Was Dis­ney right to fire the Guardians di­rec­tor over old tweets?

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Last month James Gunn, who had been in pre-pro­duc­tion on Guardians Of The Galaxy: Vol. 3, was abruptly fired by Dis­ney. The de­ci­sion came af­ter of­fen­sive tweets posted a decade ear­lier were re­cir­cu­lated by mem­bers of the Amer­i­can alt-right call­ing for him to be dis­missed. On 20 July, they got their wish.

“The of­fen­sive at­ti­tudes and state­ments dis­cov­ered on James’ Twit­ter feed,” wrote Dis­ney chair­man Alan Horn, “are in­de­fen­si­ble and in­con­sis­tent with our stu­dio’s val­ues.” And cer­tainly the tweets were taste­less. What’s no­table, how­ever, is that Gunn him­self had pre­vi­ously apol­o­gised for other, sim­i­lar jokes made else­where.

Dis­ney’s de­ci­sion was no doubt dam­age con­trol, but it prob­a­bly didn’t ex­pect such an in­tense back­lash, not least from the Guardians them­selves. “James is one of the most lov­ing,

car­ing, good-na­tured peo­ple I have ever met,” tweeted Dave Bautista. “He’s made mis­takes. We all have. I’m NOT OK with what’s hap­pen­ing to him.” These sen­ti­ments were backed up a few days later with an open let­ter signed by Chris Pratt, Zoe Sal­dana, Bradley Cooper and other mem­bers of the Guardians fam­ily (#WeAreG­root).

The tim­ing of the con­tro­versy is also of note, com­ing af­ter Gunn pub­licly crit­i­cised prom­i­nent Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing Don­ald Trump. Sim­i­larly, fol­low­ing the re­cent fir­ing of Roseanne Barr for racist lan­guage, some sug­gest the cam­paign to have him sacked was a re­tal­ia­tory at­tack against a lib­eral celebrity. That it was po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated seems be­yond doubt.

Whether Dis­ney re­verses its de­ci­sion re­mains to be seen, though as we go to press it still stands. This will pose big chal­lenges for the MCU, given Gunn’s cre­ative in­flu­ence was a mas­sive fac­tor in mak­ing the Guardians films so unique.

How­ever, per­haps a more im­por­tant ques­tion is whether Gunn should have been fired at all. His pre-Marvel fil­mog­ra­phy in­cluded schlocky Troma ti­tles and sub­ver­sive hero flick Su­per, so Dis­ney would have known of his pro­cliv­ity for shock hu­mour when hir­ing him. Fur­ther­more, as Gunn had al­ready gone on record re­gret­ting his ill-judged jokes and re­flect­ing how he has since grown as a per­son, fir­ing him now feels ill-judged when grace could have been ex­tended to him with­out con­don­ing his com­ments.


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