Can 'Ender's Game' Really Drop Orson Scott Card? (Opinion)
How do you sell a movie based on a controversial writer? Apparently, it's as easy as just telling everyone that the writer wasn't instrumental to the story's creation at all.
Just how far can a movie distance itself from its source material before the audience starts to notice? It's a question continually brought to mind by the behavior of Lionsgate in relation to Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game -- or, to be clearer, in relation to Orson Scott Card himself.
That Lionsgate has distanced itself from Card is hardly a surprise; as early as February this year, many believed that the studio would be forced into such a position by the online outrage response to the announcement that the author would be co-writing a Superman story for DC Entertainment. The problem for those upset by the news wasn't that Superman would be written by a writer outside of the traditional comics sphere, but that Superman -- a character who stands for truth, justice and the American way -- would be written by a writer who has famously stood against gay rights for years, including taking a seat on the board of directors for the National Organization for Marriage, a leading organization in the fight against gay marriage.
The problem for Lionsgate was, in many ways, worse than DC faced for its Superman news. Ender's Game, after all, couldn't be quietly shelved in the face of such protests like DC's effort (Officially, the story was to be rescheduled when the original artist removed himself from the story, but in the four months since that announcement, nothing more has been heard about the project); it was a multi-million dollar movie years in the making, and one of the studio's tentpole movies of the year. Clearly, there had to be another way to defuse any potential protest that may be headed the studio's way.
By now, of course, we've seen the direction that Lionsgate has seemingly chosen: Something that could be summed up with the phrase "Hey, just because we made his movie doesn't mean that we're friends or anything." To wit, when faced with calls to boycott the movie, Lionsgate issued a statement saying that, while it "obviously [does] not agree with the personal views of Orson Scott Card and those of the National Organization for Marriage," those views are "completely irrelevant to a discussion of the movie."
Actually, not only Card's views seem to be irrelevant; Card himself seems to be irrelevant. He's not appearing on the Comic-Con panel devoted to the movie, despite the author having previously appeared at the show in 2010 to discuss the Marvel Entertainment comic books based on his work and the then-potential movie version of the work. His absence is made all the more obvious by the fact that Ender's Game shares a panel with another adaptation, Divergent, whose original author is present to discuss the work.
Additionally, the trailer for the movie notes that it is "based on a worldwide best-seller," but avoids any mention of Card's name other than in small type in the title card onscreen for two seconds at the end of the trailer. Similarly, there's no mention of Card's name on the movie's Facebook page; "the novel" is mentioned more than once, but Card's name is entirely absent.
It's an odd omission, if not an entirely surprising one; Card's role in Ender's Game's creation is being minimized -- despite his being, you know, the creator -- in an attempt to push his reputation and all the upset and controversy it brings along with it as far away from the movie as possible. And yet, doesn't that seem a slightly old-fashioned attitude to take? It's not as if Lionsgate can really control the flow of information about the movie, nor where it came from, in today's world, after all.
And yet… Perhaps Lionsgate's tactics will work; the studio's apology and offer of a premiere to benefit LGBT charities has seemingly quieted down a lot of criticism of the project, if not quite shut the door on the issue altogether. Today's Comic-Con panel will be a good indicator on whether or not this approach will work. If they can make it through that without at least one awkward exchange about homophobia, then perhaps it really does work to just pretend the problem doesn't exist in the first place.