Monday, February 18, 2013

Champion of the Oppressed


Many of you may have heard that comic-book fans and retailers are outraged at Orson Scott Card's involvement in a new digital-first 'Adventures of Superman' series.  If you are like me, I've just heard about it a few times on NPR, but I heard a story by Glen Weldon, a freelance writer and regular contributor to Monkey See, on NPR yesterday.  I payed attention, partly because I did not know that the anti-gay author was Orson Scott Card, who I was familiar with only through seeing his books in bookstores. I also paid attention because I am a fan of Superman.  I'm not one of those fans that reads all of the Superman comics, but one who has a healthy fantasy about how very attractive Superman is.  Superman has always been my favorite superhero and it really goes deeper than just the attractiveness of the actors who have played him in TV and movies.  Like Weldon said:
Superman is not just a superhero. He's the superhero. He created the very concept of the superhero, and everything that's touched on that concept for the past 75 years — we are talking vast swaths of popular culture — exists because of him. Regardless of how you feel about Superman and superheroes, you can't deny the cultural impact the character has made, and continues to make...Superman is an ideal. He represents our best self. That's what he's for.

He's not the hero we identify with — that's what Spider-Man is for. Spider-Man worries about rent, and girlfriends, and his sick Aunt May still, again, some more. In him, we see ourselves as we are.

In Superman, we see ourselves as we hope to be. It's right there in the name — he's not "Pretty Good Man" or "Doesn't Suck Man"; he's Superman. He personifies our noblest ideals, ideals we believe in, and strive for, but only inconstantly attain: Truth and Justice, but also Fairness and Compassion.

He is a man born with tremendous gifts, who could do anything he wants. Anything at all. And what he chooses to do, first and always, is to help others.

In Action Comics #1 from 1938, Siegel and Shuster slapped together a one-page origin story in which he discovers his powers. We don't actually see him in the baby-blue longjohns until the very last panel of this introduction.

But when we do see him for the very first time, these are the first words that appear directly below, the first epithet applied to this newly-minted creation as it was unleashed upon the world:

Champion of the Oppressed. (Emphasis added)

There it is, coded into his creative DNA from the very beginning: He fights for the little guy. 
Weldon also states the reasons why he, as an inveterate Superman nerd and a gay dude, will not be reading the first two issues of a new digital-first Superman comic.  He stated that:

First (and I think his most important point about Card): Card isn't just a guy whose opinions I happen to disagree with. Trust me, the comics industry is rife with writers, artists and editors whose politics I don't share, who hold views they're quite public about in interviews and various internet forums, and I would defend — to the mild inconvenience — their right to hold those views. This isn't about that.

Card is different. Card is an activist. He sits on the board of the National Organization for Marriage, an entity entirely devoted to attacking and defeating marriage equality and spending millions of dollars lobbying to do so.
So let me give you some more background about Orson Scott Card.  Card has publicly declared his disapproval of homosexuality and of gay marriage. In 1990, Card called for laws that ban consensual homosexual acts to "remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society." He no longer advocates this, however, and argues that the 1990 stance must be seen in the context of the times (such laws were still deemed constitutional at the time) and the conservative Mormon audience to whom his essay was addressed.

In 2008, Card wrote that "[t]here is no branch of government with the authority to redefine marriage," and indicated that a revolution would be appropriate if gay marriage became law. He said:
Because when government is the enemy of marriage, then the people who are actually creating successful marriages have no choice but to change governments, by whatever means is made possible or necessary. . . .
How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.
In 2009, Card became a member of the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that seeks to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Card has also voiced his opinion that paraphilia and homosexuality are sometimes linked. In a 2004 essay entitled "Homosexual 'Marriage' and Civilization", Card wrote:
The dark secret of homosexual society—the one that dares not speak its name—is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.
Additionally, in Card's novella Hamlet's Father, which re-imagines the backstory of Shakespeare's play Hamlet, some claim that Card directly links the king's pedophilia with homosexuality. The novella prompted public outcry and its publishers were inundated with complaints. The trade journal Publisher's Weekly criticized Card's "flimsy novella" and stated that the main purpose of it was to attempt to link homosexuality to pedophilia. Card responded to the claim:
...[T]here is no link whatsoever between homosexuality and pedophilia in this book. Hamlet's father, in the book, is a pedophile, period. I don't show him being even slightly attracted to adults of either sex. It is the reviewer, not me, who has asserted this link, which I would not and did not make.
Card's views became the subject of even more pronounced controversy when he was selected as one of several recurring guest authors for DC Comics's new Adventures of Superman series. DC Comics responded that it supported freedom of expression and that the personal views of individuals associated with the company were not the views of the company.

Like Mr. Weldon, I will not be reading the new Superman comic book, nor would I read anything else written by Mr. Card.

3 comments:

SEAN said...

There have been many articles about Card and DC Comics and yours, by far, is the best and most complete. AND that pic - so hot! Comic book stores are now threatening to boycott DC Comics.

I wrote about Card as well HERE and gave a link to a petition being sent to DC Comics urging them to release Card.

BTW - I have you as my PASSENGER PICKUP (featured blog) this week.

JoeBlow said...

Thank you so much, Sean. That means so much coming from someone I admire and whose blog I also admire.

Jay M. said...

I will admit that I read a lot of Card (particularly the Ender's Game Trilogy, and others) before I knew this about him. His outspoken views will probably do more to harm DC Comics than they will ever make up in profits based on his name appearing as a writer.

Peace <3
Jay