Ender’s Game, Claymation Video Games, and Chicken Sandwiches: Can I Buy Your Work if I Don’t Buy Your Beliefs?
Everybody can recall the uproar about the Ender’s Game movie that recently came out. I mean everybody who frequents the same internet news sites as myself. Or has a similar circle of friends. Actually, I guess it would be more accurate to say that almost nobody can recall that particular uproar, especially if you consider how many people around the world don’t even have internet access. Or television. Or have both but couldn’t give a used chapstick about Ender’s Game.
Well, anyway, there was an uproar. People were upset about this movie. Many people called for the film to be boycotted. Others said that they didn’t care if other people watched it, but they felt it would be morally wrong to go themselves. A few critics saw it, but said they had moral reservations about doing so. Having grown up in evangelical circles none of this was too unusual to me. I was used to people calling for certain movies to be boycotted. I was also used to seeing people be careful not to mention that they had seen a particular movie while in the wrong company, lest they get a dissaproving glances or a lecture on morality. The only difference is that those movies were railed against because of hyper-sexuality, foul language, or or irreverence. The only sin of Ender’s Game, on the other hand, was that it is based on a book written by Orson Scott Card. Why is that so bad? Well you see, Mr. Card is a Mormon with some rather loud opinions about homosexuality. He is very opposed to homosexuality in general, you see. He’s stated publicly that he’d like anti-gay laws to stay on the books, and he’s very much opposed to legalizing gay marriage. Because of this individuals across America decided to boycott the film.
It should be noted that the film itself doesn’t contain any anti-gay messages. Neither does the book. But Mr. Card does get royalties off of the work. Because of this, gay-rights activists have been arguing that seeing the movie (or buying the book) is tantamount to supporting anti-gay messages.
Ender’s Game isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this happen. Back in 2012 the fast food chain Chick-fil-A found themselves under a boycott after their COO made some public comments that were critical of gay marriage. Some people still refuse to eat at Chick-fil-A because of it. After all, if they support a company that is managed by people who are opposed to gay marriage, then they’re supporting hate. It would be wrong to buy that delicious chicken sandwich.
This is all old news, but what brought it to my mind was a recent discovery. I was making my way through the archives of the Phil Vischer podcast (which I would recommend, it’s a good’n) when I saw that they had an interview with Doug TenNapel. My brain started buzzing. TenNapel. Where had I seen that strange name before? I loaded the podcast up and soon realized why the name was so hauntingly familiar. He’s the Earthworm Jim guy!
I had grown up seeing Earthworm Jim here and there in the early 90s. I even had read some of TenNapel’s more recent work. What I didn’t know was that he was a Christian, and pretty committed one too. You can’t really tell it from his work: his comics, tv shows, and video games (the fella gets around) are all very secular, absurd, and fun. There’s nothing overtly religious about any of them. Recently he ran a succesful Kickstarter campaign to make a video game named Armikrog which is notable for being done with claymation. That’s right: a claymation video game. It’s a spiritual successor to Neverwood, a video game TenNapel made years ago that was also done in claymation. It looked really interesting for it’s novelty value alone. What I wasn’t aware of was that at the time the Kickstarter was going on there were cries for gamers to boycott it. Why? Because Doug TenNapel has made it no secret that he is also opposed to gay marriage.
All these events have stewed in my brain. They lead to an interesting question: is it morally wrong to consume content (or sandwiches) if the person who created them has opinions that are repulsive or hateful to you? If you support gay marriage, is it wrong to also support the creation of a cool claymation video game just because the creator opposes gay marriage? What about sandwiches? Or movies? I thought about it for a long time. I really chewed this one over folks. I’ve been thinking about the issue ever since the Chick-fil-A think happened. And after all that stewing, I’ve finally come to a conclusion:
You can’t live that way, and you’d be crazy to try.
Can you imagine what it would look like if everyone who was pro-life refused to read any books written by authors who are pro-choice? What if all the people who believe in god refused to watch any movie created by an atheist? I’m not talking about someone pro-life refusing to read a specifically pro-choice book, whose plot and moral are wrapped up in the abortion debate. That makes some sense. And I’m not talking about a pious Baptist refusing to watch Religulous, a move whose whole point is to make fun of religious people. I’m talking about refusing to engage in any piece of art or entertainment solely because the creator has different views from yourself. And that’s just nuts. It sounds like something that came from the pulpit of one of the most fringe fundamentalist churches in the deepest parts of the south. “Don’t watch any movies made by an atheist! If you do, they’ll get a cut of the money, and they might use it to support ATHEIST causes. Heck, I’d watch out for movies made by Christians too. After all, one of the cameramen or editors might be atheist, and then your money is indirectly supporting their ideas! Only watch movies or read books whose creators have been completely checked out by our board of elders to confirm that they believe all the right things. It’s the MORAL thing to do.”
I can really sympathize with the ethical dilemma some people are having about this subject. And if Ender’s Game was promoting hatred against homosexuals then I’d say “Alright, your boycott makes total sense.” But when someone says you can’t watch a movie about space aliens because the author of the book it’s based off has views you’re opposed to, you’re crossing the line into crazy territory. We wouldn’t want to live in a world where you’re only supposed to enjoy art that was made by people who agree with you. Heck, I wouldn’t want to live in a world where you’re not supposed to engage in art that’s directly opposed to your own ideas. I’m a Christian, but I have enjoyed, been touched by, and learned things from movies and books that were made by atheists. There’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s nothing wrong with going to see movies, or play video games, or even eat chicken sandwiches that were made by people who have opinions that your are radically opposed to.