Superman is a good guy. More than that, Superman is the best guy. Created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1932, he’s the archetypal superhero, a man of enormous power who places himself in service to the powerless. To borrow a famous phrase from the 1940s Superman radio serial, he stands for “truth, justice and the American way”. It’s hard to reconcile Superman’s principles with the values of science fiction author Orson Scott Card. As reported by the Guardian on Monday, DC Comics, a division of Warner Bros, has hired Card to write a digital comic featuring the iconic hero. The move met with an outcry among fans because of Card’s ugly views on homosexuality, and some called for a boycott or demanded that Card be fired.
To say Card does not appear fond of gay people is to put it lightly. In his 2004 essay, “Homosexual ‘Marriage’ and Civilization”, he created a sinister innuendo-laden portrait of “homosexual society” grounded in experiences of “disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse”. It reads very strangely if you value truth. In 2009, Card joined the board of the National Organisation for Marriage, a group at the forefront of the fight against same-sex marriage in the United States. NOM uses alarmist propoganda to convince voters to prevent gay people from enjoying the rights and reassurances of marriage. It looks very strange if you value truth and justice. In 2008, in an op-ed that’s now missing from the Mormon Times website, Card said that Americans might respond to broader civil rights by changing the government “by whatever means … necessary”. It sounds very strange if you value the American Way. Card’s principles do not align with Superman’s, though it’s unlikely that Card will write a story about Superman spreading disinformation, robbing people of their rights or overthrowing the government. Yet, if DC Comics knew about Card’s well-publicised views, why risk alienating parts of its audience by hiring him?
I’ve been reading superhero comics since my early teens, and I realised I was gay around the same time. It’s my experience that gay people are over-represented among superhero fans, and superhero fans are over-represented among gay people, and the overlap may owe something to the way that superhero comics portray the world. In their simplest form, they show us an underdog empowered to effect change by embracing a secret self. It’s a resonant fantasy. That fantasy might resonate with Card himself. In a twisted way, if comic fans boycott, Card could see himself as the underdog being persecuted for his openness. Is boycotting a form of persecution? Anti-gay groups don’t think so, at least when it serves their agenda. Starbucks was the target of a boycott by NOM because it advocated for marriage equality. Retailer JCPenney was boycotted because it hired gay talk show host Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson. Wholesome comics publisher Archie Comics was boycotted because it published a comic with a gay teen lead, Kevin Keller.
I don’t agree with the message of those boycotts, but as long as the organisers are honest in their representations (and they rarely are), I respect those methods. That’s why I’ll happily exercise my right not to support the work of Orson Scott Card. I haven’t bought any of Card’s books or other comics, and I won’t see the movie adaptation of his novel Ender’s Game when it arrives in theatres this year. Card is entitled to his beliefs; I’m entitled to keep my money out of his pocket. There’s no shortage of other artists I can support who have never made hateful insinuations against me. Of course, a personal boycott is a small gesture. Collective boycotts make a broader statement, and those should not be made lightly. Card’s involvement with the National Organization for Marriage makes him a deserving target for a collective boycott, because he’s not just an artist with disagreeable views; he’s an active participant on the wrong side of the struggle for civil rights.
No one should be denied work because of what they think, but everyone should be held accountable for what they do. In allying with a group that directly campaigns for discrimination, Card was not holding an opinion; he was taking an action. If our opponents are active, we must be active too. We cannot politely agree to disagree while they lobby against us. There is no morality test to decide who gets to write Superman. No one could meet that standard, though most would pass a lower bar than Card. But consumers can can apply a moral position to the exercise of their rights, and they can help others to make informed choices. That’s what a collective boycott means to me. That’s why I support the boycott of Orson Scott Card. ( By Andrew Wheeler www.guardian.co.uk ) A petition against Card was created on AllOut.org ; if you want to sign it, you can find it at the link below.