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Gunned Down: Were Disney Wrong To Fire Director James Gunn?

July 23rd, 2018 by Andrew McCarroll Comments

“The past is where you learned the lesson the future is where you apply the lesson”

As most of us know by now, James Gunn has been fired as director of the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies after a series of tweets were compiled and presented wherein the director made “outrageous and taboo” jokes about pedophilia and rape.

Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said in a statement: “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.

A distinction which has yet to be made to the satisfaction of many is that the tweets in question were not “discovered” by any reasonable definition of the word. They had been public since their time of writing and have been addressed and questioned before.

Gunn apologised for the tweets in 2012, shortly after first being given the Guardians gig, issuing a statement through GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and his own Facebook page for both the tweets and a blog post where he made vulgar jokes about gay comic-book characters.

Gunn’s dismissal was followed by the same wave of social media outrage and indignation to which we are all becoming accustomed these days. Amongst a furore of people (many faceless) clamouring to reach the top of an arbitrary “moral high ground” to delight in the latest celebrity fall from grace, Gunn was proclaimed to be the latest Harvey Weinstein, Roseanne Barr, Gary Glitter etc.

Except… he isn’t. Gunn’s actions are not comparable to Weinstein’s nor even Barr’s.

In a media scramble such as this it makes perfect sense to want to pin the incident down, wrestle it with reason and define it as what it really is. However, it’s this exact vitriolic single-mindedness, the very kind of which Gunn is accused, that offers little in terms of intelligent examination and perspective. This leads a person to notice something sorely lacking in the discussion:

Few have taken the time to define what this incident was not.

This was not an altruistic crusade to “right a wrong” in the name of a suffering minority. This was not a skeleton being dragged from a hidden closet. James Gunn is not a man finally getting his “long-overdue comeuppance”.

This was a witch hunt. Plain and simple. A campaign to invalidate the valid.

The reasoning behind it wasn’t honourable, but rather because he questioned the morals of a man who he believes operates without any, in this case, President Trump. Supporters then used a noose Gunn himself had tied a decade ago to hang him with as they were cheered on by the usual Twitter troglodytes who seem to revel in the demise of those more successful, all the while pretending their own existence is squeaky clean enough to withstand the forensic-grade examination that all aspects of celebrities lives are subjected to.

Jumping to conclusions on every aspect of the life of a person who they have never met, based on minimal context, outrage-junkies eagerly pump their fix of “I knew all along” into the willing veins of comment sections.

While Gunn’s words were abhorrent, there is no comparison between crass attempts at humour and decades of physical and emotional abuse suffered at the hands of men like Weinstein. Or the sickening slurs and faux apology issued by Roseanne Barr.

Gunn did what all of us have done repeatedly; he made a mistake. In the wake of that, he did what significantly fewer of us have done; he accepted his mistake, learned from it and made a positive change. Every inspiring message we see shared on Instagram, cross-stitched into a twee throw-pillow and, ironically, in the movies made by Disney promotes the same idea. Be better tomorrow than you were yesterday.

Few have embodied this kind of change better than Gunn.

From the self-proclaimed “provocateur” trying to shock people into looking his way, to a man at the helm of one of the biggest movie franchises in Hollywood, his professional ascension seemingly matched by growth in his own character.

Dave Bautista, Selma Blair and Patton Oswalt rushed to defend a man they knew as “one of the most loving, caring, good natured people I have ever met,” while at the same time, Robin Wright was denying any knowledge of Kevin Spacey outside of action and cut. The contrast spoke volumes.

Disney has reinvented itself as the squeaky clean moral compass of the entertainment industry; the company responsible for banning LA Times journalists from seeing its movies at advance screenings after the paper uncovered Disney’s impact on local elections and tax rebates it had extracted from Anaheim, which is home to Disneyland.

Most by now have seen the memes featuring the racist crows from Dumbo, the Asian cat from The Aristocats and the notorious Song of the South bashing Disney for its hypocrisy.

However, resorting to mudslinging has become the default reaction of those able to hide behind keyboards and Twitter eggs.

Disney has been afforded an opportunity to practice what they have preached to us for years, in everything from The Lion King to Iron Man, yet for a company who laud and celebrate the mantra “learn from your mistakes”, they sure seem pretty damn intolerant of those who make them.

James Gunn let himself and many others down. He showed self-awareness enough to learn, grow and work alongside-and-for those he disappointed. He spent the 10 years proving he deserved a second chance.

Should they allow him to keep proving it?

Let us know your thoughts below, @NerdFollowing on Twitter or on Facebook

Andrew McCarroll never quite built on the dizzying career heights that he hit at 6 years old, when as a member of the “Ghostbusters” he would charge his neighbours to remove any unwanted spectres. Now retired from slaying spooks, he spends his time obsessing over superheroes (especially Batman) and devouring shows like Dexter, Game of Thrones and Archer in a manner that would make Galactus proud. You can follow his rants on twitter @andymc1983