When is something one says considered unforgivable? Is there a time limit on poor taste? Does an off-hand remark hold more weight when it is written and is that fair? And most importantly, what level of moral behavior do we require from a Hollywood film director? These are questions we should start asking ourselves because things are getting weird.
James Gunn said some stupid things on Twitter. They weren’t just stupid, they were offensive. They were in bad taste, and he shouldn’t have written them. This is something he acknowledged in the past, and for which has previously apologized.
Gunn’s offensive tweets, which included such crap as: “I like when little boys touch me in my silly place.”, and “The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’”, were posted about a decade ago. The cause of the current concern is thanks to the handiwork of a popular alt-right blogger, Mike Cernovich. Cernovich also helped spur the whole Pizzagate movement, and often pushes the idea that popular, left-leaning, people are pedophiles
Disney acted quickly to the controversy with this comment from CEO Alan Horn:
“The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”
Gunn took the news professionally, “Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today,” Gunn continued, “Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then.”
After more time passed, the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy got involved, penning a collaborative open letter. The letter demonstrates overwhelming support from the entire cast, and addresses the lack of “due process in the court of public opinion”.
It’s easy to want Gunn back; he’s an extremely talented director who has earned unwavering loyalty from his colleagues. His apology, and his comments accepting his fate, have shown nothing but strong character and integrity during a difficult time. But would it be fair to back down on James Gunn since we saw Disney act so swiftly to Rosanne’s racist tweet?
There has been a level of celebration among the political right on this issue, as though somehow James Gunn’s firing is payback for the termination of Roseanne Barr for a tweet comparing an African-American woman to an ape. But let’s compare the two and see if this is truly the same.
First, James Gunn tweeted these comments nearly a decade ago, and apologized for them years ago. So it was not a deal breaker in Disney letting him helm a billion dollar franchise. Alan Horn’s sudden shock and offense to the tweets is disingenuous. Since taking on these films Gunn has done nothing to embarrass the company, or himself. Where as Rosanne made her tweet while being employed by Disney.
This is no small difference. Being hired for a position, with the employer knowing you once did something embarrassing, and then suddenly years later being fired because of it, is silly, and in this case cowardly.
Second, James Gunn offered up as sincere an apology as anyone has likely heard. He didn’t blame it on Ambien, or Anti-Semitism; his sole excuse was age and poor humor in an attempt to be “edgy”. Rosanne, to this day, has yet to offer a sincere apology without the escape hatch of excuses and blame.
“I’m stupidest when trying to be funny” – Al Swearengen
Third, no one seems to be offended. These comments were not really directed at anyone specifically. They were not made to fans of Guardians of the Galaxy, or made on the set and shared with cast and crew. All I’ve seen is a peddler of conspiracies boosting about a gotcha moment, and overwhelming public support for keeping Gunn. I’m not saying his comments were unoffensive, but it does appear to be a crime in search of a victim.
Considering all of the facts, I feel it is a mistake to have fired Gunn, and the franchise will likely take a hit. Disney has made their decision, the cast and fans tried to talk some sense into them, but in the end, they are acting in what they feel is in the best interest of the business. I disagree, but I’m not the CEO of the worlds biggest media company.
All we can do is remember James Gunn is not Roman Polanski or Woody Allen. He’s not been accused of anything other than experimenting with bad jokes on Twitter, a place built on crap humor. Gunn is like that guy who got shafted and fired at work. We can’t stop it, but we can still be his friend and support his next gig. I have no doubt it will be something great.
And of course the right wing can celebrate their moral victory and go back to worshiping a guy who uses Twitter as a hate dispensary, and actively supports real, known pedophiles like Roy Moore.