MovieBob’s Baggage: Why we should take a work’s context into consideration

Over the course of the semester, we’ve studied different ways to examine a work of art, as one would expect in a class called Practice of Criticism. One of those methods involves essentially studying a work in a vacuum by ‘experiencing the text’ and not looking for any deeper meaning or broader connections that may come in to play (I’m looking at you Sontag). Recently, an extremely relevant example came of why we should examine texts within the context of the real world came out this month in a Sci-Fi adaptation called Ender’s Game. The movie is based on a book which many fans of the genre consider a classic, but is unfortunately written by a vehemently homophobic and out-spoken author, Orson Scott Card. Card’s political affiliations have drawn the ire of the LGBT community which has prompted an attempted boycott of the film to spite him.

While I was looking at reviews for Ender’s Game, I stumbled onto a very interesting video review from a movie critic named MovieBob (aka Bob Chipman) who writes for the website ¬†Chipman, being a bit of a movie buff (and in all fairness the closest thing to a living embodiment of this guy as you can get) decided to review the movie. Before the actual review commenced, Chipman added a disclaimer making his personal views of Orson Scott Card abundantly clear. Surprising no one, Chipman’s views apparently upset some people on the internet, prompting him to again make his views clear. For this video however, he just so happened to address several major themes that we’ve covered in class and makes an incredibly down to earth argument ¬†for why we should look out the outside context of a film or book. I’ve attached the response video, titled ‘Baggage,’ as well as the Original Review.

So, what does everybody think?


Adam Camiolo

2 Replies to “MovieBob’s Baggage: Why we should take a work’s context into consideration”

  1. I think if anything this shows how impossible it is to separate a text entirely from its context. He may not purposely write in his political views, but he’s human – there will be some semblance of them present. I didn’t finish watching the video (I hate spoilers) but as objective as the reviewer tries to be there is still no denying that he went into that review thinking Card was a “killjoy” or whatever it was he said. The idea of examining a text simply on its face, without history, bias, anything, seems to be a futile one. There is a value in trying to do that because we should not rely solely on our own interpretation, another’s interpretation, or the environment within which the text was written. But to only examine a text alone and not the world around it is to miss (and possibly misinterpret) much of its content and meaning. Theorists such as Edward Said acknowledge this and encourage us to read into the author’s intentions and colonial influence in writing. I think accepting this is logical, I mean , shouldn’t literary theory be based on the way in which all people write, i.e., within a context or paradigm?

    1. I agree completely. I think Sontag is naive when she suggests we experience art in a visceral way instead of an interpretive way. And while I do acknowledge that this case may not be exactly what she had in mind because the matter at hand isn’t subtext rather something entirely detached from the story altogether, I do think that MovieBob’s statements apply to her. On the other hand though, it’s a shame that a high quality story like Ender’s Game gets weighed down with the cement shoes of its author’s wild homophobia. With that in mind, do you think that Orson Scott Card’s politics are enough to ignore the film and book altogether? Or should we instead keep it in mind that anything we read from him might have a sinister agenda? And is that enough?

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