Earlier this year right-wing activist’s dug up a treasure trove of offensive tweets made by James Gunn over a decade ago. As a result, Gunn, director of the wildly successful Guardians of The Galaxy (GotT) movies, was fired from Marvel/Disney.
Gunn has taken full responsibility for the tweets and given what appears to be sincere apologies. While there was some polarization among fans due to the graphic nature of the tweets, the majority seemed to back Gunn’s reinstatement. Petitions were signed and reportedly even Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige went to bat for Gunn with Disney.
While Disney was rather quick to fire Gunn they were rather slow to comment on the growing support for the director. Now word has finally come down, the House of Mouse is sticking by their initial decision. They will not rehire James Gunn for the third instalment of GotT. However, reports are saying his script may still be used. Disney studio head Alan Horn has met with Gunn to “…clear the air” and discuss any future relationships.
Initially, the cast of Guardians supported Gunn but in a tepid diplomatic approach. Dave Bautista, who plays Drax the Destroyer in the series, eventually penned a much harsher condemnation of Disney’s decision on his Twitter account. “This was a #cybernazi attack that succeeded. “ Bautista wrote “Unless we start to unite together against this crap, whether people are offended are not! …it’s going to get much worse” One has to wonder if Bautista is wrong. Let’s be very, very clear here. Gunn has never been charged or even accused of pedophila, rape, sexual assualt, sexual harassment or anything in the tweets he was fired for. They were meant to be provocative jokes. They were not aimed at anyone or used in a manner to disparage any oppressed or marginalized group of people. Gunn also apologized long before being hired by Disney and again after they resurfaced.
We should also be clear that the comments were very vulgar and offensive. That said, George Carlin, Matt parker, Trey Stone, Seth MacFarlane, Sarah Silverman, Michael Ian Black, Jim Jefferies, the entire cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and a slew of other comedians have joked about rape and pedophilia without much fanfare, let alone losing their jobs. Granted a lot of them weren’t working for family friendly Disney, but there has been no outcry to remove Silverman from the Wreck it Ralph franchise. Controversial shock-comedian and filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait has requested that Disney stop using his voice in their rides. Goldthwaite was the voice of Pain in Disney’s animated children’s movie Hercules. The real difference it seems between their comments and Gunn’s is – his weren’t funny.
Now, most of us could just as easily lose our jobs by making such comments on social media. But most of us aren’t artists and storytellers. James Gunn is both. If we want out artists to challenge us and our beliefs, If we want to be shocked and entertained by artists, If we want more than bland, uninspired, unimportant art then we have to give our artists a chance to try, to fail, and even to offend us with sensitive material. Even if that means crude, offensive garabage is the result (which was the case here.) Should anyone be surprised that Disney did not want one of their major franchises being associated with seedy controversy, of course not. But, seeing as they are buying up intellectual properties like hot cakes and becoming one of the most influential forces in the modern art world – we should be concerned. And more than just a little.