Let's Talk About James Gunn
So as I'm sure those of you who are switched on to pop culture news saw over the weekend, Disney/Marvel Studios fired director James Gunn from the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and any other projects he might be working or consulting on.
"... we have severed our business relationship with him." - James Horn, Walt Disney Studios chairman.
Let me put this upfront before playing devils advocate and trying to discuss both sides of the argument evenly; I think this is a ridiculous course of action and makes Disney look really bad. If you disagree and aren't willing to listen to reason, leave now.
Gunn was fired after two alt-right Trump-loving conservatives dredged up old tweets from Gunn. Poor taste, insensitive and honestly not even funny jokes that were made years ago, before the director had been hired by Marvel and gone on to helm two smash hit movies and help shape the MCU for years to come.
Should James Gunn be held accountable for things that he said, no matter the context, platform or time that they were said? Yep, absolutely he should.
Does it require firing him outright? I don't think so.
But what about Rosanne? All she did was tweet some stuff, should she have not been fired from her own show? No, she definitely got what she deserved and there is a massive difference between the two.
Rosanne Barr went on a hateful and racist tirade on twitter. He words were damaging and targeted and made at a time when the public consciousness is focused on these issues and not willing to put up with that shit.
So time heals all wounds? Bill Cosby did horrible shit years ago, should he be forgiven? Also no! What he did will leave physical and emotional scarring for the rest of peoples lives. He betrayed the trust he had built up playing a fictional character and exploited it to do horrific things to people.
What James Gunn said on twitter was very insensitive and had he made those comments today, then maybe he should face these repercussions. The fact of the matter is that when he tweeted what he did he was playing a character, the version of James Gunn that was making schlocky and intentionally provocative horror comedies know Tromeo & Juliet and Slither. He was trying to get a rise out of people, to make them maybe giggle but mostly be shocked that someone would say that. Immature jokes about things like being peed on by a three-year-old. Thats the key word there though joke. I'm sure people were offended by some of the stuff he said but if anyone ever thought he was being serious they need to read the room a little better.
Now, what would have been a better response from the mouse house? I think a talking to and then a joint statement made by James Gunn and Disney, similar to the statement Gunn has made himself in the wake of all this, would have been a good start and then a 'gesture of good faith' from the director, something along the lines of donating a percentage of his salary for Guardians 3 to some charities related to the things he previously made jokes at the expense of. That, I believe, would have been enough. By the time the movie came out in 2020 no one would even remember or care about any of this.
Hell, if Marvel Studios had had a panel this past weekend at San Diego Comic-Con like they usual do you can bet they wouldn't have announced their course of action until after the weekend as they wouldn't have wanted to face the backlash in person. That time to sit on it and plan their next move may have led cooler heads to prevail and this be handled correctly. But Disney is so worried about any tarnishing of their 'squeaky clean' brand that they acted fast and dropped the hammer.
The thing that really pissed me off about it is the cynical side of me coming out. That part of me sees the executives trying to figure out what they want to do thinking, "Fuck this guy, we don't need him, he's made us a billion and a half dollars with the first two films, people will turn up for the third one no matter who directs it and we have the cast under contract so if they ever want to work again they won't drop out, plus they're almost all dead at the moment anyway so if they do we can just leave them that way instead of bringing them back in Avengers 4."
And the problem is, they're probably right. People will still turn out for it. Even the people who don't like how this has gone down will either see the trailer and go, "Ohh fun." Or they'll remain skeptical and then go anyway "Just to see how they fucked it up." The problem with that is that corporations don't care why you spend the money to see the film, just that you do spend that money!
I've seen all the MCU films in theatres at least once up to this point but depending on how this whole situation plays out, if there even is a third Guardians of the Galaxy, I really would like to believe that I'd sit that one out.
The other aspect is the witch hunting that led to this. Gunn has been very outspoken and critical of the current government administration and so the two bloggers who dug up this shit did so with the sole intent of hurting his career, not exposing some deeply hidden secret.
I'm sure if someone had asked Gunn about these tweets in a press junket or in an interview he would have owned the situation and made his apologies straight away.
Also, I find it impossible to believe that the all seeing, all knowing Mouse wasn't aware of these tweets and the character of James Gunn when they hired him in the first place! They absolutely knew who they were hiring, thats why they wanted him for Christs sake!
The fact that they would bend to the hate mongering so quickly really annoys me. I wanted to believe they were better than that.
It's really difficult to try and keep my moral integrity with this stuff, I've come down hard on the Kevin Spacey's and Johnny Depp's and Harvey Wienstien's (and the rest) out there, I used to really enjoy the work they put out into the world but just can't anymore. Yet here I am defending this guy. If you can't see the difference in situations though I think you're living in a very weird world.
I'm very happy to see so many, both Joe-public and people in the industry, come to Gunn's defence. I hope they continue to do so. I'll be following the situation closely and am very curious to see how it plays out.