Creators with immoral views: DC Comics & Orson Scott Card
Tauriq Moosa is a tutor in ethics, bioethics and critical thinking at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is currently pursuing a Masters degree at the Centre for Applied Ethics, Stellenbosch University. He has published essays and articles on practical ethics, focusing on subjects like free expression, killing, sex, and religion in public life. He debated religion with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the BBC documentary, the Tutu Talks, and has been featured on local radio shows. He is also an avid comic book writer and reader.
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The famous author Orson Scott Card is involved in two massive projects, each of which already has many fans: the Superman comics and the film version of his best-selling book, Ender’s Game. This post doesn’t concern either Superman (who regular readers already know I hate) or Ender’s Game (which I’ve not read), but whether we, as concerned moral citizens of the world, ought to spend money engaging with products made by people with very immoral views – which in this case is Orson Card.
Card is being targeted, rightfully, for his homophobia and disgusting views of members of the LGBT community (for example, he said that: “Gay rights is a collective delusion that’s being attempted” and supports the criminalisation of homosexuality). However, the question remains: should his disgusting politics and morality mean you must deny yourself a product you’ll enjoy? Doesn’t he win if he prevents you? But then, as the wonderful Alyssa Rosenberg asks, doesn’t he win because you’re giving money for his horrible campaign against equal marriage?
This is surprising from DC, a company that has made incredible strides in incorporating, for example, gay characters into their universes. They’ve also touched on lesbian and transgender issues. This is an important and I think overlooked point, considering how powerful DC is in our world, in terms of creating and maintaining modern-day myths. DC’s decision to use Card therefore stands out like a pink Batman.
To be clear, as DC informed The Advocate, Card is not taking on the serialised Superman series, but is one of many writers in a digital anthology: Adventures of Superman. A company spokesperson for DC said, in response to a petition to have Card dropped from the roster of writers:
“As content creators we steadfastly support freedom of expression, however the personal views of individuals associated with DC Comics are just that — personal views — and not those of the company itself.”
This, however, seems to be missing the point. Considering what I’ve highlighted, no one is thinking DC as a company supports Card’s views (it’s likely that there are some in a company that large who are homophobic). The problem is providing a platform for someone who espouses views which clearly contradict their own as is evidenced in their comics.
Not "mild" homophobia
Asking whether DC would give someone who is known for his racist views, or his anti-Semitic views, the same platform, highlights the problem. Would we simply claim these are “personal views”? Card isn’t simply someone who mistakenly or occasionally makes homophobic remarks: he does so deliberately, advocating his views to change policy, wielding his influence, from his legitimate writing talent, to sway opinion toward a despicable end.
The equivalent should be someone who is a member of a racist organisation, who wants black people to not be able to marry, to be criminalised for being in certain areas or wanting certain jobs. No one would claim that such people are merely holding “personal views”; they are espousing long-debunked, terribly immoral claims and I think most companies would shy away from such association.
Why then are DC letting what is essentially active, political homophobia be treated as a “personal view” of Card’s, when, if his hatred or fear had to do with race or ethnicity, they would probably never associate with him?
My problem here has several layers, but primarily it’s consistency. This isn’t a free speech issue, since no one is stopping Card from saying those awful things, from joining groups with18th-century mindsets. Similarly, no one is saying “censor” Card: primarily, as lovers and supporters of DC, most of us want DC’s continual focus on celebrating the LGBT community as, you know, people, to continue. We want consistency and we want them to focus on the actual problem: not free speech, not minimising political homophobia as being mere opinion, when it will be funded by fans who don’t support it.
Some larger problems
The problem is larger in terms of how we, as readers and consumers decide: For some of us, homophobia is as problematic as any unfair and unjustified discrimination, like racism or sexism. Perhaps we should stop reading or watching creators, like Card, altogether. We could also protest loud enough, to try convey our points in rational, effective ways.
I don’t know, myself. However, I do think that we shouldn’t judge DC as being homophobic in giving Card a platform, given the ample evidence showing their support, creation and continuation of LGBT characters. But, they, too, judging from their response, are wrong in what the actual issue is.
The issue itself is very complicated: Do we disregard important scientific data, say from a totalitarian regime, because people died cruely? Or do we honour them by using that data to save lives? Should we find out our favourite creators' political viewpoints all the time, before judging whether to continue supporting their work? What if their work is central to who we are and then we discover they are homophobes or racists? That means their homophobia is doing more damage by limiting us from engaging with some of our favourite creative work.
These are difficult questions, but as should be clear in this specific case, I think we can minimise the issues. I don’t know what DC should do, but at the very least they should recognise these aren’t merely “personal views” and they should be equating Card’s outspoken and political homophobia with outspoken and political racism. I’m mainly interested to know whether they would associate themselves with someone with racist views. If not, then I have a problem with DC thinking homophobia is “more tolerable” than racism.
Image Credit: Wikipedia (source)
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