Rocked by the recent news that Disney has fired James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, I felt like maybe I had to weigh in on the matter, if nothing else than to wade through my complicated feelings on it.
For those of you who don't know, Gunn has been vocal about his disapproval of Trump and his administration. A group of conservative trolls engaged a smear campaign, and dug up offensive tweets Gunn made between nine and twelve years ago.
The tweets were bad jokes about rape and pedophilia. Disney reacted by firing Gunn, saying the tweets did not fit in to the studio mindset.
Okay, where to begin with this?
I don't disagree with Disney's decision. At least, I didn't initially. Rape is not something to be made fun of or joke about. Neither is pedophilia. These are just... non funny topics. And yes, they are very much at odds with the Disney philosophy. And coming on the heels of Roseanne, a response of somekind was needed.
But was it a knee jerk reaction? Was it justified? Was it overkill? I mean, we are talking about jokes made by Gunn as part of a shock persona, not his literal mindset. We're talking about a man who, by all accounts, is beloved by all of his coworkers. We are talking about tweets from over a decade ago, before he was ever associated with the company. We're talking about tweets, which were out there in public, not hidden away in a basement filing cabinet or on a protected server. We're talking about a politically motivated smear campaign, spearheaded by a guy who himself has tweeted "date rape does not exist".
Am I defending Gunn because I want to like him? Because I admire him as a filmmaker? Because I follow him on Facebook and Twitter and admire most of what he says, how he interacts with fans and where he comes down on things? Because I hate to see things get political?
Am I willing to overlook this for the simple and selfish reason that I want GOTGv3?
I don't think so.
Roseanne was fired because of a tweet she made DURING her employment (and not the first one, either). Gunn's were from years ago. Hell if you pinned me down I'm not sure I could even remember what my mindset was on topics from ten years back, let alone what I said or joked about them.
Gunn has shown obvious growth as both a filmmaker and a person since then. The James Gunn I "know" from his interactions with people and the way he presents himself is not a man who should be thrown under the bus for the sake of "political correctness".
They were jokes. Off-color, taboo, and not funny, but jokes nonetheless. Blazing Saddles is regarded as one of the funniest films ever made, and it features a rape joke. Are we now to go after Mel Brooks?
I could go into the ramifications of the decision that stretch far beyond one movie. Guardians 3 isn't just the kick off for the next phase of Marvel, but Gunn was going to be in charge of all of the Marvel Cosmic stories going forward, guiding their development. Does keeping him on or bringing him back to the project hurt the brand? With the current state of the Guardians following Infinity War, should the next film be shelved entirely? The first two are a perfect duo, and could easily stop the story there with no harm done. Would another director (like fan choice Taika Waititi) be willing to step in and step on Gunn's toes? Would it be an albatross of a project to even attempt it? Would Disney be looking at a Ron Howard Solo situation, or is the MCU impervious at this point to this kind of directoral shell game? Marvel has weathered the controversial firing of popular directors before (Edgar Wright on Ant-Man).
But for all the uncertainty the project faces, one thing I am certain of now:
The James Gunn I know doesn't deserve this. I stand by him.
#IStandWithJames #RehireJamesGunn #WeAreGroot