Orson Scott Card: Still History’s Greatest Monster
October 25th, 2013

I’ve been quietly mourning the demise of the Variety movie review. Once upon a time, Todd McCarthy (Variety’s lead critic) wrote reviews that were astonishingly close to objective truth–there was (literally) no one else in America who viewed movies through the same kind of lens. McCarthy was like some Platonic ideal of a critic: He seemed to come at every movie with an impossible balance of encyclopedic knowledge and a perfectly open mind.

The McCarthy review would begin with a paragraph appraising the economic realities and prospects of the film, then describe (briefly) the plot, and finally move through the project with rough appraisals of everything from the direction to acting to cinematography to costume design. There was never condescension or worship; just clear-eyed appraisal. You could read five of Roger Ebert’s reviews and get a pretty good sense of what he liked and what he did not like. I read hundreds of McCarthy’s reviews and couldn’t even guess as to what his personal tastes were.

And while not every critic needs to be like McCarthy, his worldview was the perfect one for Hollywood’s trade publication.

Well. It’s been a couple years since Variety shuffled McCarthy off to pasture because of what with this new Internet and everything. In his place, Variety has installed some more, shall we say, “traditional” film critics. So, for instance, earlier this week we got this Justin Chang review of the Thor sequel, which opens thusly:

Early on in “Thor: The Dark World,” the latest slab of briskly amusing, elaborately inconsequential 3D entertainment from the Disney/Marvel comicbook factory, an evil Dark Elf announces his sinister plan to “unleash the Aether.” What sounds at first like an arcane euphemism for breaking wind turns out to be just another way of stating what you probably already suspected: The megalomaniac of the month is about to activate the latest all-powerful weapon capable of triggering mass annihilation, necessitating yet another intervention by a popular superhero and his ragtag band of sidekicks.

You can practically hear the editors giggling. Can’t be on the Internet without snark, can you.

Today comes Peter Debruge’s review of Ender’s Game. Debruge shows some restraint in waiting until the second paragraph before decrying Card’s “anti-gay statements.” So that’s something, I guess. But then he circles back to kick Card again, writing:

Though Card may have publicly revealed his own prejudices, the casting department has assembled a wonderfully diverse group of actors — male and female, they come in all colors, shapes and sizes — to serve alongside Ender, including not only Latino best friend Bean (Aramis Knight) but also a fresh set of rivals and bullies, led by the odd-looking Bonzo (“Hannah Montana’s” Moises Arias).

But of course it’s not the “casting” department that’s responsible for the ethnic diversity of Ender’s Game. It’s Card. All of those “wonderfully diverse” parts–Bean, Bonzo, Petra–were written as such by Card. I’m slightly surprised Debruge doesn’t know that.

But of course, a film critic can’t read every source novel. And it’s entirely possible that McCarthy wouldn’t have read Ender’s Game either. The difference is that if he hadn’t, McCarthy wouldn’t have revealed his ignorance by adding a flourish of exhibitionism to his review.

  1. troy garrett October 27, 2013 at 1:18 am

    I am a liberal I think gays should be allowed to marry. I feel strongly about it I see it as an absolute human right. I also cannot wait until Enders Game comes out. Even though Cards prejudices toward homosexuals bugs me. They are not evident in any of his writing except is Call of earth series. He is still one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time.

    Right up there with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clark. Card not only predicted the internet but he predicted how liberals would troll on Conservative Blogs. Exactly what I am doing when I say. “support amnesty or you will never win another election” He predicted the concern trolling in the immigration debate.

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  3. RKae November 5, 2013 at 1:04 am

    An absolute human right… that not even gays were fighting for a few years back.

    Sure, I’m old and I recall the world when “gay marriage” wasn’t a phrase used anywhere – not in gay literature or in conversations with ANY of my gay friends and colleagues. I work in theatre, so I’ve been surrounded by gays my entire life. None of them – NONE – gave a damn about marriage until it just popped onto the scene one afternoon.

    If it had been the case that gays were interested in marriage, they would have had marriages. “Hey, come on over to our place next weekend. We’re having a ceremony.” Who cares if it’s not official? People in strange fringe cults have their own ceremonies all the time. Hippies have had their own ceremonies. My brother – a white supremacist – had his own weird marriage that wasn’t sanctioned by the state. Why is it NOT ONE gay person I know had an informal ceremony? Because they didn’t care. Then… suddenly they cared. That’s hive mind at work. That’s media forming opinion. That’s humans moving like a flock of starlings, and it’s ridiculous.

    And it’s phrases like yours – “absolute human right” – that cause so much friction and create the “burn the heretic” shouting at people like Card.

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  5. Chris November 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Great response…never thought of it that way and you’re right, all of my wife’s and my gay friends never mentioned wanting to get married…never. 20 years friends…never.
    Thanks for pointing that out.

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  7. Patrick M November 5, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    “I am a liberal I think gays should be allowed to marry. I feel strongly about it I see it as an absolute human right”

    ‘Allowed’ is matter of opinion, sure. But taking the “absolute human right” position is such ahistorical extremism that it destroys appreciation of real human rights concerns (ya know, like people ending up in concentration camps for being kulaks, jews or dissidents), and invariably creates a huge political chasm over what is really an insignificant thing – getting Government recognition and benefits from a relationship (if the relationship was/is secure, it doesnt need that Govt stamp of approval).

    We cannot have and tolerant and diverse society without tolerance of differences in opinion. Somehow liberals take positions so personally, and see others not as merely wrong but ‘evil’ for disagreeing. It creates for ugly scorched earth partisan politics and the annoyance of liberal sanctimony over trivia.

    “He is still one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time.”

    This is what matters. What he said or did outside his body of work, not so much.

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  9. Evan October 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    It all evens out because I’m sure ol’ Peter Debruge voted against and decried Obama because of his intolerant/bigoted/hateful/neanderthal views regarding ‘the gays’ in 2008.

    Oh wait…

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  11. Gabriel October 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Despite Card’s retrograde attitudes, the filmmakers have set the film adaptation in the future.

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  13. Eric November 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    “… the filmmakers have set the film adaptation in the future.”

    Thank you Captain Obvious!

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  15. Kevin Carder November 4, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I am pretty sure that ender’s game started as a short story and got fleshed out as a novel.

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  17. New Class Traitor November 4, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    When the New Class gentry want to see those bigots they decry so much, they merely need look in the mirror.

    The irony of declaring somebody a nonperson for the thoughtcrime of ‘intolerance’ (read: not falling down in worship for one of the New Class’s client groups) is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

    I personally dread going to see the movie for another reason — because the book was so amazing any movie adaptation can only be a letdown.

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  19. Keapon Laffin November 4, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Think of it the other way. If I was so ‘always offended’ by ‘liberal’ values I would read practically no Science Fiction at all.
    Most Sci Fi writers are rather liberal. Many of my favorite modern writers are always big about Global Warming, the Population Bomb, End Of Oil, etc. The good ones are good writers who, despite premises I disagree with, tell good stories and give insight to not just technological but cultural evolution.
    I don’t have to agree with the author about every single thing. I don’t have to agree with their reasoning or the conclusion about whatever they were trying to say. The good writers make ya think.
    Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s series makes ya think.

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  21. Darren November 5, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Bean was Greek by genetic origin, though he was found on the street in France, according to the later ‘Ender’s Shadow’ book and subsequent novels.

    I am shocked that the reviewer would so obviously display his implicit racism by assuming any character named ‘Bean’ had to be Latino.

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  23. RKae November 5, 2013 at 1:08 am

    The left is hilarious when it comes to things they disagree with in celebrity land. It happens so rarely that, when faced with it, they go insane.

    I’ve been told to see the most insulting garbage “because it’s well-written, and why can’t you put your opinions aside for two hours just to enjoy some good writing?” You know: stuff like “Corpus Christie” (a play about a gay Jesus). Yeah. Just sit back and listen to sentence structure. Getting offended by it is just medieval!

    And with Ender’s Game, it’s something that has none of those opposing opinions in the actual work; it’s things the writer said outside of the work… and the left goes insane.

    Hypocrites extraordinaire.

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  25. Evan Dickinson November 5, 2013 at 2:14 am

    I’m a conservative and I think we should be able to have a definition for something objectively special. You know… something that private parts, sexual love, sex, evolution, reproduction, and the whole human race exists because of.

    Silly me.

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  27. Draki November 5, 2013 at 7:52 am

    You do realize Plato and Platonic people aren’t fans of homosexuality right? That’s why the term platonic friendship is widely known.

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  29. ErisGuy November 5, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Feminists dislike men (but not women) who have the rape gender/sexuality; animal rights activists dislike people who have the xenophile gender/sexuality; privacy advocates dislike people with the voyeurism gender/sexuality;…. etc. etc. All these terrible bigotries must end.

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  31. David November 5, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Homosexuality can exist, peaceably, only as a minority view in a tolerant environment. The only tolerant environment is based on judeo-christian ethics. Unfortunately, homosexuals are part of the faction that is intent on destroying that tolerant environment.

    I have no doubt that homosexuals will be successful in reshaping society in their own narrow interests, but there will be the whirlwind to reap.

    Gays are not creating acceptance with their crusading. They are merely tearing the social fabric. It is not sustainable. It creates a vacuum. Paganism or tyranny will fill that vacuum. Gays will not thrive therein.