When the personal is political: DC Comics and Orson Scott Card

I was a comics freak back in the day. And then I kind of stopped reading/buying them during a long stretch of grad school and whatever else, but I followed comics news peripherally because I love superhero stuff and all the attendant angst they go through. Plus, I’ve developed an affinity for particular artists and writers.

A couple years ago, I started reading/collecting again. Most of my stable is DC-related, though I do have a Marvel series I’m following. That’s why when this particular bit of news hit, I was interested. And as expected, it has generated a lot of controversy.

The news: DC Comics has hired award-winning sci fi writer Orson Scott Card to write the latest Superman digital series. His book Ender’s Game has also been turned into a movie, starring Harrison Ford, which is forthcoming.

The issue: I have long since stopped supporting Card or his work because of his public anti-gay stances, and apparently, a lot of people have taken exception to DC’s hiring of him to write the storylines for Superman. A larger issue here, of course, is whether or not to take the personal beliefs of people into consideration when we purchase their books or go to their movies. We all make choices about those things, which is a wonderful thing. But I want to address this specific incident, since that’s the one in the news.

Here’s a sampling of some of the things Card has said and done over the years with regard to LGBT people:

In 2009, he was named to the board of a nationally known anti-gay and anti-marriage equality organization that has said and promoted some truly nutty and crappy things about LGBT people (see here, here, and here and don’t forget these other things this group has been up to).

In the past, he has advocated overthrowing the government if the vote on California’s Proposition 8 failed (that was 2008). You may remember that Prop 8 denied marriage equality to same-sex couples. It passed in the election, but was challenged in the courts and has been found unconstitutional, so it’s been appealed to the Supreme Court, which will hear the case in March of this year.

Here’s another of Card’s anti-gay manifestos, this one from 2004 in which he’s lambasting Massachusetts for passing marriage equality. In that one, he claims that marriage equality is a “devastating social experiment” and claims that gay people already have the right to marry. As long as it’s someone of the opposite sex.

A quote from that manifesto:

However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. Nor does society benefit in any way from treating it as if it were.

And another:

They [LGBT people who want to marry] steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes.

I could go on. But go read it for yourselves. And of course there’s this manifesto he wrote in 1990 (he’s had issues with LGBT people for a good long while), in which he called for the continued criminalization of homosexuality:

Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those whoflagrantly [sic] violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.

So I’m torn, here. I get that Card is a good writer, and that he can tell a great story. I get that. But DC has been making history in terms of presenting LGBT characters. Batwoman, for example, is an out lesbian.

Here she is in her alter-identity Kate Kane with her love interest, Detective Chase:

[see the bigger version at AfterEllen; panels from Batwoman #9]

And DC has also started presenting Green Lantern as gay.

[From Daily Beast, Earth 2, #2]

And let’s give props to Marvel, also, for the wedding of X-Man Northstar to his longtime partner, Kyle Jinadu. Here’s Northstar in his alter-identity proposing:

[From Badhaven.com, Astonishing X-Men #50]

So I guess I’m wondering what Card can do for Superman that other writers can’t. And how will Card deal with all those LGBT people in the comics industry, whether working in it or faithful fans? I don’t begrudge the man this employment opportunity. Hell, we all have to work and it’s a great opportunity for him. But this is a guy who has openly advocated for the criminalization of relationships of thousands of his fellow Americans. He has condemned thousands of his fellow Americans as somehow “less than” him, and made condescending and offensively ridiculous claims like LGBT people can “change” (then it must be just as easy for straight people to turn gay. . .just sayin’) and marry someone of the opposite sex, that marriage equality will somehow ruin his marriage, and will force everybody to engage in and accept homosexuality, and that gay people will destroy society. And how about THIS gem, from his 2004 manifesto:

The dark secret of homosexual society — the one that dares not speak its name — is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.

Sorry, no. Suffice it to say that reputable and scientific sources do not support this theory. And the myriad LGBT people I know aren’t trying to somehow “escape” the “homosexual community” and “live normally.” Because they already ARE living normally, as the people they are, who just happen to be LGBT.

So that’s why I personally don’t support Card’s work, as good a writer and story-teller as he might be. I won’t buy his stuff, I won’t read it. But that’s a personal choice of mine. If others choose to support his writing, well, go for it. That’s what’s great about this country. We have the right to make those choices, and to say whatever we want. As odious as Card’s diatribes against LGBT people are, he has the right to say those things. But people like me also have the right to point out the statements people like him make, and we have the right to challenge his views and express different opinions, and spend our money elsewhere. So when he claims that he’s being “silenced” by “the Left” or the “hypocrites of homosexuality,” no. He’s not. He’s being called out by people who are damn sick and tired of hearing people like him talk patronizingly or cruelly about their lives and relationships and children and families and friends.

And maybe it’ll help you understand why I feel this way if you go back and read Mr. Card’s manifestos and replace the word “homosexual” with, say, “Jew.” Or “Catholic.” Or “Latino.” If he had written those diatribes about any other people, he’d be rightfully slammed for it. So why is it when people write hateful things about LGBT people and they’re called out for it, they immediately claim they’re “being silenced”? What’s really happening is they’re FINALLY being called out, and forced to acknowledge and own the crappy, false, ridiculous, offensive, hurtful things they’ve said about millions of LGBT people.

Regardless, I wish him good luck in his new venture and maybe, just maybe, he’ll actually learn a thing or two from DC as an industry and from DC readers. And as for DC, well, I won’t buy any comic they publish that Card has written, but I will continue to buy the series that I’m currently following from them. That’s what’s great about this. I have choices. And that’s what’s great about being American. I have the right to express my opinions, too. And Mr. Card, my apologies, but you’ve written and said some super-douchey things, and if you can’t take the heat of public debate about the asshatted and douche-terious things you’ve said or deal with public disapproval for saying publicly hateful things about people, then perhaps you should get the hell out of the kitchen.

Happy reading, happy writing, and for reals, happy Fat Tuesday!

15 thoughts on “When the personal is political: DC Comics and Orson Scott Card

  1. Excellent! I can’t even come up with the words to describe how upset I was that Card, author of my favorite sci-fi novel of all time, is a bigoted asshole. As you said, if he applied any of his comments to any other group, he’s be universally vilified (at least in public). Who knows, maybe he does in private. But I cannot and will not support doucherocketry.

    And it makes me sad.

  2. I’m with you. Knowing what I know now, because of your mad research skills, I can’t support a man like this. It would make me feel all kinds of icky. Same reason I can’t listen to Toby Kieth. Or buy a Volkswagon. Or…the list goes on. I don’t have a ton of money, so I doubt he’ll even notice my lack of contribution, but I sure as hell would notice if I did it. I like being able to sleep at night. I’m funny that way.

  3. I would not judge a writer’s *writing* or skills based on his/her beliefs because beliefs have nothing to do with skill. However, by buying a writer’s work–or even just reading it–you are supporting that person, both financially and artistically. I, as a gay person, will not knowingly support someone who wants to deny me my rights to live like anyone else. If that person is so willing to tell me that they do not support my “acceptability” in society, then I will make it clear that I will not support them.

    I will not contribute to their banks accounts when they want to deny me financial equality. I will not endorse their art when they want to deny me the right to marry the person of my choosing. And I will not boost their self-image with my support when they want to degrade me as a person.

    Orson Card can go suck it.

  4. Pingback: Anti-Gay Artists « Women and Words

  5. Bravo, Andi! You’ve once again shared very useful information about a subject I did not have any prior knowledge of. I’ve also shared this with friends who are comic buffs. Kudos for all you do for our beloved LGBT community! It is, after all, Valentine’s day!

  6. Very well-written, thought out and researched. Thank you! I don’t read comic books but I’m starting to think about picking up an issue of Batwoman now šŸ™‚

  7. Pingback: UPDATE: Card and DC Comics « Andi Marquette

  8. I recognize that artists/writers/musicians/etc. that I enjoy may have different views from me when it comes to taxes and spending, environmental regulations, and all those issues related to government agencies and how money is spent.

    However, this guy belongs to a hate group. I don’t care if he’s a good artist and writer.

  9. Which group? If you’re referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate group designations, the group that Mr. Card sits on the board of is NOT listed as an anti-gay hate group, though SPLC has called the group “anti-gay.” That group was profiled in 2010 along with 17 other groups, and then profiled again in 2012 in a piece that SPLC stated “it remained to be seen” whether the group would cross the line into “untrammeled hate.” If you read the intro to the piece on the 18 anti-gay groups and their propaganda (here) you’ll note that the SPLC states clearly that groups that will be designated a hate group have an asterisk next to their names. The group Mr. Card is affiliated with does NOT have an asterisk, nor does the SPLC have the group with which he is affiliated listed on their active hate group map. Here’s the list of groups SPLC currently lists as anti-gay hate groups: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/ideology/anti-gay/active_hate_groups

    So yes, Mr. Card is affiliated with an anti-gay group. He is not, however, affiliated with an SPLC-designated anti-gay hate group, if we’re talking about the same group. If he is affiliated with any of the other groups on the SPLC’s current anti-gay hate list, then I stand corrected. I’m only aware of his affiliation as a board member of the one.

  10. As an artist myself, I have learned to split my objective views about the art itself and the person. Although comic book art is illustration, I’d say the same objectivity applies. Pablo Picasso was a horrible misogynist who treated his wives horrendously. However much I detest his sexist attitudes, I can’t negate the power of a painting like “Guernica” in an artistic (and, in that case, political) sense. I do, on the other hand, take a slanted, however subjective, view of people, artists or otherwise, who use their artistic status to prop up hateful agendas and dogmatic views. There’s simply no excuse!

    • Good points. But would you purchase one of Mr. Picasso’s works? I can appreciate that Mr. Card wrote a fine book in “Ender’s Game.” It doesn’t mean I’m going to buy a new copy and support his coffers, especially in view of his very public writings about LGBT people.

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