Film and drama

Gunn fired over Twitter controversy

By | | comments |
Writer/director and maker of stupid jokes, James Gunn (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Writer/director James Gunn has been fired by Disney over some vulgar tweets from several years ago, but the decision was really based on a political vendetta, writes Dan Jensen.

YET ANOTHER controversy has erupted on Twitter involving Hollywood figures, this time including the Disney empire.

It was announced on Friday that writer/director James Gunn was fired from his duties helming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 over some tweets he had made circa 2009 to 2012.

In a statement made by Disney chair Alan Horn, he said:

‘The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James''s Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio''s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.’

Upon examining the tweets, it is immediately understandable why Disney would want to quickly sever ties with the filmmaker. Gunn made several jokes on the topics of rape and paedophilia, although the word "jokes" is used very loosely here. Obviously, these are subjects that are frowned upon by most and shouldn't be joked about, which begs the question as to why anyone would do so publicly.

To understand the reasoning (not justification, as it would be impossible to do so) behind Gunn''s motivation in writing such vile things, one should understand a little about his background. He used to pride himself on his punk attitude, from being part of a new wave/punk band in the late '80s through to cutting his industry teeth working for shock cinema company Troma in the '90s. James was an anti-establishment provocateur and stirred controversy whenever possible. He was a brat.

But at the same time, beneath that obnoxious exterior was a genuinely nice guy, always willing to chat to his fans on Myspace (me being one of them) and becoming an advocate for animal welfare. It became apparent to anyone willing to devote a little time towards getting to know him that there was a lot more to him than his punk persona would have you believe.

After being given some larger Hollywood gigs, such as writing the two live-action Scooby Doo movies and also the successful remake of Dawn of the Dead, followed by his directorial debut with the sci-fi/horror/comedy Slither, Gunn started to distance himself from saying shocking things for the sake of controversy and even apologised for his behaviour on Twitter in 2012.

In that same year, he was given writing and directing duties on Guardians of the Galaxy, the tenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a project that would change his life. The film was met with massive critical and audience acclaim, established him as a credible name in Hollywood and formed life-long friendships between him and his cast and crew. He became Disney and Marvel's golden child. Next came the sequel – simply subtitled Vol.2 – and, following further acclaim for that film, the inevitable third chapter was announced for a 2020 release.

In all this time, Disney remained silent about the deplorable tweets James had made in the past. He was a bankable writer/director and it was almost as though the company had either ignored or forgiven him for having said such things.

Gunn was a frequent user of many social media platforms, using them to not only communicate with his fans but to express his disdain of Trump and his administration. It was no secret that he hated Trump and was quite outspoken with his political views, albeit intelligently and eloquently. While this obviously alienated part of his fan base, there was one man who took Gunn's views personally.

Mike Cernovich is an alt-right social media personality, renowned for his own share of controversies on Twitter. Aside from helping to promote the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory, he also tweeted highly controversial viewpoints on the subject of rape and was actually charged with rape in 2003. Cernovich is also an ardent supporter of Trump and frequently trolls his opponents online, which resulted in Gunn's anti-Trump sentiments falling into his firing line. As a result, Cernovich dug up Gunn's earlier tweets and started causing a fuss over it which led to Disney firing Gunn immediately.

This caused quite a shock, not only among Gunn's cast and crew but also several people in the industry and a statement was quickly released by Gunn on Twitter:

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 humour. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over.

In the past, I have apologised for humour of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies. For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.

Some of Gunn''s friends released statements in his defence and expressions of shock over what had happened. But then something even worse ensued — the public started to blindly believe that James Gunn was, in fact, a paedophile. The situation has gone beyond simply losing his job on a project that meant the world to him and has now become a case of Disney inadvertently slandering his name. One could argue that he brought this upon himself, and it would be difficult to disagree, but until now no one even mentioned the controversial tweets and it wasn't until Disney announced his dismissal that his past came back to haunt him. A past that has led to people unfairly accusing Gunn of crimes he hasn't committed and, in this digital age, we all know the effects cyberbullying can have on celebrities.

Ironically, many people have been quick to point out that several Disney movies from the past had racist subtexts and made fun of taboo subjects. People have also been reminding us that shows such as South Park and Family Guy have been getting away with making fun of topics such as paedophilia for decades. And, of course, the recent controversy of Roseanne Barr's racist Twitter rant has resurfaced, many asking why anyone should defend James Gunn and chastise Roseanne.

The answer is simple.

Roseanne only recently made her statement on social media and is currently that same person now, no matter how much she tries to blame medication. James Gunn wrote a bunch of stupid, immature posts many years ago and has since moved on and evolved as a person. He has shown maturity and personal growth, his contributions to the animal world and the environment have been inspiring and he's never once fallen under suspicion of any ill behaviour. Plus he took responsibility for his actions and never blamed medication or anything but his own dumb self.

It's quite obvious that this was a politically-motivated move on Disney's part when they could have simply made Gunn release a public apology and moved forward. Johnny Depp was recently charged with domestic violence after assaulting Amber Heard, yet Disney is still happy to keep him employed. Even as far back as 1995, they hired convicted paedophile Victor Salva to direct the movie Powder without raising any fuss.

Such a knee-jerk reaction towards Gunn's past behaviour is just another reminder of how conservative and sensitive this world is becoming. There's absolutely no excusing the things that he said, but to punish someone based on a mistake that their former self had made, especially after bringing so much success to the Disney and Marvel brands, seems ludicrous.

Actress Selma Blair, in Gunn's defence, said it best:

‘Because if people are punished despite changing, then what does that teach people about owning mistakes and evolving?’

You can follow assistant editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @danjensenmovies or check out his YouTube channel, Movie Talk with Dan Jensen.

Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.

Recent articles by Dan Jensen
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel.... tense

While vacationing at a remote cabin, a family of three is held hostage by four ...  
The golden age of Hollywood roars to decadent life in Babylon

A group of film industry professionals must adapt to the changing face of Hollywood ...  
M3GAN is more than merely a malicious machine

A robotics engineer at a toy company builds a life-like doll that begins to take on ...  
Join the conversation
comments powered by Disqus

Support IAIndependent Australia

Subscribe to IA and investigate Australia today.

Close Subscribe Donate