Feb 12, 2013

The One Where Superman Hates Gay People

UPDATE: Feb 13th @10:23am

DC comics has responded & at least two comic book retailers refuse to carry the Card scribed title.

DC comics responded to the furor today with a statement that seems to acknowledge that there are many who are upset, however they appear to be standing behind Card, at least for the moment.  DC's statement reads::

“As content creators we steadfastly support freedom of expression, however the personal views of individuals associated with DC Comics are just that — personal views — and not those of the company itself.”

Also two comic book retailers, one in San Francisco and one in Texas, have refused to carry the Superman title written by Card.  Zeus Comics & Collectibles in Dallas, TX and The Whatever Store in San Francisco, CA.


Recent news that DC comics has tapped prolific sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card to write for a new series of Superman comics has been met with a strong backlash from many in the LGBT community, due to Card's harsh anti gay stances, and comments in the past.  There is, perhaps not surprisingly, a petition put out by AllOut.com to have DC remove Card from the series.

Having never been a big fan of sci-fi writings, I knew OF Orson Scott Card, but never read any of his work.  I understand he's a respected author and apparently has written some fantastic sci-fi stuff.  Not my cup of tea, but I can respect his work, and I can acknowledge that he apparently has accomplished a lot in his time, including winning Sci-Fi writing's top two prizes (The Hugo and The Nebula) in back to back years for his novels "Ender's Game" and "Speakers of the Dead".

So the man clearly is able to write, and would be a very big "get" for DC comics to bring in on a series.  Marvel and DC along with other comic houses have all relied on "Stunt casting" if you will, in the past by bringing in people such as director Kevin Smith, author Eric Jerome Dickey, comedian Patton Oswalt, and actors Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Hamill and William Shatner to write comics.  It's the comic book world equivalent of how in the 80's and 90's for sweeps week, the Networks would bring in some huge random ass celebrity to do a walkon cameo for a TV show to get people's attention.

                                                   MORE AFTER THE BREAK

So from a literary standpoint, hiring Orson Scott Card as your writer on a limited issue Superman series seems to be a no brainer, right?  I mean you could do a lot worse than a guy who's clearly exemplified that he can put words to paper with the best of them.

However there are a few things that stand out here as it pertains to his rabid anti-LGBT stance.   This isn't a standard "I don't like gay people because they make me feel icky" type of thing or a "If I see two dudes holding hands, I immediately imagine them having sex and ...ugh!" type of neanderthal reaction.  Card has been accused of trying to lump in homosexuality with pedophilia, and in 1990 he actually spoke out against those dreaded gay people, saying that those who "flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society"

In an essay he posted on a website dedicated to the Latter Day Saint faith for which he adheres to (and has since backed away from after he got heat for it), he wrote the following:

When I was an undergraduate theatre student, I was aware, and not happily so, how pervasive was the reach of the underculture of homosexuality among my friends and acquaintances. After a while I stopped being shocked to discover that someone I had known well, or whose talent I admired, was either moving into or already a part of the not-so-clandestine network of gay relationships. I learned that being homosexual does not destroy a person's talent or deny those aspects of their character that I had already come to love and admire. I did learn that for most of them their highest allegiance was to their membership in the community that gave them access to sex.
One thing is certain: one cannot serve two masters. And when one's life is given over to one community that demands utter allegiance, it cannot be given to another. The LDS church is one such community. The homosexual community seems to be another. And when I read the statements of those who claim to be both LDS and homosexual, trying to persuade the former community to cease making their membership contingent upon abandoning the latter, I wonder if they realize that the price of such "tolerance" would be, in the long run, the destruction of the Church.

Get that?  The Gay may take over his friends and turn them into hungry hungry homos, but they don't "destroy" their talents, or change the aspects that he'd already come to like.  However, and this is a true money quote to give you an insight into his thinking, he did come to realize that "their highest allegience" was to the community that gave them access to sex.  Which basically means that if it comes down to God or Sex, they choose sex.  Country or sex?  Well, come on now.  If they had to choose between their whore-mongering among their own gender, and the lives of their family, well, as he said, "for most of them, their highest allegiance was to their membership in the community that gave them access to sex".

Yeah, sounds like a swell guy that was just misunderstood about that whole gay people shouldn't be allowed to remain as equal thing.  Especially with his trotting out the old adage of "serving two masters", and flat out stating that someone can't be gay and be a free thinker.  Not sure why he thinks that being gay and enjoying sex is any more or less intoxicating than being straight and enjoying sex.   Apparently the pull of gay sex is just so powerful that no man or woman caught in it's tractor beams can be saved.

It's like a ship caught in the pull of the Death Star.  There's no use fighting it, just give in and resolve yourself to a lifetime of slavery.

This choice of Card for DC is a bit odd, because of the current atmosphere that comics finds itself in, which makes me wonder if DC was even aware of Card's past statements.  It seems that many comic books have incorporated progressive storylines over the past decade.  You have gay characters coming out such as Green Lantern, or Kevin Keller from the Archie comics, which stirred up a lot of criticism by those on the anti-LGBT front.  You also have had a bi-racial Spiderman and a devout Muslim-American Green Lantern, along with other comic properties tackling real world issues, most notably in Marvel's massive crossover event "Civil War".  The latter, took head on the Patriot Act, and dealt with super heroes and villains being forced to register their identities with, and work for the government, or face being hunted down and being imprisoned.

I suppose it's not necessarily unfair for the opposite side to be portrayed, although there is no evidence so far that Card would bring his anti-LGBT belief system to the comic world, and I doubt it would go over very well if it did.   While there has been criticism of those aforementioned changes in the comic landscape, or the melding the comic world with the political, for the most part those have all been positive portrayals, not one demonizing a group of people.   And also many of them have come with their own little escape hatch in the sense of the changes not being permanent.

The recent Spider Man issue in which Spidey and Doctor Octopus have their minds switched into each other's bodies (Freaky Friday style) or when Miles Morales was introduced as a bi-racial Spider Man, there was the caveat that they were "alternate universes", as if to reassure those who may not have liked the new versions that the old one is still the real one, this was just an alternate take on the character..

Comics fan Isamu Jordan, frontman of the Spokane Washington hip hop band The Flying Spiders, echoed the confusing aspect of hiring someone with a history of discriminatory rhetoric, considering the steps that the comic publishers have taken to embrace a tolerant and accepting world.

"I can't imagine anti-equal rights being a good idea for any mainstream publication in this day and age.",  Jordan said, "It seems to me comics have been trying to be more progressive on this issue as of late. I see recurring storylines standing up for equal rights pretty commonly, I feel like. That being said, when Grant Morrison did his thing with Superman, it wasn't the typical Grant Morrison fair, so maybe this one will be less predictable in it's approach and execution, too. Lot's of a-holes are capable of writing great stories."

As is often the case with those who speak about controversial things, Card has (kinda/sorta) backtracked from those comments, and blamed it on the tried and true "come on, that was back then! You know how crazy shit was in 1990!" excuse.  This is the excuse many racists give now as to why they were racists back in the 50's and 60's.  "Oh it was the time.  Everyone called black people 'Nigger', how can I be blamed for that?  No one called me on it!"

He insists that when he was supportive of laws criminalizing sodomy EVEN IN THE PRIVACY OF ONE'S HOMES, it was because that was the law!  I mean, if something is the law, then you have to support it blindly, right?  Who cares whether it's  morally right, who cares if it's sickeningly discriminatory?  The law's the law.  And besides, he was writing this essay to like minded people, so it's okay, right?  Right?  This country has a long and sad history of things being against the law at one time or another, that at this point we've smartened up to.  Doesn't make those who supported those laws any less of an asshole for doing it.

So with all that in mind, you can probably understand the outrage when DC Comics announced that Card would be part of a team that will be writing a limited issue Superman series set to debut this April.   There's a petition out there to get him dropped, there's various forms of protesting, and supporters of LGBT have come out and criticized DC for this seeming ploy for attention, good or bad.

I'm conflicted on this, however.

I find him and his opinions on the LGBT community to be thoroughly disgusting and devoid of any shred of intelligence or compassion whatsoever.  I would not want to be around him, I wouldn't want to listen to a word he has to say on the subject, because from his writings, he comes off as an arrogant asshole who feels he is speaking from a position of moral authority and superiority over those in the LGBT community, and I have no time or tolerance for those people.

But should he lose his job over it?  Isn't the great thing about this country that we (allegedly) have the right to our opinions, no matter how unpopular they are?  Isn't that what is always championed about by those "Love it or Leave it" people about this country?  That you have the freedom to speak your mind, and not be punished for it?

There is a tendency in this country that despite that freedom, we tend to seek the ouster of those we disagree with.  If someone is spouting viewpoints that we are fundamentally opposed to, we seek to have them removed from whatever job they have, extricated from whatever sponsorship deals they have, and to be rendered irrelevant and out of sight, out of mind.

As problematic as that is for me, I still find myself leaning towards that way on a handful of occasions.  I believe that we have the right to protest and make our voices heard when it comes to someone espousing dangerous rhetoric, such as Card's assumptions that pedophilia is the same thing as homosexuality, or that there is any link whatsoever between the two.

That said, I think that there's a fine line there between simply protesting and making our voices heard by not supporting something with our wallets, and actively campaigning to remove someone's livelihood.   In this instance, either writing or not writing a limited comic book series is not going to make or break Card one way or the other, and if he is ousted, then I imagine that it would only reinforce his steadfast belief that the "homosexual mafia" or whatever these people believe in, has reared it's ugly head and made itself known yet again.

Is there a way to protest and make your opinions against someone heard, without that leading into actively campaigning for them to be fired?  CAN the two be separated, or are they forever one and the same?  Is it possible to complain about something like this without the end result being the attempted removal of Card?  Because if so, then what do you hope to achieve?  Is the simple act of making your voice heard enough?

I mean is it not enough to simply say that you don't support them and you won't support them?  To use your wallet to fight back and to not only not buy the comic, but not buy anything by DC comics, and specifically inform DC that Card's hiring is why you're not spending your money on their books?  That seems to be the most logical response to something you disagree with in the marketing world.  You don't like comments a singer says?  Don't buy their album.  Or is that not enough, and you have to get them fired?

I don't know.  As I said I don't like the idea of people being fired for their opinions.  I think that we are given the right to make ourselves heard, and to express our frustrations, and often the only avenue to truly illustrate that point of how we feel is monetarily.  I've always felt if I don't like something, I just don't watch it.  I don't listen to it.  I don't read it, I don't buy it.  Problem solved, for me anyway.

At what point is someone's opinions not allowed?  I vehemently detest everything Card has to say on this subject, but at the end of the day, shouldn't he be allowed to say it and still keep working?  Do we want a society that only allows those we agree with to work and have any level of influence?

Card is entitled to be as big a dick as he wants to be.  He also should be allowed to earn a living  writing his books, and even doing comic book series.  And as long as he is not trying to infuse his anti-LGBT agenda into the Superman comics, I don't really see the problem here.  The two situations are mutually exclusive in this case.  Now if he comes out and is having Superman talk about how horrible gay people are and how marriage is between a man and a woman and those gay people are going to Hell, then we may have a problem on our hands.  Although I can't really see DC allowing THAT, especially with a tentpole franchise in Superman.  No amount of "Alternate Universe" bullshit is going to allow that to fly.

Imthiyaz Hameed, writer of the upcoming indie film "Dany Boy" agreed with that train of thought.  "The way I see it, if his work on the Superman comics doesn't come off as hateful and discriminatory against a group of people, he's entitled to his own views. There are many writers out there who are open Atheists and their views on religion come out in their work, and can be offensive as well but there doesn't seem to much discussion on that.  I just think as long as his work especially on Superman which is almost like a public good,  isn't deemed as hateful he can think whatever he likes as long as he keeps it to himself and of course provides great stories."

There is, of course, one aspect which could possibly be the one reason he shouldn't be allowed to do this, and that is the character he is writing for.  Seriously, DC?  Out of all the writers you could have found to write Superman you pick the guy that is not in favor of everyone being treated equally?  Someone who stands against the idea of "Truth, Justice and the American Way" for everyone?   Who has written in the past that those who are gay should not be considered as equal to straight people?  THAT is who you have writing for Superman?  What, was Joe Arpaio too busy to write a series dealing with the most famous undocumented immigrant in the history of the world?

What's next?  Sean Hannity guest writing for Black Panther?  How about Rush Limbaugh writing for Captain Planet?

Andre Banks, co-founder and Executive Director of All-Out cited this as a major reason for the petition to have him kicked from the project.

“Nobody has suggested writer Orson Scott Card doesn't have the right to make statements about gay relationships, though describing them as ‘the end of civilization’ leans toward an unhelpful extremism. Gay nuptials are the least of our concerns in a world full of very real threats.  The question is whether he can embody the values and compassion that have inspired generations of young Americans to look to Superman as a champion of justice.

“Anti-gay extremists should  also be a serious concern to Americans.  It is peculiar that DC Comics would decide to bring them together.  The power of storytellers to shape and improve our society are essential - they help us understand and act on the best of our character. But lets be honest, you would not expect NOM to hire Ellen DeGeneres for their next PSA.”

If anything should get him tossed from this gig (and I predict he will be removed, after DC milks this for attention), it's this.  You can't bring people in that represent ideals that are not in sync with the character. Someone can be a fantastic writer, but if you they are identifiable by a trait that is in direct contrast with the character they are portraying, that could be problematic.  You're not going to hire someone who is passionately anti violence to write or draw for the Punisher, and you can't have someone that is discriminatory writing for a character like Superman.

Actor Michael Hartney had a similar reaction to this aspect of the situation as well, publishing an open letter to DC Comics on his tumblr.  It read, in part:

If this was a holocaust denier or a white supremacist, there would be no question. Hiring that writer would be an embarrassment to your company. Well, Card is an embarrassment to your company, DC. This is the same. The LGBTQ community will no longer take this lying down. Our civil rights are no longer up for debate or discussion.

Ugh. And of all the characters Card could have been hired to write, you give him Superman? The character that taught me to lead by example? To do the right thing, even when it was hard? To keep going, even when it seemed hopeless? What an insult. Kids are killing themselves. They are killing themselves in a climate of intolerance and homophobia publicly fostered by people like Orson Scott Card. You don’t have to contribute to this. You shouldn’t. You mustn’t.

I agree with Mr. Hartney, that Card's homophobia (whether he wants to acknowledge it as such matters none) is problematic.  He's on the board of directors of the National Organization of Marriage (although his current role is undetermined, as far as I can find) which actively seeks to lobby against marriage equality.  So this goes beyond a random person who has a differing opinion.  Whether or not he has any sway on that board, or whether he is actively engaged in trying to eliminate marriage equality, I do not know.  I am reaching out to Mr. Card and NOM for comment, and will update this piece if and when I get a response.

There are many others, like Jordan, however, who feel this may all simply be a situation of DC comics grabbing for some publicity, as there is a movie based on Card's most well known work, Ender's Game, starring Harrison Ford, coming out this November.

"It seems like DC is OK with being controversial in doses," Jordan noted. "The new Muslim Green Lantern seems like an interesting attempt at broaching a pretty taboo-heavy subject matter."

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