Back in February, I wrote that Summit Entertainment was facing a real problem as it prepared to promote Ender’s Game: how to sell audiences on the science fiction epic while distancing the movie adaptation of the novel from the novel’s author, notorious homophobe Orson Scott Card. The initial answer is that, despite the expectation that they’d have to find a way to include him in promotional efforts at Comic-Con, Card’s been left off the invitation roster:
Harrison Ford will return for the second time to San Diego Comic-Con as Summit presents its next would-be franchise, Ender’s Game — but controversial author Orson Scott Card will not be joining in the festivities. The Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novelist drew fire for his publicly anti-gay views earlier this year when DC Comics tapped him to pen a Superman comic. Despite being a producer on the film and a huge figure in the sci-fi-fantasy world, Card’s conspicuously being kept at a distance from the film’s promotional campaign. Not that Summit’s lacking in star power. Ford, who made his first Comic-Con appearance for 2010′s Cowboys & Aliens, is set to appear in Hall H on Thursday, July 18 with producer Bob Orci, director Gavin Hood, and co-stars Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, and Abigail Breslin to preview new footage from the sci-fi adaptation about a young boy recruited into an intergalactic war.
This makes sense from a logistical and an ethical perspective. Given the relatively open nature of Comic-Con questioning, it seems inevitable that if Card was on a panel, someone would ask him about his service on the board of the National Organization for Marriage, his suggestion that homosexuality is a result of sexual abuse or genetic abnormality, or, particularly giving the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, his 2008 essay suggesting that revolution would be justified if marriage equality were equalized. That spectacle would be disastrous for Summit, both for the press coverage it would create, the link it would reinforce between buying tickets to the movie and putting money in Card’s pocket, and because it would mean the company would have given Card a platform either to voice the most noxious of his perspectives, or to whitewish the ugliness of his anti-gay advocacy. It’s absolutely in Summit’s own interest to avoid the bad press and potential dent to ticket sales that comes with promoting Card along with their adaptation of his work. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing for the company to be doing. And I’m glad to see the company what’s right for both PR purposes and for gay rights over giving science fiction fans who might not care about the damage Card’s done in the real world an opportunity to see him.
Summit’s actions don’t eliminate the problems fans may face in deciding whether or not they want to spend their money on Ender’s Game, either because they’re worried about Card profitting off their ticket purchases if he has points on the back end, or because they don’t want to help Summit recoup whatever they paid for the movie rights in the first place. I’ve written about some ways fans can think through that difficult choice, or act to offset any money they might end up sending Card’s way (which no matter what the financial arrangements are around the book rights, comes to a relatively small amount per ticket). But it certainly makes it easier for me to know that Summit’s drawing a firm line between the value of the work and Card himself and his outside projects.