I’ve been writing about the controversy over Orson Scott Card’s ugly, homophobic views and the forthcoming adaptation of Ender’s Game for months, but the issue kicked into higher gear last week when the organization Geeks OUT, made up of LGBT science fiction and fantasy fans, called for a boycott of the movie. Whether or not you want to join that boycott is up to you, but as I wrote a while back in my guide to consuming content by people whose political views or personal content you find abhorrent, I’m more compelled by the idea of offsetting our spending on a movie like’s Ender’s Game, either with political contributions that would outweigh whatever points Card might be getting on the back end, or by buying tickets to the kinds of movies, and movies by the kinds of artists, we’d like to see Hollywood lining up to support.
Boycotts are a popular tactic, but I have to admit I’m more compelled by the idea of a positive activism. If 100,000 people don’t spend the average movie ticket price of $7.96, that $796,000 in lost revenue won’t make much of a difference to Lionsgate. But if those 100,000 people each bought two tickets to smaller indie movies, they could contribute $1.4 million to the box office for a movie for which that amount of money could be an incredible tipping point. Staying home from Ender’s Game might communicate a message that Lionsgate already seems to get loud and clear, judging by their decision to leave Card home when they go to Comic-Con–that Card’s views are abhorrent, and dont’ belong in the public square. On Friday, the company gave a statement to the New York Times promising to hold a benefit premiere of Ender’s Game for LGBT causes, and making clear that “As proud longtime supporters of the LGBT community, champions of films ranging from Gods and Monsters to The Perks of Being a Wallflower and a company that is proud to have recognized same-sex unions and domestic partnerships within its employee benefits policies for many years, we obviously do not agree with the personal views of Orson Scott Card and those of the National Organization for Marriage.” But not buying tickets to Ender’s Game won’t communicate what we do want more of in theaters.
To do that, here are six movies with novel takes on equality issues or social services, or by LGBT artists, that you could spend money on in addition to, or instead of, Ender’s Game:
1. Fruitvale Station (In Theaters Now): I’ve told you over and over again how terrific Ryan Coogler’s debut feature about the last day of Oscar Grant’s life is. And if you want to show financial support for an independent movie about racial disparities in America that’s also one of the most sharply-written character studies you’ll see this year, Fruitvale Station is a great way to spend your money. Making this movie a success would encourage the Sundance Institute, which helped Coogler develop the movie, to keep supporting young filmmakers of color making movies about social issues, help boost the career of Michael B. Jordan, and get you into a movie with a great, short rebuke to the myth of black homophobia.
2. The Butler (August 16): Lee Daniels’ biopic of a long-serving White House butler, which has an enormously star-studded cast playing multiple generations of American political legends, isn’t exactly a minor indie. But if you want to support the work of a black, gay director–someone who’s pretty much the inverse of Card himself–and to give credence to the idea that biopics shouldn’t focus solely on straight white dudes, but on a more creative array of figures, The Butler might be a place to spend your movie-going dollars.
3. Short Term 12 (August 23): Starring Brie Larson as a staffer at a long-term care facility for troubled children, Short Term 12 was made by a filmmaker, Destin Cretton, with actual experience in the social services system. In its exploration of the lives of residents at Short Term 12, the name of the facility, the movie follows a boy named Marcus, who’s about to age out of the program, Jayden (Katilin Dever), a girl from a privileged family that may be concealing terrible secrets, and Sammy, a boy who’s lost his sisters. Turning out for Short Term 12 would be a great way to show support for something that’s the exact opposite of the large, loud blockbuster based on existing source material that Ender’s Game represents, to show, yet again, that movies with female main characters can make money, and to serve as a reminder that movies about social issues and social services don’t have to follow the same, predictable character beats to be tremendously moving.
4. Kill Your Darlings (October 18): Opening in limited release in October, the initial big appeal of Kill Your Darlings is that Daniel Radcliffe plays gay, and not just gay, but Allen Ginsberg. Set during Ginsberg’s formative first year at Columbia, when his friendships with William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac helped push him towards an artistic life, Kill Your Darlings is also the story of Lucien Carr, another one of Ginsberg’s best friends, and the events that lead to Carr’s killing of David Kammerer, in Central Park. It’s disputed whether Carr and Kammerer were lovers, or whether Kammerer was stalking Carr, but Kill Your Darlings turns that expression of violence into a catalyst for Ginsberg’s embrace of his true self. Given that Card’s advocated the recriminalization of same-sex sexual acts, it’s hard to think of a better way to tweak his politics than with this celebration of gay sexuality as an act of honesty and transcendence.
5. Dallas Buyers Club (December 6): It’s easy, if unfortunate, to turn the story of the early years of the AIDS crisis into a simple tragedy. But they were also a time of enormous mobilization by people who were infected with HIV, whether Gay Men’s Health Crisis was beginning to build the infrastructure that would turn it into a major health-care organization, ACT-UP was forcing political institutions to take the AIDS seriously as a health crisis rather than as a moral panic. Dallas Buyers Club follows another one of those innovations, focusing on a straight man and a transgender woman who started smuggling alternative therapies into the United States. I’ll be curious to see how the movie presents AZT, to which some of the characters had a bad reaction, but has generally been an effective therapy. But with an excellent cast and opening in an Oscar bait slot, it’s exciting to see a more expansive perspective on one of the most difficult times in the LGBT community’s recent history.