By Bob Calhoun
I’m making my way through the streets of San Diego’s Gaslamp District to the mammoth “Ender’s Game” tent that Lionsgate has erected across the street from Comic-Con. As I get closer to the tent, I hear the thunder generated by THX Dolby sound systems, but when I get closer still, I hear a different kind of ruckus. It’s the sound of a man shouting through a bullhorn.
In the distance down Harbor Boulevard, I see another person standing with a placard. Protesters! I may have hit pay dirt here. I dash over to the dissidents to get their story, but when I get closer I find that they’re dragging a guy in goryzombie makeup around on a chain.
“Take off your sunglasses and take a look at death in the face,” the man with the bullhorn shouts at a smattering of onlookers before winding up into his pitch for something called “Hyundai Zombie Survival Units.”
I guess Hyundai now has a line of vehicles that can help you survive the undead apocalypse. There must be a big market for that sort of thing, but I’m personally holding out for KIA’s “All-Terrain Anti-Unicorn Crossover.”
But I’m beyond crushed here. When I read that Geeks OUT, a Queer fandom organization, was calling for fanboys and geek girls of all sexual orientations to boycott the upcoming $110 million sci-fi epic due to “Ender’s Game” author Orson Scott Card’s recent anti-Gay marriage screeds,I was thinking there might be a picket line, or even some kind of lefty civil disobedience. LGBT activists could even glitter bomb star Harrison Ford during the big “Ender’s Game” panel this afternoon in Hall H at Comic-Con, and Ford would scowl at them the way he has been scowling at all of us on movie posters for the past 30 years or so.
Scowling is Ford’s thing. He’s good at it. Damned good.
However there was still plenty of Indiana Jones scowling at you inside of the “Ender’s Game Experience” tent. Ford glowers on a wall-sized poster that confronts you as you enter the exhibit. A quote next to his gruff countenance reads, “You’re never ready. You go when you’re ready enough.”
I sit down at one of the work stations in the “battle room.” to see yet another picture of Ford scowling at me from the head of a lit-up control panel with what looks like a 10-key attached to it. The 10-key doesn’t seem to do anything. The trailer for “Ender’s Game” plays, which has even more of Ford’s grumpy-face as he says, “We will never forget what the enemy did, but we defeated them and we will do so again.”
In between Ford’s half-frowns are scenes of regular-old F-15 fighter jets blowing up bug spaceships that look like rib-cages on exoskeletons. (What, no F-22s in the future?) In the last room of the exhibit are some of the costumes from the film, and a large banner with a picture of Ben Kingsley, who has also joined the scowler brigade.
When I got out of the “Ender’s Game” tent, I found an email on my phone from Patrick Yacco of Geeks OUT. A few texts later and I met Patrick and Danny Bernardo, the Chicago Event Coordinator for Geeks Out, at the Gamespot bar less than a block away from the “Ender’s Game” tent.
L-R: Patrick Yacco and Danny Bernado
“I’m not sure we’ve been protesting (“Ender’s Game”) exactly,” Yacco explains after we find a quieter section of the bar. Instead of glitter bombing Han Solo–a move that could potentially backfire on their boycott–they’ve been filming Comic-Con attendees saying why their planning on skipping “Ender’s Game” and handing out stickers.
“The issue has been on the top of everybody’s mind right now. I’m pretty sure it will be a discussion for the panel.” Yacco continues.
“I know for a fact that Lionsgate is a huge supporter of the LGBT community in their films as are many of the stars,” Bernardo says, “and I have supported their work in the past, and I will continue to support their work in the future on other projects.’ ‘If we’re saying to Hollywood, ‘We’re actively voting against this by not giving you our dollars because of this artist’s stance on his personal views on LGBT issues,’ I think that will send a powerful message.”
After talking with Yacco and Bernardo, I make my way to the San Diego Convention Center. Standing in themiddle of the street, just past the light-rail tracks, some women are holding up signs reading “ALL have Sinned” and “Sin brings God’s Wrath” (capitalization theirs). I finally found some protesters, but decide to keep moving past them.
Bob Calhoun is the author of “Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor” (Obscuria Press, 2013). You can follow him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun
I can’t bring myself to go over to the “Ender’s Game” tent. Every time I notice it, I wrinkle my nose.
I would love to see the movie one day; I remember really liking the book, lo these many years ago…before I knew about OSC’s crusade, and moreover before I would have cared about such things.
On the other hand, I am shocked that somebody’s Christian group thinks we’re worth picketing. I just don’t get that at all. But y’know. Whatever. More power to ’em, I guess. Like the “Ender’s Game” tent, they’re easy enough to ignore.
I have noticed in their promos and even in their panel there is no mention of Card, at least not until it came up inevitably right off the bat in the Q&A.. Lions gate is definitely doing what they can to keep as much focus as they can on the movie itself. I like the way they addressed it at the SDCC panel about how much they support LGBT rights and so do the cast and crew, making it an opportunity to use the controversy to instead show support. It was clear that Lionsgate was caught off guard and embarrassed when it all blew up and I think that right there is a powerful message, they are so embarrassed to be associated with Card that his name appears on none of the promotional materials and that gives a good picture of how this affects Cards image. I have little doubt that the public apology was one the studio likely forced as well rather than coming from Card of his own free will.
In the end though I worry about what a boycott will truly say at this point. We know the studio execs have heard the displeasure, but too often the end message is up to the interpretation of the faceless bean counters that are just as likely to say “sci fi isn’t selling right now” “the young star just can’t draw an audience, lets think twice before casting him in such a main role” or even “Ford just doesn’t draw an audience like he used to” as seeing any connection to Card
Having monitored the Google News feed for Comic-Con, it was a the major lede on the Ender’s Game posts (which were pre-panel media meet-and-greet). (Today’s posts are about Ford and the Hall H panel.) The studio will offer a fundraising screening for an LGBT cause. The director is active with an LGBT organization. The actors are noting the irony of the message of the movie with that of Card’s political views.
There was even a strong editorial in the Guardian.
We’ll see what the studio does at NYCC. With many movies suffering at the box office, the studio is already worried. Add this zeitgeist to the mix, and it’s problematic. (Although three weeks later, Hunger Games 2 is released, so LG can balance the box office.)
“I have noticed in their promos and even in their panel there is no mention of Card, at least not until it came up inevitably right off the bat in the Q&A.. Lions gate is definitely doing what they can to keep as much focus as they can on the movie itself. ”
Welcome to the real world, where movie studios usually don’t bother mentioning the author. You’ll see it countless times — an interviewer asks the director about his/her “vision”, and they will discuss the movie in question, with little acknowledgement of the screenwriter, or the author who wrote the source material. There were segments promoting ROAD TO PERDITION where the director acknowledged the graphic novel only to point out what they had rewritten, since they wanted something more sophisticated or “adult” … after all, what does Max Allen Collins know about writing?
“Welcome to the real world, where movie studios usually don’t bother mentioning the author. ”
And yet “Divergent” author Veronica Roth was on that panel, as well as part of the press line photo shoot (looking quite stylish!)
Wow… three young adult movies from Lionsgate/Summit! And “Divergent” has a strong message!
“Comic-Con nerds drive Harrison Ford to the brink of madness”
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