Boycott’s Game?

1 Oct

Apparently the forthcoming film based on Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game has earned a boycott from a group called Geek Out due to ‘anti-gay’ blog posts made by Card, despite another interest group, GLAAD, having announced that there is “no anti-gay content in the film” and makers Lionsgate having stressed that the film has nothing whatsoever to do with Orson Scott Card’s personal views (which they state they do not support).

Whatever your feelings about Card and his apparent views (and I can’t say I’ve actually read anything by him, novels or blog posts), this raises an important issue of where to draw the line between an author and their work. To be honest, this is one of the reasons I tend to prefer not knowing much about the creators of works – novels, films, music, art – that I enjoy, nor to know much about anyone submitting to Atlantean. It is rare that a factoid will significantly impress me, meaning that the discovery of biographical details are more likely to disappoint than inspire. Personally, I would rather know nothing of an author (at least before first encountering their work) and take their opus on its own merits. Even when I do know about the author and am, perhaps, not that impressed (or even offended) I try to set that aside and treat the work as a discrete entity: why should I deprive myself of enjoyment due to a fit of moral indignation?

Of course, there can be a bad taste in the mouth when one is paying money to someone you dislike or, worse, uses that money to pursue an agenda you oppose. In those cases, I try to buy their work second-hand, hopefully benefitting a charity I agree with rather than an author I don’t.

Although I can understand someone feeling sufficiently upset with an author to wish to boycott their work, I do worry that it puts authors and other creators in an uncomfortable position where their freedom of speech is effectively limited by their desire to make sales (and as expressive people, muzzling them is of a rather different order to, if no more insidious than, the effect of boycotts on people in other spheres for their views). Must I self-censor to ensure that I am sufficiently ‘politically correct’ to maintain readers? Do I risk a boycott from Geek Out for being uncomfortable with their stance? Should I care? A controversial newspaper expects to stir such feelings, but should a poet or science-fiction writer have non-controversial work boycotted because of their private views? It is controversial enough a question to ask if we should censor our work to appease anyone, without asking if our unrelated thoughts and feelings should be censored to ensure our work is given a fair go.

Ironically, of course, such questions could easily be side-stepped if authors used pseudonyms either for their work or their off-topic blogging. Admittedly, their controversial views might gain far less exposure if they are unlinked from their better known writing persona, but equally, such uncoupling would keep their work pristine. But, such a route takes us into hypocrisy and the muffling of free speech.

Ultimately, it’s an issue that everyone has to decide for themselves how to approach – whether as an author airing their personal views or a reader offended at those views – but, I do feel distinctly uncomfortable whenever I see the word boycott. Where do we draw the line between being informed consumers and becoming petty tyrants? It’s a difficult call to make…

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One Response to “Boycott’s Game?”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A right to an opinion? | atlanteanpublishing - August 31, 2015

    […] with. The flipside of such a topic, one I’ve touched on before when discussing the film of Ender’s Game, is that if an author’s work and an author’s identity become entwined in the reader’s mind, […]

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