In a single day, James Gunn went from acclaimed writer/director of one of Marvel’s most successful and beloved franchises, to fired. And, of course, Twitter is to blame.
James Gunn is known for being an opinionated Twitter personality, whose feed contains more politically charged statements than Guardians of the Galaxy tidbits. As an outspoken Trump-hater, Gunn often butted heads with prominent conservative personalities, and after a confrontation with Mike Cernovich, the hashtag #fireGunn started to trend.
Cernovich and others had uncovered Gunn’s Achilles’ Heel – before the writer/director joined forces with Disney, he was a provocateur who swung between family-friendly fare like Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed and adult comedy like PG Porn.
But his taste for distaste was illuminated through his Twitter feed and website – have a look through this compilation, and see if you can spot a theme. Like “that guy” in high school who constantly cracks terrible jokes about the most offensive topics possible, Gunn was obsessed with black humor involving rape and pedophilia.
But the trouble with jokes is that they’re supposed to be funny. Many of Gunn’s tweets are just … gross. They’re not witticisms, they are bottom-of-the-barrel attempts to shock, the kind of childish filth you’d read scrolling through 4Chan. The guy couldn’t seem to help himself – he just kept vomiting out repulsive statements, all satirical, yet all fail to amuse.
Although Gunn is guilty of nothing more than terrible taste, it’s difficult to defend. The tweets were written several years ago, and you could assume that Gunn has matured in the time since, except for the awkward fact that he was forty when he wrote them. The tweets sound exactly like the “edgy” humor of a fourteen-year-old – the man was way too old to be so amused by the concept of pedophilia.
But the thing is, these tweets have always been publicly available. And I assume the House of Mouse has pretty stringent hiring practices, so you’d think that Disney knew about Gunn’s bad taste before they hired him.
But, whether they knew or not, once a hashtag starts trending, it’s game over. On the press tour for Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Gunn would undoubtedly have been grilled about his terrible tweets, and it would be foolish to stain such a lucrative, family-friendly franchise with this particular controversy.
James Gunn shot himself in the foot, repeatedly. But the incident highlights the perils of social media, especially Twitter, where the most prominent users tend to fire their most controversial opinions out into the public, with little thought or reflection. On Twitter, critical thinking is rarely rewarded; it’s the shock-jockeys, the knee-jerk reactions and inflammatory statements that provoke reactions, retweets, and followers.
Although the platform can be a goldmine for witty one-liners and news (both real and fake), it’s also a buzzing hive of anger and outrage, and it’s interesting to see both sides of the political spectrum weaponize words.
A similar fate recently befell Roseanne Barr, after she attacked Valerie Jarrett with a racial slur and was fired hours later. Although, it should be noted that Barr attacked an individual, while Gunn’s offensive tweets were self-inflicted wounds.
What a strange time to be alive. Every person working in the entertainment industry probably spent all of last night furiously combing through their Twitter timeline, erasing everything that could be interpreted as offensive.
Perhaps Gunn should have had the foresight to erase his Twitter and start anew after landing his role at Disney. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been so keen to offend, or quick to attack others. But it should be acknowledged that Gunn was pretty damn good at what he did, despite, or perhaps because of, his twisted sense of humor.
The unlikely success of Guardians of the Galaxy, perhaps Marvel’s least marketable franchise, can almost single-handedly be attributed to Gunn, who forged a quirky, colorful new Star Wars in an era where Star Wars fans don’t like Star Wars anymore.
Marvel is often guilty of releasing formulaic, forgettable stories that succeed only because of their brand-recognition – Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron, etc. But their director-led films tend to shine, distinguishing themselves from a homogeneous pack – Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor: Ragnarok, and of course, Guardians of the Galaxy.
Gunn, unfortunately, had to be fired; Disney would be risking too much to keep the man on the payroll. But without him, what does the future of Marvel’s space operas look like? He was the man who first infused laugh-out-loud humor and quirky charisma into the MCU, and without him, the cinematic universe will be lacking personality.
For me, there are only two words that keep the hope alive – Taika Waititi.