Friday, February 22, 2013

Card's Superman

Let's dig a little bit deeper into the controversy surrounding DC's choice to hire sf writer Orson Scott Card to create some Superman stories.

First, here's a USAToday article that sums up the issue:

DC Comics ignited a firestorm last week by announcing that Card, who has been criticized over the years for his vocal anti-gay political stance, would be one of a stable of writers contributing to a new digital-first anthology, Adventures of Superman. The series, launching in April (a print version will be sold in stores starting in May), features the iconic hero who has long been associated with the phrase "truth, justice and the American way.''
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender activist website has collected more than 11,000 signatures on an online petition asking DC to drop Card from the project....

In addition to being the author of the 1985 science-fiction novel Ender's Game and many other sci-fi works, Card is on the board of directors for the National Organization for Marriage, which is outspoken in its denouncement of same-sex marriage.

Here's another summary, from The Daily Beast. And one from The Guardian.

DC's response has been to brush it off:

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.

Beyond the petition, several shops have decided not to carry the print version of the comic.

At issue are both Card's beliefs and his actions. He's not merely someone who believes that certain people should be denied marriage, he sits on the board of an organization devoted to stopping it, and has stated that, should gay marriage become a federal right, people should rise up against the government. Michael Hartney has written on just this point:

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.

Christopher Butcher takes it further:

Orson Scott Card is a dangerous bigot. If he will not even attempt to atone for his dangerous bigotry (including: hate-filled screeds, lies, and incitements to violence), then I don’t care if he never gets another job again. Let alone writing a beloved icon of children and adults.

Here's a thoughtful response from Wired, about how the writer is disappointed by Card's views, but doesn't agree that he should be pulled from the story:

Let him write the story, and let DC publish it. You can then choose to buy the comic or not. You can then choose to protest the message in the actual story if you are offended by it. But silencing a voice — even one with as intolerant a message as his — is not the answer. It’s better to hold that intolerance up to the light of day and show it for what it truly is: fear. Fear of the alien. Fear of the other and the strange. A fear that, ironically, it was Orson Scott Card who helped me confront and vanquish at an early age, whether he meant to or not.

Mark Millar has apparently tweeted that calling for the firing of Card based on his views is nothing short of fascism.

But others have been prompted to more reflective statements about their view of the character:

Superman may not live in the real world, but I’d like to think that if he were a real being he would be on the side of justice for LGBT community members.

It's important to point out that the issue is coming to a head because of the character. Nobody seems to have complained much when Card wrote Iron Man stories, as many of the above links make clear. Because Superman is involved, people suddenly have strong opinions. Following on a point from Butcher above, Tom Spurgeon wonders about this:

Butcher's line about Superman having power as an icon above and beyond his role as a corporate-owned character attached to a dubious history of exploitation and issue-alignment, and that this matters, is well-taken. That is very much a blind spot for me. For me, Superman is an empty suit. One of my first Internet fiascoes was a mid-1990s declaration that no adult person actually considered Superman a role-model and being lectured by an array of adults on CompuServe that told me that they very much considered Big Blue a role-model and how dare I suggest otherwise. Live and learn. I'm still always a little confused that the ideal outweighs the uglier aspects for folks that are routinely exposed to both. This expression of that notion here, that being assigned to Superman means something more than if Card were given, say, his own entire comics line, comes from hardcore comics fans, not from like my Mom or from my friends growing up or their kids. It's sort of like if the press corps and Secret Service that dealt with JFK on a daily basis had a more hardcore idealized version of the president than Catholic households in Boston with his picture above the television had, although maybe that doesn't explain it well, and maybe those men and women did hold Kennedy in higher regard.

It's legitimately fascinating that Superman seems to me to have been traditionally claimed by conservatives as having ideals in that direction, and here is claimed for what we tend to think of as American liberal values such as inclusiveness. In fact, the irony from the perspective of this being a headache for DC Comics is that they've sold and sold and sold this viewpoint where they are in shared custody with generations of fans of an important set of ideas and principles wearing a cape, and in this instance they have to deal with the fact that people are going to hold them to that. Good

So there's all that stuff wrapped up in this issue. The general sentiment above is that Card is wrong in his opinions, and that he is in the minority. Some people think that Superman shouldn't be written by a person who feels the way Card feels, who advocates the things he advocates. As I see it, it all comes down to the idea that some people think that Superman should represent inclusivity--he saves everyone. They extend this idea beyond the character and the stories told about him to the complex of events surrounding the creation of those stories, including the people involved in the creation.

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