Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What's the Big Deal about Orson Scott Card and Superman?

Update:  The comic artist meant to illustrate Card's Superman story left the project, and the story has been shelved, possibly (hopefully) forever.

A week ago DC Comics announced that one of the writers for their new digital anthology series, Adventures of Superman, would be author Orson Scott Card, and then the Internet exploded.

Since the announcement, LGBTQ individuals and allies have written letters of protest, created a petition against Card’s hiring, and threatened to boycott the series, if not boycott DC Comics as a whole. I’ve seen much online debate about Card’s “right to work” and about how those calling for his work not to be published are trying to force their morals on the world just as much as Card himself does. Beyond that, I’ve seen much misinformation, and today I’m going to address the debate, point by point, to get the facts out to those who will listen.

Who is Orson Scott Card?

Orson Scott Card is an author primarily known for publishing the Ender’s Game series. He has also written various comics for Marvel, such as an Ender’s Game adaptation and Ultimate Iron Man. He is a board member for the National Organization for Marriage, a non-profit organization considered an anti-gay hate group by many.

What are Orson Scott Card’s views on homosexuality?

Orson Scott Card believes that people are made homosexual through rape, molestation, and abuse. He has stated that is a lie to say gays are not allowed to marry, because they have every right to marry someone of the opposite gender (Source).

He has advocated for overthrowing the government were gay marriage to become legal (Source.)

He rewrote Hamlet to make Hamlet’s father a pedophile who molested Horatio, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Laertes, turning them gay in the process (Source).

What is the National Organization for Marriage?

The National Organization for Marriage is a non-profit anti-gay hate group established in 2007 to fight gay marriage and gay adoption. NOM was instrumental in the passing of Proposition 8 in California (Source) and was the primary contributor for Stand For Marriage Maine, which was successful in repealing the state’s gay marriage legislature (Source).

NOM is under investagion by the Maine Ethics Commission for refusing to disclose its donors as well as failing to register as a ballot question committee with the state (Source). The Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization for LGBT individuals, dedicated a blog to cataloguing NOM’s hateful statements, with a long and appalling list of entries: NOM Exposed.

Orson Scott Card is a board member for NOM. As a director of a 501(k) non-profit organization, he has both influence and control of the group’s agenda, such as where their money is budgeted and what programs they run. Therefore, he is complicit with NOM’s views and is responsible for their actions.

What is the protest about?

LGBTQ consumers and allies object to DC Comics hiring a bigot who actively works to deny civil rights to others, especially as Card was hired to write Superman, a character who believes in compassion for everyone. Given DC’s promise to create a “more modern, diverse DC Universe” for their relaunch in 2011, protestors feel this decision is a step backwards and a slap in the face. They are angry that DC is providing money to Card, who may well use it to fight against their rights. They are also angry that DC chose to hire Card in the first place.

These individuals will boycott the two issues of Adventures of Superman penned by Card, and have signed a petition against DC publishing his work. They may also have written to the president of DC Entertainment, Diane Nelson, to express their complaints. Some have suggested that DC should not run Card’s issues or that they replace Card’s issues with those of an LGBTQ creator, and that they publish a queer-friendly standalone comic and donate the proceeds to a pro-gay organization.

Isn’t this just Card’s opinion? There are other conservative creators at DC Comics, and you’re not calling for them to be fired.

It ceased to be just his opinion when Card joined the board of a hate group that hopes to deny people their civil rights and has succeeded in doing so multiple times. Creators such as Chuck Dixon and Ethan Van Sciver may be conservative, but they are not members of hate groups. DC Comics would not publish the work of a Klansman or a Neo Nazi, and they should not publish Card’s.

What about Orson Scott Card’s freedom of speech?

Freedom of speech means freedom from government censorship. It does not mean freedom from criticism, or freedom to publish works for DC Comics. Freedom of speech works both ways. He is free to say as many hateful and homophobic things as he wants, and others are free to organize a boycott of his work as a result. It is the protestor’s freedom of speech to petition DC to drop Card’s issues.

They’re calling for him to be unemployed. How is that okay?

Card has already completed and been paid for the issues he penned. No one is asking for DC to revoke that payment. They are asking that DC never hire him again. This is not blacklisting – these protestors have no governmental authority. They are consumers telling a company what they want.

It isn’t as if DC Comics is all that stands between Card and destitution. DC could never hire him again for as long as he lived and he would be fine.

Aren’t the protestors being just as intolerant as they say Orson Scott Card is?

This line of thinking gets trotted out whenever an oppressed minority dares to complain. The LGBTQ community does not have to be tolerant of anyone who seeks to deny their civil rights. It is not just an opinion, it is bigotry that poses a risk of significant harm to them. Orson Scott Card has helped to deny civil rights on multiple occasions. We live in a world in which people are beaten, harassed, shamed, disowned, murdered, and even driven to suicide for being born different. That is not something anyone should have to tolerate.

Where were these protestors when Marvel was publishing Card’s work?

Orson Scott Card was not on the board of NOM during his time at Marvel.

Do you honestly think DC Comics is going to let Card publish something anti-gay?

This is not about the content of his work, it is about DC’s decision to hire him in the first place. His views will likely not appear in the issues, but he is still a bigot who actively harms others and the protests are in regards to the choice to hire him at all.

I’m gay and I think this whole protest is stupid.

That is your right.

I didn’t care about this before, but all your bitching has convinced me to buy twelve issues! Suck on that!

Enjoy being an asshole and wasting your money. You are within your rights as a consumer to buy what you want.

I’m angry at DC for this decision and I want to make my voice heard. What can I do?

First and foremost, do not buy Card’s issues of Adventures of Superman. They will be available in a digital format on DC’s website and in print later on. If you are financially able and interested in Superman, you may want to buy the issues after Card’s to make it clear that you don’t object to the series as a whole, just Orson Scott Card.

Sign the All Out petition and pass it on to others. It does not require an account to sign.

Contact DC Comics, either through @DCComics on Twitter or the Contact Page on their website. Make your voice heard.

Write a physical letter, not an email, and send it to the president of DC Entertainment, Diane Nelson. This is the best way to make a point, as it gives physical copies for DC to view instead of a list of petition signatures and emails. Her address is:

Diane Nelson
President, DC Entertainment
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.
4000 Warner Blvd., Bldg 2, #103
Burbank, CA 91522

Finally, if you can, make a financial contribution to an organization that fights for equality, be it The Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, The Born This Way Foundation, or another group. No matter how small, every cent helps in the fight toward equal rights. Get involved, if you can. See if there’s any way you can contribute to equality in your community.

Superman would never stand for hate and intolerance. Neither should we.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Who Gets to be a Homicidal Clown? Anyone Who Wants to Be!

Note:  This post deals with problematic attitudes regarding comics and their film adaptations.  I mock these views by pretending to agree.  I do not support the idea that the Joker (or any character) must be portrayed by a white cis male.

Consider the Joker. Not the one on the playing card, the one in the Batman comics. What do you consider the defining traits of the Joker? A murderous sense of humor? A total disregard for human life? A purple suit?

What are you, new at this? All of that pales in comparison to the things that truly make the Joker the villain we know and love today: Caucasian ethnicity and a penis!

Sorry, Prince, you're just too awesome.

…This may require some explanation. So because I am a masochist who enjoys making my blood pressure do back flips, I occasionally head over to the Comic Book Resources forums in search of nuanced and rational discussion. And what to my wondering eyes should appear today but a thread entitled Should the Joker ever be played by women or non-whites, with ten whole pages of discussion. Oh boy, sounds like this will be as fun and painless as sticking my foot in a bear trap!

Now, you may be thinking that things like skin color or gender shouldn’t be the defining factor of a casting decision. After all, Denzel Washington did a much better job than Keanu Reeves did when they played brothers in Much Ado About Nothing and Cate Blanchett’s performance as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There was phenomenal.  So perhaps you’re under the impression that the ability to portray the character is the most important thing. But you’d be wrong. And if you need some convincing, allow me to summarize some brilliant arguments from the thread that could all be prefaced with “I’m not racist, but” in order to persuade you!

We start out strong with an important consideration:

“I'm Black, and I say keep the Joker as he's supposed to be. It was fine when Billy D. Williams played Harvey Dent and even when Michael Clarke Duncan played the Kingpin in Daredevil, but it's different when a character is as iconic and such a household name as the Joker is; would you want an Asian, Black, etc person playing Batman or Superman? I think you are just trolling with this post...” 

Yeah, definitely trolling. I mean, a black Superman? Who would ever let that happen?

Oh. But that’s Grant Morrison. That doesn’t count, right? Besides, we couldn’t have a non-Caucasian Batman! The story of an orphan out to avenge his parents’ murder by instilling fear in criminals would fall apart if he weren’t white.

Now, any actor who’s portrayed the Joker, from Romero to Ledger, has had all their visible body slathered in white makeup to match the unnatural, chemically bleached tone of the clown’s skin. So you may be asking what difference the color of an actor makes when they’ll be covered in greasepaint. Luckily for you, they’ve thought of that as well.

“I agree to a point, but The Joker's face is quite characteristically caucasian in that his nose is very thin and long.”

“The Joker is as iconic for his looks as he is for his actions. We do not need an origin story for us to know that he is white. His facial features are blatantly caucasian.” 

Well, that is what white people look like. Non-Caucasians don’t know the pain of constantly being asked if they can use our cheekbones to slice meat deli-style, or the care we have to take in turning corners to ensure our noses don’t put out the eyes of hapless passerby. Have a moment to reflect on how the features of all the Joker’s actors perfectly match the above image—I’m taking a break to open some soup cans with my chin.

 Okay, I’m back. Now that we’ve established that the Joker’s features are not a clownish caricature, but unmistakable ethnic markers that only white people have ever had, let us go move onto another point raised in that second quote: “ We do not need an origin story for us to know that he is white.” I’d like to point out that the Joker does have an origin story, and before we saw him with snow white skin, this is how he was portrayed:

Using your keen detective skills, you may have noticed that neither his skin nor his face is visible. But after careful examination, I have concluded that only a white person would wear that thing on his head, so there you go.

 Besides, in The Laughing Fish the Joker made a smart-ass remark about being Irish, and because the Joker is a trustworthy and upstanding gentleman, we should take that seriously. Also, only white dudes have ever lived in Ireland or claimed to be from there.

I wish I could tell you that people didn’t claim Cesar Romero doesn’t count as a Latino actor because he can pass as white. I wish I could tell you that—but this is no comic book world.

Let us assume that these flawless arguments have convinced you that the Joker of comic lore is in fact the whitest kid you know. But since the original question posed was about actors, you may be wondering why an actor’s ethnicity cannot vary from the character’s. Because the audience might confused, of course!

“What the hell? Really guys? That would just be weird as hell. He's been white for a long time and that would confuse a lot of folks. I remember going "WTF" when I saw a black Nick Fury, but then I read Ultimate Avengers and realized they must have been portraying that Fury. I cannot remember Joker being portrayed as anything other than a white person. I mean, he has Caucasian features.” 

Plus, casting a non-white actor as to play a white character just doesn’t work and is symptomatic of political correctness gone mad:

“In the Daredevil movie, the kingpin is African American, and at first i did not recognize the character. He did not seem the same as i the comics, and i believe this was a casting mistake.”

“In fact the idea of casting somebody against their culture could easily create some backlash against the movie. (Heimedal in Thor?)”

“I personally feel it would be either stunt casting to gain cheap media attention or trying to hard to be politically correct like the Thor movie.” 

Yeah, I remember the way my jaw dropped when I first saw Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor. I gaped at the screen with only one thought in my head: Those are the damn fakest-looking contacts I’ve ever seen. This movie must have had a budget of millions and they couldn’t spring a pair that actually mimicked the texture of the iris?

It was generally considered wrong to make the characters in The Last Airbender white, so it must be equally wrong to make white characters into minorities. The controversy with Airbender was all about the race change in and of itself , and not that whites are overrepresented in Hollywood while everyone else is underrepresented. Why, I’m sure the exact same people who were mad about a white actor portraying Bane are furious about Laurence Fishburne playing Perry White in Man of Steel, because that’s apparently the exact same thing.

“Let me ask you this would it be fine to make a whit Falcon, or Blade of course not they're be a huge uproar, look at what happend with Last Airbender. If it's racist and wrong to cast a white person in a non white role then the reverse also holds true. Racism isn't a one way street, and it's not just white people who are racist. And yes I know there's a historically valid reason for it but even that amounts to litle beyond blaming a entire race for the actions of a stupider generation and the actions of a few.”

And why would we want more diversity in portrayals of preexisting characters when we should be creating new minority characters? It’s impossible to do both at once, you see.

“so instead of changing character make and support new ones. It's not a successful blow for diversity to go hey you know that one guy..he's black now. really I think that's a little insulting.” 

But at the end of the day, apparently white actors are just superior at some things?

“In general I'm against changing a character's race as I haven't seen it sucessfully done. Michael Clark Duncan's version of kingpin didn't work because you really needed that air of cold contempt and merciless ambition that only an older white male can pull off.”

 “Can [black actors] pull it off? Yes. Can they pull it off when being directly compared to someone like say Jeremy Irons or Alan Rickman? If you seen such a feat then please direct me to it.”

“Then they should have used make up to make [Michael Clarke Duncan] look white, and did a voice-over, because he came across as a big fat black guy, not a big fat white guy. I'm sorry, but that ruined the movie for me.” 

Yeah, holy shit. Those are so horribly racist I can’t even mock them.

But let’s not forget the other horror lurking on the horizon: What if the Joker were portrayed by a woman?

“To be fateful to the source, he should be male”

“I don't have a problem with switching the race, but I do agree with those that draw the line at changing the gender.”

“Never a woman though. Too much of a change.” 

Back off, women! You’d ruin the Batman/Joker dynamic with your feminine ways! Suck on that, Joker lady. 

Wait, who the hell is that freak? It appears that I just linked to myself in talking about gender roles in comic fandom for the sake of shameless self-promotion. Must have been a Freudian slip; I meant this Joker lady. 

And that’s the only time the Joker’s ever been portrayed as female.


Well, clearly those are isolated incidents from people who just don't get the character.  I mean, usually he's a bastion of masculinity.