Marvel fans were hit with a bombshell over the weekend when Guardians Of The Galaxy director James Gunn was sacked by Disney after some Twitter users kicked up a stink over some of his old tweets.
Between 2009 and 2012, Gunn posted a series of pretty horrifying tweets that in which he ‘joked’ about controversial topics such as pedophilia, rape, and molestation, as well as a sharing a misogynistic “superhero sex poll” on his website. Before he came up with “I am Groot”, Gunn’s sense of “humour” wasn’t exactly tasteful or refined in the slightest to say the least.
Alt-right conspiracy theorist, conservative personality, and Trump supporter Mike Cernovich clearly found a bone to pick with Gunn and decided dig up the director’s old tweets in an attempt to sabotage his career.
The frenzy stirred up by Cernovich quickly reached Disney and the company didn’t take long to sack Gunn from the upcoming Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.3 despite vocal support from fans and an apology from the director.
1. Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
Unsurprisingly, Gunn’s firing kicked up a wave of support amongst his fans and peers, many of whom came out in defense of the director. Despite supportive tweets from stars like Dave Bautista and a Change.org petition to rehire Gunn, it is very unlikely that Disney will reverse its decision.
But more worryingly than the state of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.3, Disney’s poor handling of the situation and its quick decision to fire Gunn sets a terrible precedent for all of its filmmakers and stars going forward.
On the surface, Disney’s quick capitulation to the pressure exerted by Cernovich is not a good look. The alt-right conspiracy theorist has been accused of rape in the past and was one of the leading voices behind that completely crazy and fake “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which pushed the idea that Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders were running a child-molestation ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, DC.
More worryingly though, there’s a possibility that Gunn’s firing will empower other alt-right media personalities to step up and sabotage other vocal critics whom they don’t agree with. What this signifies to the alt-right is they can get anyone and everyone fired if enough of a stink is kicked up, thereby legitimising their opinions into the mainstream. It’s a terrifying prospect.
The Disney/Gunn situation draws parallels to the recent Roseanne Barr/ABC saga in which the actress was sacked from her show due to a slew of offensive tweets.
The key difference is whereas Roseanne’s tweets and subsequent firing all occurred within a few days (and she still tweets and posts garbage on a regular basis), Disney definitely knew about Gunn’s past trangressions and apologies but still hired him to direct the first Guardians Of The Galaxy back in 2012.
This wasn’t a company defending it’s “values“, this was a company giving in to a group of angry people and Gunn was the unfortunate scapegoat in the whole saga.
NEW: James Gunn apologizes for past tweets: "I understand and accept the business decisions taken today…I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be." pic.twitter.com/YUMfHYGv85
— ABC News (@ABC) July 20, 2018
Beyond having no idea on how to respond to an alt-right nutjob and empowering the right-wing media to throw their weight around, Disney also opened itself up to the inconsistencies of its decision to fire Gunn.
If Disney were to keep up the pretense of maintaining its “company values” and past controversial content from its employees is not tolerated, then that logic means that everyone’s favourite person Donald Glover should also be fired.
Back in 2011, Glover shared a (now-deleted) tweet in which he wrote “a ‘racist rapist’ sounds worst than a regular rapist when u first hear it, but it’s actually better cause less people get raped“.
If that didn’t make Disney twitch, then surely his 2006 sketch video titled Bro Rape: A Newsline Investigative Report surely will.
People have called out Glover’s old work before, with some deeming his material to be misogynistic, homophobic, fetishistic of Asian women and dismissive of rape, and yet Disney still hired him to be Lando Calrissian in its incredibly lucrative Star Wars franchise.
Unlike Gunn, it is incredibly unlikely that Glover will be fired for his old comedy material or “Bro Rape” video (baring any future crazy shenanigans), which means Disney has put itself between a rock and a hard place when it was in a position to deliver a powerful message combating trolls.
James Gunn deserved to be fired for his horrible tweets, but this should’ve happened back in 2012 and not in 2018. We’ve just witnessed a potential turning point and it’s clear that a lot more thinking needs to go into how companies and studios handle the increasingly worrying pressure exerted by trolls.