Twitter is a hellhole. Anyone who uses the platform regularly knows how toxic the platform can be at times, especially when it comes to politics. The website is well-known for breeding racism, sexism, and neo-Nazism, with many alt-right dwellers utilizing the platform to get their points across.
It has recently come into the film world and Hollywood with the recent firing of James Gunn by Disney. For those who may not know, James Gunn is a director who has worked on several projects over the years and has garnered a decent following. While he has started out working on cult projects like Slither and Super, his mainstream breakout success has been directing the first two Guardians of the Galaxy films. His Twitter account, like many other Hollywood directors, is prone to having multiple tweets critical of President Trump and other conservative pundits.
But within the past couple of days, many other tweets sprung up that were generated decades ago about James Gunn. Gunn’s pre-Guardians works, most notably his work for Troma Entertainment, a company known for offensive and gratuitous content like the Toxic Avenger series has a strong sense of “edge” to them, which, like or dislike, involves a lot of dark and offensive statements being passed off as jokes. As such, Gunn would often make “edgy” tweets that made fun of offensive material, most notably pedophilia and rape. And while these tweets are many years old, and Gunn himself has apologized for them back in 2012, it still put Disney on damage control, as Gunn was fired from directing the third Guardians of the Galaxy film that was rumored for release in 2020 due to these tweets, later stating, “My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. I have regretted them for many years since…because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time. Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today…All I can do now, beyond my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be…To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.”
There’s a lot to digest when it comes to what had transpired. There’s of course the argument of hypocrisy, since Disney is more than willing to fund projects that feature Johnny Depp, who has been known for his abuse allegations toward his ex-wife Amber Heard, as well as Disney ignoring HR complaints at Pixar over John Lasseter’s behavior, as well as the fact that what James Gunn had said these things years ago, and seems to have changed and learned from his mistakes.
Many might also say that since Gunn posted these tweets in his 40s, he should have known better. It also doesn’t help that his deletion of 10 thousand tweets makes him look even worse, although I find it hard to believe they are all pedophilia and rape jokes. And yes, what he said was uncalled for, unfunny, and deserves to be criticized.
But while there is plenty of valid criticism that can hurtled towards Gunn, his actions are not the main problem here. It is how his tweets have sprung up that make this situation toxic and potentially dangerous. To understand the full context, Mark Duplass, star of The League and creator of the HBO show Togetherness, was found in a bit of controversy after praising conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. This led to massive backlash due to Shapiro being a racist, transphobic pile of garbage, but James Gunn did end up coming to the defense of Duplass, while also acknowledging that Ben Shapiro is an “idiot.” This insult, as well as Gunn’s constant criticisms towards the current presidential administration led to many alt-right members, most notably Mike Cernovich, to dig through Gunn’s own tweets to expose him as a pedophile rapist for making crude jokes, all the while worshiping a president who endorses pedophiles, and has rape allegations to his name…funny how that works.
For those who don’t know Mike Cernovich, he is one of the most infamous alt-right personalities, which is saying quite a lot. He has been a strong promoter of the Pizzagate conspiracy, works for InfoWars, believes in white genocide, and denies that the concept date rape is real, all the while being charged for rape back in 2003. So for those following at home, a rapist is calling out a person known for an edgy personality back in the late 2000s and early 2010s for making rape jokes. This wasn’t the first time he has succeeded in hurting someone’s career thanks to their tweets, as he also managed to get MSNBC commentator Sam Seder to be fired from his position over a rape joke he made on the platform back in 2009 over the infamous Hollywood director Roman Polanski.
Again, what James Gunn (and Sam Seder) has tweeted out is disgusting, and are absolutely pathetic attempts at dark humor. And it is perfectly justified to dislike Gunn (and Seder) and his previous actions. And if James Gunn was fired because of these tweets and nothing else, or because of something greater, I wouldn’t mind in the slightest. There are hundreds of other talented directors in Hollywood, and since film is a collaborative medium, there are plenty of other creatives, most notably screenwriter Nicole Perlman, who co-wrote the first film with Gunn, who have helped shape the Guardians franchise, and plenty of other directors can do some fun things with the property.
The problem is that Gunn was fired due to Disney more or less bowing down to the wishes of the alt-right. Mike Cernovich is one of the most disgusting people alive, and anyone who follows or thinks he offers anything of value are also disgusting. And yet, whether the company wants to admit it or not, Disney capitulated to a man who doesn’t believe in date rape and a group of people who have dangerous mindsets. This isn’t just some random director losing his job. This is giving credibility to a man who has ruined people’s lives in the past for hating Trump, and will encourage him to ruin the lives of other journalists, directors, and many more in the future. We could very well see MAGAs and Nazis use old tweets to destroy future careers, all because they dislike a man who has called white supremacists “very fine people.” It’s already affected Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, who recently deleted thousands of his old tweets out of fear of Internet trolls, who have endlessly attacked him for many of the creative decisions he implemented in his Star Wars film, attempting to twist words he stated out of context years ago in destroying his career. Don’t think it takes much brain power to realize the scary implications.
Many may wonder why Disney would want to listen to someone like Cernovich, as this would hurt their brand recognition both as a progressive company, as shown by their recent slate of films, and as a family-friendly organization…and yet, you would be wrong. While I can’t necessarily prove it, there’s a bit of a correlation with politics and a certain merger Disney has recently completed that explains part of why Gunn was fired from Guardians 3. Many are well aware about Disney wanting to buy the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox from the Murdoch family mainly for their streaming service, as well as being able to be even more dominant in the box office market share, which will result in a monopolization in the film industry and result in Disney having even more control on the film industry. But of course, Trump needs to approve the deal first. And seeing as how Trump likes being pandered by right-wing content, one can argue that Disney CEO Bob Iger listened to the ultraconservative backlash Gunn has received, as well as the right-wing backlash towards them firing Roseanne Barr just a month ago, and is utilizing it to succeed in the oncoming merger. The deal was supposed to and did finalize a week after Gunn’s firing. Therefore, firing James Gunn and in turn capitulating to the alt-right and Trump will make Iger’s company even bigger, resulting in a merger that promises layoffs, monopolization of the film industry, stronger bullying towards theater owners, more control in all facets of entertainment, including film, television, and journalism, and removing a man from a major film and blacklisting him from the Disney family for something he owned up to years ago. I guess the wonderful world of Disney isn’t so wonderful after all.
To reiterate, James Gunn’s tweets are awful, and deserve to be called out. But the fact of the matter is that Disney doesn’t care about what Gunn used to say. Those tweets were around before Gunn got the Guardians gig. Disney knew who they were picking up when they signed him on for a Marvel movie. The only thing they really care about is making sure they get all of the Fox movies and shows in their hands, even if that means endorsing and emboldening a group of “very fine people.”
In short, Disney is a garbage company, and their capitalistic greed via capitulating racists is absolutely disgusting, and is a potentially scary sign of things to come for the industry.