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Old 10th March 2013, 07:26 AM   #1
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Was/is the book "Ender's Game" an example of Homophobia?

Was/Is the novel Ender's Game Homophobic?

First let me say that I detest the term "Homophobic". It rather directly implies fear of homosexuals/homosexuality, but I am using it here to mean more of a visceral, unreasoning loathing of homosexuality and/or of homosexuals. (Is a member of the KKK "Afrophobic"? "Negrophobic"?)

That having been said...

Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite SF writers, but there is no denying that the man is homophobic. (probably stemming from his Mormonism).

I first got an inkling of this when reading his book Spellsinger (I believe that was the title, anyway), wherein the title character suffers horrific pain (God's wrath?) right after his first sexual experience, which happens to be a homosexual one.

Once I read that, I began to see hints (and blatantly obvious examples) of this homophobia in some of his other works.

Card has been asked about this in interviews, and freely admits to detesting homosexuality.

I read his book Ender's Game before I knew of this unfortunate (to me, anyway) "quirk" of Card's. If there are examples of this attitude in that book, I did not notice them.

Tonight, I was reading through the ImDB page about the upcoming film version of the book, and someone posted the opinion that the book was/is "blatantly homophobic". The evidence he or she gave for this opinion seemed to largely center around two things:
  1. The attacking, insectoid alien race are referred to on Earth as "Buggers", an obvious (to the man/woman who wrote the IMdB post) reference to "Buggery" - UK slang for anal intercourse.
  2. A scene in the book wherein a bully and the hero (Ender) have a fight to the death in a shower, naked.

I read the book before learning of Card's unfortunate ant-homosexual attitude, and did not read homophobia into either of these things. "Buggers" just seemed to be a reasonable invention of a derogatory term for an Insectoid enemy in times of war (similar to the terms "Japs", "Jerrys", "Charlie", etc), and the fight scene was done in the nude both because of where it took place (the school's shower room) and as a literary device to underscore the protagonist's vulnerability, making the reader all the more concerned for the hero.

I am considering reading the book again, with an eye out for this sort of thing, but thought I would ask here in the forum to see what others thought of this.
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Old 10th March 2013, 08:09 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by RSLancastr View Post
Was/Is the novel Ender's Game Homophobic?...

I read his book Ender's Game before I knew of this unfortunate (to me, anyway) "quirk" of Card's. If there are examples of this attitude in that book, I did not notice them...
Same here.
Originally Posted by RSLancastr View Post
I read the book before learning of Card's unfortunate ant-homosexual attitude, and did not read homophobia into either of these things. "Buggers" just seemed to be a reasonable invention of a derogatory term for an Insectoid enemy in times of war (similar to the terms "Japs", "Jerrys", "Charlie", etc), and the fight scene was done in the nude both because of where it took place (the school's shower room) and as a literary device to underscore the protagonist's vulnerability, making the reader all the more concerned for the hero.

I am considering reading the book again, with an eye out for this sort of thing, but thought I would ask here in the forum to see what others thought of this.
I suppose it's possible. But your mentioning it is the first it ever occurred to me, so if it was meant to imply a message of homophobia, I'd say it failed in that miserably.
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Old 10th March 2013, 08:16 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by RSLancastr View Post
I am considering reading the book again, with an eye out for this sort of thing, but thought I would ask here in the forum to see what others thought of this.
Great book. It's a real stretch to read homophobia in it. Might as well label Melville's classic as a feminist rant because it's about a guy out to kill the great white Moby Dick.

What is it they say about being in "the eye of the beholder?"
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Old 10th March 2013, 08:39 AM   #4
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I suspect that those calling 'Ender's Game' homophobic are reading too much into, what is after all, a science-fiction novel. It may even be an example of confirmation bias. Card is well known for his anti-gay views, so it's likely that examining the book while looking for homophobia will produce something that can be interpreted in that way. Neither example in the OP strikes me as homophobic.

I think the homophobia in Card's work probably has as much substance as the Satanism in the 'Harry Potter' books.

I found this:- http://www.straight.com/blogra/35403...-upcoming-film and several other similar articles. From these articles, it seems the problem is with Card's views and not with his work.
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Old 10th March 2013, 03:29 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Denver View Post
Same here.


I suppose it's possible. But your mentioning it is the first it ever occurred to me, so if it was meant to imply a message of homophobia, I'd say it failed in that miserably.
Spectacularly, even.

Originally Posted by marplots View Post
Great book. It's a real stretch to read homophobia in it. Might as well label Melville's classic as a feminist rant because it's about a guy out to kill the great white Moby Dick.
And a "reverse racist" (another term I despise, BTW) feminist rant as well.

Originally Posted by azzthom View Post
I suspect that those calling 'Ender's Game' homophobic are reading too much into, what is after all, a science-fiction novel. It may even be an example of confirmation bias. Card is well known for his anti-gay views, so it's likely that examining the book while looking for homophobia will produce something that can be interpreted in that way. Neither example in the OP strikes me as homophobic.

I think the homophobia in Card's work probably has as much substance as the Satanism in the 'Harry Potter' books.
Good comparison/analogy!
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Old 10th March 2013, 03:45 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by RSLancastr View Post
Good comparison/analogy!
You can't stop focusing on the gays, can you.
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Old 10th March 2013, 04:33 PM   #7
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First, let me say clearly and unequivocally that I do NOT believe there to be any correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia. And now that that's out of the way, Card's frequent and unnecessary descriptions of naked boys in the novel, not only in shower scenes but elsewhere as well, let me to wonder if something wasn't a little... off... about Card, and whether perhaps his stridently anti-gay position in the real world might have as much to to do with self-loathing as it does with his religion.
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Old 10th March 2013, 05:12 PM   #8
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If anything I thought the opposite. I liked the book but the frequent and casual nudity of the children described in the book seemed odd to me. I didn't see a literary point to most of it.
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Old 10th March 2013, 05:37 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by RSLancastr View Post
I first got an inkling of this when reading his book Spellsinger (I believe that was the title, anyway), wherein the title character suffers horrific pain (God's wrath?) right after his first sexual experience, which happens to be a homosexual one.
To be fair, that was a consequence of the puberty-delaying drugs used to prevent his voice breaking (he never got the proper follow-up treatment he was supposed to receive after they wore off), and this would have happened regardless of who he was having sex with.

(The book was called Songmaster, a novelization of his earlier short story called Songbird. Spellsinger is a fantasy series by Allan Dean Foster.)

Originally Posted by RSLancastr View Post
  1. The attacking, insectoid alien race are referred to on Earth as "Buggers", an obvious (to the man/woman who wrote the IMdB post) reference to "Buggery" - UK slang for anal intercourse.
  2. A scene in the book wherein a bully and the hero (Ender) have a fight to the death in a shower, naked.
I think it's a bit of a stretch to extract a homophobic message from these.

For example, do you consider it a homophobic statement when someone says "bugger off" or "bugger it"? The colloquial meaning of these terms would remain unchanged even if you replaced "bugger" with the F-word.

The fact that the enemy is a race of insects makes the word "bugger" the obvious derogatory epithet.

And sometimes a naked shower-room fight is just a naked shower-room fight. Especially when the participants are both pre-pubescent. (I think. It's been a long time since I read it. But I believe it was the bully's intent to catch him off-guard, when his friends weren't around to defend him.)
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Old 10th March 2013, 05:53 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Craig4 View Post
If anything I thought the opposite. I liked the book but the frequent and casual nudity of the children described in the book seemed odd to me. I didn't see a literary point to most of it.
I'm glad I wasn't the only one who saw this. Strange that I've never seen it mentioned anywhere.
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Old 10th March 2013, 05:54 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Brian-M View Post
And sometimes a naked shower-room fight is just a naked shower-room fight. Especially when the participants are both pre-pubescent. (I think. It's been a long time since I read it. But I believe it was the bully's intent to catch him off-guard, when his friends weren't around to defend him.)
If it was only that scene, I'd agree with you. But the boys are naked a LOT. And Card talks about it a LOT.
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Old 10th March 2013, 06:00 PM   #12
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Yea, I don't see it. Even the comics don't seem like it. I can't wait for the movie!
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Old 10th March 2013, 06:16 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Craig4 View Post
If anything I thought the opposite. I liked the book but the frequent and casual nudity of the children described in the book seemed odd to me. I didn't see a literary point to most of it.
There was a point. He was describing a situation akin to the military or one of those academies in England. The dehumanization comes partially by way of bridging personal space. There was no sexual element to it.
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Old 10th March 2013, 06:33 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Buckaroo View Post
If it was only that scene, I'd agree with you. But the boys are naked a LOT. And Card talks about it a LOT.
It's been a long time since I've read it, which is probably why I don't remember details such as it depicting lots of nudity. If I ever read it again, I'll make a point of keeping track of how often it comes up.

(On rare occasions when I intentionally read I book I haven't read for years, I'm often amazed by what I've forgotten. The human brain seems to have a very lossy compression algorithm for storing long-term memories.)

ETA: If it hadn't been mentioned in the OP, I wouldn't have known that the fight happened in the showers or in the nude. I do vaguely remember him killing another kid who attacked him. I also vaguely recall animosity from a kid who was kicked out of the programme. I'm not sure if those were the same kid, or different kids.
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Old 10th March 2013, 06:34 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Brian-M View Post
And sometimes a naked shower-room fight is just a naked shower-room fight.
That's what I told my wife!
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Old 10th March 2013, 06:43 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
There was a point. He was describing a situation akin to the military or one of those academies in England. The dehumanization comes partially by way of bridging personal space. There was no sexual element to it.
I was going to say something similar. These kids were in a military school, so communal showering and so on seem like the kind of thing that would be included to signal to the reader the nature of the institution Ender was in.

You could read it as homophobic, but it seems like going out of one's way to find homophobia.

The children in the story are homophobic, of course, but that homophobia isn't put on a pedestal. It's just kids being the vicious little jerks kids often are.
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Old 10th March 2013, 06:49 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
There was a point. He was describing a situation akin to the military or one of those academies in England. The dehumanization comes partially by way of bridging personal space. There was no sexual element to it.
Originally Posted by Kevin_Lowe View Post
I was going to say something similar. These kids were in a military school, so communal showering and so on seem like the kind of thing that would be included to signal to the reader the nature of the institution Ender was in.

You could read it as homophobic, but it seems like going out of one's way to find homophobia.

The children in the story are homophobic, of course, but that homophobia isn't put on a pedestal. It's just kids being the vicious little jerks kids often are.
Maybe you're right. But it was one of the things that stood out to me when I first read it, and left me scratching my head, long before I knew anything about Card's homophobia.
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Old 10th March 2013, 07:44 PM   #18
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Why would the naked fight scene have anything to do with homophobia?

I mean, seriously, what's the reasoning? "It's well known that fag-bashers like to tell stories about naked shower fights"?

This seems like more of a cliche held by mainstream heterosexuals, possibly related to the stereotype that the more you bash fags the more likely it is that you are a closeted faggot yourself, than a rational analysis of the actual thought processes of fag-bashers.

OSC is anti-gay? And he wrote a naked shower room fight scene? Well now it all makes sense! Really? How does it all make sense, exactly? What, exactly, is the sense we're supposed to make of these two data points?

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Old 10th March 2013, 08:18 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
There was a point. He was describing a situation akin to the military or one of those academies in England. The dehumanization comes partially by way of bridging personal space. There was no sexual element to it.
That's what I took from it as well. The nudity that appears in several scenes served to emphasize that they were in military school, and had no personal identity. This was also emphasized by the fact that it wasn't just the boys, but Petra as well. As for the shower scene, it was an ambush in a spot where they considered Ender vulnerable.

As for "bugger", I did notice that one. I would expect the nasty epithet to be "bug". I wasn't sure if the choice of "bugger" was a way to distance himself from Heinlein in Starship Troopers, or a way of adding in a sexual insult to the mix.

At any rate, it didn't seem in any way homophobic.
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Old 10th March 2013, 08:36 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Why would the naked fight scene have anything to do with homophobia?

I mean, seriously, what's the reasoning? "It's well known that fag-bashers like to tell stories about naked shower fights"?
Yes. That's it exactly.

Quote:
This seems like more of a cliche held by mainstream heterosexuals, possibly related to the stereotype that the more you bash fags the more likely it is that you are a closeted faggot yourself, than a rational analysis of the actual thought processes of fag-bashers.

OSC is anti-gay? And he wrote a naked shower room fight scene? Well now it all makes sense! Really? How does it all make sense, exactly? What, exactly, is the sense we're supposed to make of these two data points?
Get a grip, man. Your apoplexy is gonna give you an aneurysm.
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Old 10th March 2013, 09:06 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Buckaroo View Post
Yes. That's it exactly.



Get a grip, man. Your apoplexy is gonna give you an aneurysm.
Enh. More boredom, really.

Anyway, setting aside your sarcasm, what is the reasoning, exactly?
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Old 10th March 2013, 10:00 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Enh. More boredom, really.

Anyway, setting aside your sarcasm, what is the reasoning, exactly?
For me, not much in the way of reasoning, as I'm not really coming to any actual conclusions -- mostly I just noticed the irony of a loudly homophobic male author populating a novel with multiple scenes of l'il boys in the buff. I did wonder a bit at it, but that's all -- no assertions either way.
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Old 10th March 2013, 10:07 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Buckaroo View Post
For me, not much in the way of reasoning, as I'm not really coming to any actual conclusions -- mostly I just noticed the irony of a loudly homophobic male author populating a novel with multiple scenes of l'il boys in the buff. I did wonder a bit at it, but that's all -- no assertions either way.
I wonder what they think of Huck Finn? Does Twain get the homophobe label for having his character swim in the nude? I don't recall, was Jim there to watch?
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Old 10th March 2013, 10:16 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Buckaroo View Post
For me, not much in the way of reasoning, as I'm not really coming to any actual conclusions -- mostly I just noticed the irony of a loudly homophobic male author populating a novel with multiple scenes of l'il boys in the buff. I did wonder a bit at it, but that's all -- no assertions either way.
Well, I'd say noticing irony is a conclusion and an assertion, actually. You're concluding and asserting that it's ironic.

So. What's ironic about it?

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Old 10th March 2013, 11:10 PM   #25
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I don't recall noticing any nudity other than the fight in the showers.

The last time I read Ender's Game was around twenty years ago, when I read it to my three kids (around ages 7, 9 and 10 at the time) as one of the "chapter books" (as they called them) that I read to them at bedtime, one chapter at a time. (other "chapter books" read to them during those days included Jurassic Park, The Hobbit, Several of Dahl's books, including The BFG, Danny, the Champion of the World, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches and many others.

I would think that I would remember (and would have edited out, on the fly) any homophobic elements I noticed. Also, all three of my kids subsequently purchased their own copies of the book, which they all read multiple times in their teen years, and they would have mentioned any homophobic elements they may have noticed (they all became theater majors, and all had many close friends who were gay.
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Old 10th March 2013, 11:22 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
So. What's ironic about it?
Oh, FFS.
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Old 10th March 2013, 11:32 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
I wonder what they think of Huck Finn? Does Twain get the homophobe label for having his character swim in the nude? I don't recall, was Jim there to watch?
If Twain had made numerous homophobic public statements, perhaps. But I'm not aware of any. Are you? Or are you just being deliberately obtuse?
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Old 10th March 2013, 11:38 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Buckaroo View Post
If Twain had made numerous homophobic public statements outside of his novel, perhaps. But I'm unaware of any. Are you? Or are you just being deliberately obtuse?
Neither. I was trying to see how it was that a parallel example from one book could be homophobic when another wasn't, based on what we knew about the author instead of what was printed in the book.

It's an interesting question. Suppose we discovered that Card wasn't really homophobic at all. Everything to this point was just a big Poe. Would the meaning of the words in the book then change as well?

All I'm saying is that I didn't think anything either way, phobic, erotic or other suffix. It was a good read.

As a follow up, what about the other books in the series? I liked Speaker for the Dead a great deal.
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Old 10th March 2013, 11:41 PM   #29
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Whether one is of the opinion that the shower fight incident had homophobic undertones or pedophilic undertones, we can all be pretty confident that whatever re-imagined confrontation scene makes it into the movie will have neither.
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Old 10th March 2013, 11:43 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
As a follow up, what about the other books in the series? I liked Speaker for the Dead a great deal.
I don't recall anything anti-gay in any of the other books in the series, and I've read them all. But then, I didn't notice any in Ender's Game either.
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Old 10th March 2013, 11:45 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
Whether one is of the opinion that the shower fight incident had homophobic undertones or pedophilic undertones, we can all be pretty confident that whatever re-imagined confrontation scene makes it into the movie will have neither.
That'll be political correctness going mad again.
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Old 10th March 2013, 11:55 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
Neither. I was trying to see how it was that a parallel example from one book could be homophobic when another wasn't, based on what we knew about the author instead of what was printed in the book.

It's an interesting question. Suppose we discovered that Card wasn't really homophobic at all. Everything to this point was just a big Poe. Would the meaning of the words in the book then change as well?

All I'm saying is that I didn't think anything either way, phobic, erotic or other suffix. It was a good read.

As a follow up, what about the other books in the series? I liked Speaker for the Dead a great deal.
You're right, that is an interesting question. Another example is from Moby Dick, in the chapter where Queequeg and Ishmael share a bed. Melville explicitly describes the scene in domestic husband-wife terms, and for a modern reader there is a definite undercurrent of homoeroticism when Ishmael wakes with Queequeg draped over him. Did Melville intend this? I doubt it. Are these elements "really" there, then? Who knows?

I thought Speaker for the Dead was brilliant. And yet I found irony here as well: that an author who could write in such compassionate and empathetic terms about an utterly alien species could harbor such hateful sentiments about members of his own. OSC is an interesting guy.
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Old 11th March 2013, 12:00 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
That'll be political correctness going mad again.
Yeah, or just the producers not breaking any laws.

I'm sure the suspenseful integrity and plot significance of the scene will be adequately preserved.
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Old 11th March 2013, 12:21 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by RSLancastr View Post
I don't recall anything anti-gay in any of the other books in the series, and I've read them all. But then, I didn't notice any in Ender's Game either.
If I remember right (and it's possible that I'm not), I read somewhere that the Ender's Game novel was mostly written primarily for the purpose of setting up a back story for the Ender character in Speaker For the Dead, the more mature character at that point in time being the true focus of the story. IIRC, the public interest in Ender's Game was a surprise to Card since he didn't put a lot of depth into it, and because of this I doubt that there's any intentional "subtle messages" in any of the book's scenes, homophobic or otherwise. The book does have a message of course, but it is pretty explicit.
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Old 11th March 2013, 12:50 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by RSLancastr View Post
I don't recall anything anti-gay in any of the other books in the series, and I've read them all. But then, I didn't notice any in Ender's Game either.
I hope they never do make a movie out of it. A lot of good books are ruined by turning them into movies.

Originally Posted by Buckaroo View Post
You're right, that is an interesting question. Another example is from Moby Dick, in the chapter where Queequeg and Ishmael share a bed. Melville explicitly describes the scene in domestic husband-wife terms, and for a modern reader there is a definite undercurrent of homoeroticism when Ishmael wakes with Queequeg draped over him. Did Melville intend this? I doubt it. Are these elements "really" there, then? Who knows?
I only read the start of Moby Dick, I lost interest when I got to the monologue by the author explaining why he thought that whales should be classed as fish instead of mammals.

But I do remember that Ishmael wasn't too pleased to discover that he'd have to share the hotel bed with a stranger, and a savage at that. He even tried sleeping on a pair of wooden benches he pushed together in the lobby, but they weren't the same height, so it was too uncomfortable to sleep on.
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Old 11th March 2013, 01:23 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Brian-M View Post
I hope they never do make a movie out of it. A lot of good books are ruined by turning them into movies.
Quote:
Ender's Game is an upcoming American science fiction film based on the novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card. Directed and written by Gavin Hood, the film will star Asa Butterfield as Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, an unusually gifted child who is sent to an advanced military school in space to prepare for a future alien invasion, leading an ensemble cast that includes Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Aramis Knight, Hailee Steinfeld, Jimmy Pinchak, Viola Davis, and Abigail Breslin. In November 2010, Card stated that the film's storyline would be a fusion of Ender's Game and its parallel novel, Ender's Shadow, focusing on the important elements of both.[3]

The film will be released on November 1, 2013, by Summit Entertainment through Lionsgate.
Ender's Game (film)
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Old 11th March 2013, 03:10 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Damn.
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Old 11th March 2013, 04:54 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Buckaroo View Post
First, let me say clearly and unequivocally that I do NOT believe there to be any correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia. And now that that's out of the way, Card's frequent and unnecessary descriptions of naked boys in the novel, not only in shower scenes but elsewhere as well, let me to wonder if something wasn't a little... off... about Card, and whether perhaps his stridently anti-gay position in the real world might have as much to to do with self-loathing as it does with his religion.
You wouldn't be the first person to speculate about the connection between such scenes, Card's outspoken comments and his sexual orientation.
Just don't tell Skeptic Ginger

Anyway many good authors (and I don't personally consider Card to be more than mediocre-average) are idiots or have axes to grind.
Have you read Card's denialism of climate change?
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Old 11th March 2013, 04:54 AM   #39
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I read a review once that claimed a trilogy was anti-lesbian. The author based this on the fact that more than one character was lesbian and at least one was bisexual and that the last book was titled Demon.

I don't think he'd read the books.
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Old 11th March 2013, 05:20 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by RSLancastr View Post
Was/Is the novel Ender's Game Homophobic?

First let me say that I detest the term "Homophobic". It rather directly implies fear of homosexuals/homosexuality, but I am using it here to mean more of a visceral, unreasoning loathing of homosexuality and/or of homosexuals. (Is a member of the KKK "Afrophobic"? "Negrophobic"?)
They are xenophobic. Or is that word "wrong" as well? Should we stop talking about hydrophobic substances as inanimate objects can't feel fear?
Etymology does not define meaning, as I found out yesterday when I called professor Yaffle a tart (which comes from a contraction of "sweet heart" and she took offence. I can't think why...)
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