The Prince of Unpopular Opinions: On James Gunn’s Firing

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This may surprise no one but I wasn’t actually a huge fan of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I have to admit that it is bright, flashy and tonally very different than any other Marvel movie we had gotten up until that point but for me it was the peak of gatekeeping fans out of their own franchises. The first movie seemed to bring forward nothing but casual jocks who would rant about Star Lord but couldn’t tell you a single thing about this franchise that was many years older than the MCU. The director behind the movie was a rebellious choice and he made a rebellious movie: sparkling, funny, musically-genius in a way that normally only Edgar Wright is. I have lots of positive things to say about the second Guardians of the Galaxy, despite some of its own narrative failings like perpetuating the submissive Asian trope and refusing to acknowledge some of the character’s pain while validating others. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2  though did make me cry towards the end. My point is, I have very few negative things to say about director, James Gunn. His filmography includes a few movies I could rave about: the very first and second live-action Scooby Doo movies (yes, the post-modern satirical parody of the beloved kid’s show) and plenty of other movies I simply have not seen.

But we’re here to talk about his firing. Because, well…that was something.

So James Gunn tweeted a bunch of things in the early 2000s that were indefensible. The jokes are off-color, downright gross, and not a single person with any common sense is defending his tweets. These tweets were dug up by an alt-right troll who I refuse to name because I don’t like giving people like that attention and thus began a smear campaign against Gunn who has been very outspoken about his opinions about our current dumpster fire of a political climate. This smear campaign worked, and while Disney continued to try and become a monopoly, they fired Gunn over his controversial tweets that are now over a decade old.

Now for some important context. Comedy and what we think is humorous are some of the fastest things to go out of style and change with changing social views. We would all balk at the thing we tweeted 10 years ago. Comedy was far less concerned with being appropriate and just not terrible (I won’t us “politically correct because that normally is used by garbage people to rationalize their garbage behavior). South Park was regularly homophobic and racist. Every comedian was more racially charged and we had far fewer filters than we do now. Social media was a wild west land of saying everything our primitive lizard brains could think of. Really, look back at your social media 10 years ago: I promise you that you will find at least one thing that makes you physically cringe: it was just a different time. And one more, no one has defended the content of what Gunn had to say: it’s awful, but it was funny at the time. We can still think it’s morally reprehensible now but admit that 10 years ago we were all a little less responsible.

Gunn’s firing has really brought the community of fans together. Many has expressed disappointment in his failed attempt at comedy several years ago but most of the ire has rightfully been lobbed at Disney. Disney is ever image-conscious and as a family-friendly company, they couldn’t afford to be in the same breath as someone who joked about horrible things. Gunn’s firing without the context of this being a smear campaign is irresponsible and horrifying. It’s mostly offensive for one simple fact: it removes anyone’s ability to grow and become better. Gunn is better than he was at the time of those awful tweets. Hopefully, we are all better than we were during the times of our awful tweets. Gunn has even apologized for the tweets admitting that they were awful. I am frustrated at the prospect of being taken out of context entirely and judged by the person I was years ago: that should frighten anyone online.

What has been a ray of hope has been the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy rallying around their director. The cast drafted and published a letter together saying that they stood by Gunn and hoped that Disney would reverse their choice. Dave Batista (who plays Drax in the films) has been the most vocal and even said that if Disney didn’t use Gunn’s script for the third Guardians of the Galaxy film that he would ask to be removed from his contract: that’s a huge statement and I can’t help but think it’s somewhat inspiring. This is an actor so dedicated to the director that helped launch the second phase of his career that he is willing to distance himself from a multi-billion dollar company like Disney over this matter.

Disney’s choice, however, is final. Gunn’s out for good and the script will likely be redone. As far as what this means for the third movie in the franchise, I’m skeptical. Maybe they’ll find a director who can match Gunn’s tone and pacing, maybe this will be Solo all over again where Disney picks the most milk toast vanilla director possible and totally jumps the shark on this one. Who knows.

Gunn’s firing has left a bad taste in my mouth for weeks now, as I’m sure you can see by the length of this column entry. I’m concerned about the fact that old online behavior can be weaponized and then conflated with someone being actually racist and terrible online (lookin’ at you, Rosanne). I’m concerned that a giant company is willing to ignore context and still stick by a bad call despite it clearly being a strategic hit against a person. I’m concerned that maybe we will all be judged by our bad tweets and never allowed to be more than a horrible thing said in poor taste years ago.

In the meantime, I support James Gunn. I support his cast. I am angry at Disney’s choice and disappointed that Marvel was willing to abandon a director who helped usher in a new phase of the MCU. The tragic irony is that this whole thing will likely only bolster the upcoming films in the MCU.

Now all eyes are on that third Guardians film to see exactly what Disney will do next. 

 

About the Prince of Unpopular Opinions:

Greetings, hello and salutations. Things look just a little different around here, don’t they? When I was offered the chance to have my very own column for FanGirl Nation, I naturally couldn’t pass up the chance. I love writing with and for these very talented ladies and thus I present to you all, my new column: The Prince of Unpopular Opinions.

Now, some clarification: I don’t really do the gender binary and I use male nouns a great deal in writing and in my human life; hence why I am a “prince” rather than a “princess”. If this is of issue to you, I can invite you down to discuss this matter or I can simply show you one of my kingdom’s many fine doors.
This name sort of came to me. If you follow me anywhere on social media, it’s a tagline you’ve seen me use before. It’s very on brand and not simply because I am a contrarian. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I am, in fact, a lover of many things: and the chief among them is strong storytelling, adherence to canon (unless otherwise specified) and admitting that nothing is perfect. And it is due to those tenants that I am often one of the more cynical voices out of the group: I don’t take that negatively. I rip apart the things I love the most. I am most critical of the things that mean the most to me because you have to be. And it is with those things in mind that I build my little kingdom within the greater community of FanGirl Nation.

Look forward to thoughtful discussions on framing, gender roles, deviations from canon and tactful conversations about criticism, fan culture, cosplay culture and more.

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