Defusing the James Gunn Situation

by Collin Willis
James Gunn

Odds are, you’ve seen quite a bit about director James Gunn in the news recently. The director was recently fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 due to the resurfacing of offensive tweets. The whole situation has grown to involve the heads of Marvel and Disney, as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy cast. But what exactly happened with James Gunn? Why does this matter to you? I’m going to dissect the whole ordeal and hopefully defuse it for the betterment of society, or at least the portion of society that checks out this website.

WARNING: The following post deals with some sensitive subjects. However, it is NOT going to be political. I will not be taking a political side, though I will take several topical sides. If you agree with my opinions, great. If you disagree with my opinions, great. Please refrain from turning our comment section into a political mudslinging contest. Our editor thanks you in advance.

What Happened?

James Gunn

Image via Twitter

In order to make sense of the bulk of this article, it’s important to make sure that everyone is up to speed. James Gunn was recently fired from directing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3  after a series of tweets from circa 2009-2010 resurfaced on the internet. The tweets openly and vulgarly referenced topics such as pedophilia, rape, molestation, and similar “off-limits” topics. These tweets were, and are, highly offensive. When leaked back into the forefront of the cesspool known as the internet, the tweets caused outrage among some people. James Gunn apologized for the tweets (again), but was promptly fired by Marvel and Disney.

Since then, rumors have run rampant across the internet about the use of Gunn’s script for Vol 3. The actors of the Guardians of the Galaxy films released a statement in support of Gunn, and actor Dave Bautista threatened to raise hell if Gunn’s script were not used. As recently as this past week, Disney has reiterated that Gunn will not be rehired to direct the final installment in the trilogy.

Three Key Details To Make Note Of

James Gunn

Image via Merriment Design

There are several key details about this saga to note specifically.

First, these tweets aren’t new. The tweets themselves are nearly a decade old, and Disney has known about them since at least 2012, when James Gunn apologized for them on his own accord. That’s two years before the first Guardians movie released, and is around the time that Gunn was officially hired to direct. The problem is that these tweets are long past the common statutes of limitation. The fact that he’s being punished a decade later is iffy at best.

Second, James Gunn apologized for these tweets before he was even in trouble. In fact, Gunn has apologized for these tweets repeatedly in 2012, 2014, and again recently in July of 2018. However, and this is the kicker, Gunn made no attempt to hide or delete the tweets until 2018. I’ll touch back on this later.

Thirdly, the tweets only resurfaced due to a cyber attack directed at him for his political stances. While I will not comment on the politics themselves, it is important to note that James Gunn’s tweets resurfaced because of a directed attack on the director by Mike Cernovich. Cernovich is an Alt-Right conspiracy theorist and writer who declared war on James Gunn due to the director’s criticism of Donald Trump and the current Republican Party.

What Bothers Me

James Gunn

Image via Disney LOL

Going off of the details listed above, here’s what really bothers me about the whole situation.

“Time it is, for you, to look past a pile of old [tweets]”

James Gunn

Image via ZetaBoards

These tweets are old. In fact, these tweets almost predate smartphones, that’s how old they are. These tweets have existed since before James Gunn became famous for 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and Disney has known about them all along. So why on Earth is Disney just know deciding to play judge, jury, and executioner?

These tweets are wrong, and they are frankly disgusting. No one is disagreeing with that. But what right does Disney have to punish the director for them when they predate the company’s relationship with Gunn by 5+ years? Why is Disney choosing to punish Gunn for these tweets 5+ years into their successful relationship?

So, while these tweets are wrong, why are they still punishable ten years later? At the extreme end of a situation like this, Gunn could have hypothetically been charged in some kind of civil suit due to the severity of his statements in a few of the tweets. Again, this would be the very extreme of what consequences he either could or should have faced when making these tweets in 2008-2009. The legal statute of limitations on civil cases is typically around five years. So, why is Gunn being prosecuted by a private company twice that many years later?

“Apology Accepted”

James Gunn

Image via Rebloggy

James Gunn apologized for these tweets long before anyone cared who he was, and longer before he was in trouble for them. Gunn both explained the origin of the tweets and apologized for them, further explaining why he believes them to be wrong.

In his earlier years, Gunn considered himself a provocateur of taboo and “blacklisted” topics. As such, he decided that it would be okay to make off-kilter jokes about the subjects the tweets revolve around. However, his growth as a person later lead him to realize that the tweets serve no genuine purpose. However well-intended or misguided his original aim was, it was wrong, and Gunn knows it.

So, James Gunn apologized for his mistakes in 2012. When the tweets resurfaced again in 2018, James Gunn reiterated his apology and added further information on why the tweets were written, and why he knows ten years later that they were wrong.

“It’s a Trap”

James Gunn

Image via Giphy

James Gunn wasn’t fired because he tweeted some offensive things. James Gunn was fired because Disney is afraid of the backlash of one of its payrolled artists tweeting something offensive. Having come under fire weeks before for Roseanne Barr’s offensive tweeting, Disney swiftly pulled the plug on Gunn. This would be completely understandable if James Gunn had tweeted something offensive in the summer of 2018. With the #MeToo movement in full swing, media giants are being extra careful when it comes to which personalities they are attached to. However, James Gunn didn’t tweet these things this past summer, the tweets merely resurfaced at this time.

James Gunn was fired because another media personality, of a differing political view, launched an attack against him. Mike Cernovich set out with the direct intention of ruining Gunn’s career. He openly declared his contempt for the director and undertook great effort to find the tweets and bring them to life. James Gunn was fired because someone set out with the intention of leveraging Disney into firing him in order to take a crippling blow to his platform.

Caught in the Crossfire

James Gunn

Pictured: DIsney deflecting a bullet straight into James Gunn Image via Uproxx

The heightened sensitivity of media conglomerates and producers isn’t inherently a bad thing. The majority of execs, actors, and producers fired within the past year have been fired due to extremely errant behavior. Some very bad people have been exposed, fired, and prosecuted with a force equal to the crimes and misdeeds they have committed. Even big names like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein have been toppled from their previously thought untouchable positions. This is good; abuse of power, especially at the expense of another, should be exposed. These people needed to be dealt with, and they were.

The difference between these people and James Gunn is that Gunn didn’t abuse power. Gunn also didn’t sexually assault or harass anyone. In fact, Gunn’s tweets weren’t even really directed at anyone. Gunn said some stupid things while trying to be funny. That’s it. His record with colleagues and higher-ups has been nothing but pleasant since then. The fact of the matter is that he is being punished for who he was, not who he is or has grown to be.

James Gunn isn’t Roseanne Barr

James Gunn

Image via ScreenGeek

James Gunn can’t be properly discussed without also addressing Roseanne Barr. Like Gunn, Roseanne was fired from her titular sitcom “Roseanne” this summer due to some inappropriate tweeting. Not only was Barr fired, but her sitcom was cancelled; however, a reboot without Barr is now in the works. There are two key differences between Barr and Gunn.

First, Roseanne was fired for tweets that originated this year. Roseanne was fired for current actions, opinions, and beliefs. This is opposed to Gunn’s tweets having originated ten years prior.

Second, Roseanne was reactive, whereas Gunn was proactive.

Is it Too Late to Apologize?

James Gunn

Image via DeviantArt

James Gunn apologized for his tweets before he was in trouble for them. Not only that, but Gunn has apologized several times, even before he was fired. He has also apologized since then, and has retained a low profile since the ordeal.

Roseanne on the other hand, is a very different story. Roseanne apologized once 200+ people were fired in the wake of her show being cancelled. She first responded by blaming Ambien for her actions. She did not show any public sign of regret until Disney axed her and her program. Roseanne did not lay low at all during this time, and has remained active on twitter. Since the announcement of the reboot show, Roseanne has since returned to her initial position of defending her tweets.

In short, Gunn displays signs of sincere apology and regret. Roseanne does not display signs of remorse, but has continued to support her undeniably heinous uses of her twitter platform.

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

James Gunn

Image via Tumblr

In the case of Roseanne, sort of. While Barr will no longer receive creative or financial gain from the reboot sitcom, she will still benefit from it. There is no way that The Conners can succeed without carrying the success of Roseanne a bit further. However, Barr has practically been “barr”ed from many future Hollywood endeavors because of this.

James Gunn is a different situation. In his case, I believe that the punishment far outweighs the crime. He acted stupidly and tweeted some stupid and irresponsible things. However, he did not do so maliciously, as is the case with Roseanne Barr. Therefore, his speedy removal from Guardians Vol. 3 is rash and inappropriate. Disney fell right into the ploy of Mike Cernovich, who preemptively stirred the pot in order to get Gunn fired. It’s this career sabotage that leads Gunn’s cause to be more sympathetic.

Gunn is certainly not innocent, but he is aware of that. Despite the inappropriateness of his actions, he is the victim of Cernovich’s actions. Roseanne is certainly not innocent, but she fails to accept that fact, and her fate is caused by her actions alone.

“We Are Groot.”

James Gunn

Image via Amino Apps

I’m not the only one on Team Gunn either. Shortly after the director’s firing, the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy released a statement in support of Gunn. Other celebrities and media personalities, such as Selma Blair, have also shown support for Gunn. Dave Bautista recently threatened to quit if Gunn’s script for Vol. 3 isn’t used. Bautista has also pushed heavily for James Gunn’s reinstatement as director.

While Kevin Feige and Marvel reportedly discussed the reinstatement of Gunn with Disney, the company stated last week that it had officially decided not to rehire James Gunn. Disney also stated that Gunn’s script would be used, with slight modifications to fit the vision of the yet to be hired new director.

“I Am Groot”

James Gunn

Image via To Be Phair

While my voice carries significantly less weight than Dave Bautista’s or Bob Iger’s for that matter, I too stand with James Gunn. I’ve been a fan of Gunn’s ever since I was five years old and his screenplay for Scooby-Doo hit the big screen. I, like many Americans, became an even bigger fan of Gunn in August 2014 with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy. I have followed him on Twitter for quite some time, and have seen nothing that correlates with the character he has been fired for.

What I have seen is a man of strong opinions and beliefs. Gunn is very outspoken in where he stands politically, and for those beliefs he was attacked. I also see a man who has made some very public mistakes, and chose to embrace them rather than trying to hide them. While he has deleted the tweets since they resurfaced, he could have deleted them at any time prior. However, he chose to bear his mistakes openly and prove through his actions in the present that he is a better person then he was when he made those statements electronically.

I believe that James Gunn has genuinely grown in the decade since then. While I don’t know him personally, I’d imagine that my impressions of him are shared by those who do. I see Gunn as a victim, one who has made mistakes; and one who tried to move past them, but instead fell victim to them. Disney’s firing of Gunn is a reckless preemptive move that has ultimately dealt more harm than it has prevented.

Thank you for reading! What are you thoughts on the James Gunn situation? Comment down below!

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The Animation Commendation August 24, 2018 - 10:57 am

I pretty much am okay with whatever happens. If Gunn is forgiven, I support it. If he isn’t, I’ll support it. But I agree with above responses in that we sadly live in a world where people are getting rid of forgiveness and we try to dig up everyone’s past for our own benefit.

Timothy Pham August 24, 2018 - 9:03 am

That Hollywood Reporter article was about him apologizing for offensive LGBT tweets, not pedophilia. This is a misconception that needs to be corrected.

I’m personally fine with Disney removing someone because they don’t fit the brand, just as I am fine with an indie horror film studio hiring someone with off-color taste. What I’m not fine with is online mobs whose sole purpose is to ruin individuals. If you get mad over what someone says, be aware that if their livelihood is an acceptable target, then yours is too.

Timothy Pham August 24, 2018 - 9:10 am

*Correction in the first paragraph: pedophilia jokes, not pedophilia.

TheWarner August 24, 2018 - 12:18 am

This is going to be a long response. I think most human beings are unforgiving. When it comes to these apologies, whether it’s from Jeffrey Whitman (who followed Charles Lovett all the way to his home to call him the n-word), Kathy Griffin, Roseanne or some average Joe who posted something offensive online or said something offensive in a video, no one cares about their apology because they’re usually only apologizing because there was backlash, typically resulting in a financial loss. Jeffrey Whitman followed Charles Lovett home for miles in his company truck to, as he said in the video, “tell [Lovett] what a n-word you are.” When he was fired and his business suffered he blamed Lovett, when his financial loss was his own fault.

This is why Mel Gibson, regardless of his talent, isn’t working too much right now. He hurt a lot of people with his comments about Jewish people, apologized, and then made more racist comments about Jewish people. He clearly wasn’t sorry. He even referred to Black men as “a pack of n—–s” in one rant. I can only imagine how that made his Lethal Weapon co-stars feel to have worked with him throughout the years and hear him say something like that. I didn’t toss out my Lethal Weapon collection because that would’ve been pointless, but I knew I would never spend money on any of his work again.

I’m a Black woman, and my brother and I grew up watching Roseanne. I even wrote in an article about how I didn’t like shows like the Cosby Show or Full House growing up because I couldn’t relate to the characters and felt the shows were unrealistic. However, I loved Roseanne because it was funny and the Conners were relatable. Roseanne was hard-working like my Mom, and her kids were extremely similar to myself and my siblings, in age, behavior, and gender. When I found out it was getting a new season I was excited. Cut to her Valerie Jarrett tweet. That was shocking for me because it was crazy that she would say that, and because it also exposed other awful and racist tweets, like the one in which she compared Susan Rice to an ape as well. I also saw pictures of her dressed as Hitler, which is unacceptable regardless of her being Jewish. While I will never support her again, had the show carried on I wouldn’t have cared because I simply wouldn’t have watched it.

As for James Gunn, I really enjoyed the first two Guardians of the Galaxy (Vol. 1 more than 2), but I understand why he was fired. If I worked for a company and posted the kind of stuff James Gunn did online I’d be fired immediately. Personally, I don’t think it matters how long ago he made those posts. Child molestation and sexual abuse isn’t funny, and because of his posts I now suspect he’s a pedophile. I was molested as a child, and I read a post in which he said he had just finished watching child pornography. Why would ANYONE joke about something like that? That wasn’t any funnier 10 years ago than it is today. Plus, even though Gunn’s posts were 10 years old, that means he was 42 when he wrote them; a grown man who should’ve known better. His posts disgusted me. I don’t understand why ABC and Disney didn’t check Roseanne’s and Gunn’s social media posts BEFORE they hired them. Given the stuff they had posted it was obvious it would one day be a problem.

We’re living in a time when anyone can film or post anything online, or dig up an old post and ruin a person’s life. That’s unfortunate, but it’s where we are now. That person may not even feel the same way now as they felt when they wrote a bad post, but it won’t matter because readers’ and viewers’ will still be hurt or angered by it. It’s like you feel like you’re seeing the person for who they REALLY are. While I do think people are overly sensitive now, and we’ve gotten to where even liking the wrong tweet might get you fired (which is scary), it’s the downside of using social media. What you write may be misconstrued and then the whole world’s pissed at you.

Nick Kush August 23, 2018 - 8:42 pm

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