore, do not deserve to be boycotted) applies equally to the entire Chik-Fil-A organization.

  • FILM CRIT HULK | November 1, 2013 3:02 PMReply

    1. BOYCOTTS ARE ABOUT CREATING AWARENESS OF AN ISSUE AND PROMPTING PEOPLE TO TAKE ACCOUNTABILITY BY PUTTING PUBLIC PRESSURE ON THE ECONOMICS OF A SITUATION, REGARDLESS OF ACTUAL AFFECTATION.

    2. THE "TOLERATE PEOPLE'S BIGOTED INTOLERANCE" LINE OF LOGIC IS DEEPLY TROUBLING. FOR ONE, WE ALREADY UNDERSTAND THEM. THERE'S ACTUALLY SO LITTLE TO FREAKING UNDERSTAND ABOUT IT. IT'S SIMPLE. IT'S FEAR. IT'S HATE. IT'S ALL THAT STUFF. AND QUITE FRANKLY, ALL THE ATTEMPTS TO MITIGATE IT WITH HIGH-MINDED ALLUSIONS TO A GRAY AREA OF SUPPOSEDLY RATIONAL CONVERSATION (PARTICULARLY WITH A GROUP WHO AREN'T WORKING OFF A RATIONAL TRUTH, BUT AN EMOTIONAL ONE) JUST END UP PROPAGATING AND LEGITIMIZING OF HATE AS "A VIEW."

    THE BOYCOTT ISN'T IGNORING AND AVOIDING THE CONVERSATION. IT IS THE CONVERSATION.

  • I4N | November 2, 2013 7:21 PM

    I didn't read your comment because you chose all-caps which comes across as yelling, which, if true, isn't necessary to prove a point if your facts are their and your arguments, sound.

  • Sam Adams | November 1, 2013 3:55 PM

    Boycotts usually have concrete aims: Divest in South Africa, etc. What's the aim here? Don't have any association with homophobes? The only point is to be punitive, which is not "THE CONVERSATION."

  • tbw | November 1, 2013 2:23 PMReply

    I guess the author is suggesting that we draw a line between FoxNews and 20th Century Fox? hmmmm...

  • Matt Cornell | November 1, 2013 2:08 PMReply

    You refuse to listen to Chris Brown "because he's vile" but Polanski is "a vital artist." Sounds like more special pleading from white cinephiles.

  • Taylor | November 1, 2013 3:07 PM

    I agree 100%. It's okay to be a person who chooses to separate personal opinion from artwork, but I've seen far too many people in Hollywood blacklist Mel Gibson for making racist/bigoted statements and then vote for Polanski to win an Oscar knowing he anally raped a 14 year old.

  • Sam Adams | November 1, 2013 2:53 PM

    You want to argue that Chris Brown's music is anywhere near as good as Roman Polanski's movies, be my guest. I have sampled both, and I emphatically disagree. (R. Kelly, say, is a stickier wicket.)

  • Alan | November 1, 2013 2:00 PMReply

    You must be joking.

    People who don't like homophobes and homophobia should boycott his books AND this movie.

  • Mr. Whipple | November 1, 2013 1:52 PMReply

    "Culture isn't Chic-fil-A" could be interpreted as saying "Triumph of the Will isn't propaganda." ALL culture is beyond being judged for its political content? I agree there is no reason to boycott the film. It should also be pointed out that many of us will not see it for reasons that have nothing to do with the political beliefs of its writer.

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