Yesterday I talked about The Talons of Weng-Chiang, a Doctor Who story that has developed a reputation for having racist undertones. It has been criticized because The Doctor, who normally refutes intolerance of any sort, exhibits potentially racist attitudes in the story. How apropos that DC Comics is now being criticized for hiring Orson Scott Card, who stands against same-sex marriage, to write a Superman story. Superman is a character who stands for truth and justice and would—according to the critics—oppose Card’s personal views on same-sex marriage. Many people believe he shouldn’t be writing for this character. Card is a Mormon, and the Mormonism church is strongly against same-sex marriage. He spends time and money supporting the National Organization of Marriage (he is on the board of directors). This organization works to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage. Many people are calling for a boycott of this comic. Others are calling for Card to be fired outright. I have even seen editorial pieces which call Card a horrible person and a failure as a human.
This bothers me greatly. I certainly advocate a boycott. By all means, people should speak with their money. They should also dialogue with one another about the situation. But what I find a bit troubling is the idea that a creator cannot write a character if said creator does not share a particular worldview, especially when we haven’t yet seen what he will write. As a writer, I would take it very seriously, when writing for an established character in an established universe, to be true and faithful to what that character stands for—whether I agreed with it or not. If I perceived something I was writing for the character would appear contradictory, I would be sure to back it up by referring to previous examples and portrayals. And if people didn’t like how I would use the money I made from the project, I would completely understand if they didn’t read the work. But the problem is that Orson Scott Card is acting according to what he believes—just as people who oppose him are acting according to what they believe. And yes, those convictions lead him to say hurtful things and to take actions (and fund organizations) that discriminate. But we have a tendency in America (and in the Western world) to say “you may believe what you want, but don’t act on those beliefs in the public sphere.” Unless, of course, these are mainstream beliefs or adhere to a certain cause. But if we truly believe something, if we are truly passionate about it, we will be compelled to act. Penn Jillette is an atheist, but he has more respect for Christians who evangelize than those who do not. His asserts is that if you are convinced non-Christians are going to hell, you have to hate those non-Christians to NOT evangelize to them. And I tend to agree. Being passionate about a belief leads a person to act. Card is acting based on what he believes; people who want Card off this Superman book are also acting based on what they believe. But what I desire to see is more respect on both sides. And truthfully, Card will not change his mind if he is made a martyr, which firing him before he writes will do. Suffering for one’s belief is a religious tenant, and blacklisting Card will make him a martyr. The real goal should not be getting him fired; the real goal should be changing his mind and heart. You cannot do that through anger-driven persecution (as he will undoubtedly see this attack).You change him by showing him more respect and more love than he shows you. Remember, at stake here is not the image of Superman, it is the dignity of human beings—both the persecuted LGBT community and Orson Scott Card. If this is truly the present-day civil rights movement, we would do well to look at Martin Luther King Jr. and his guidance in confronting prejudice. He wrote, according to A Martin Luther King Treasury, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” (173).