Disney Not Rehiring James Gunn is a Big Mistake for Marvel (And Beyond)

Disney's decision to not rehire James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy is the biggest blow yet against Marvel Studios for a multitude of reasons.

Guardians of the Galaxy and Marvel

It seems all but certain that Disney won’t rehire James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 after his controversial firing, something which is a bigger and bigger mistake for Marvel.

Disney and Marvel’s decision to fire director James Gunn from the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was controversial from the start. While Gunn’s history of offensive tweets proved stomach churning for many, so did the bad faith way that they were exposed to the world. It’s less than a month since the story broke but in that time a lot has changed, and the magnitude of the problem has become increasingly difficult for Disney to ignore.

Related: Disney's Decision On James Gunn Will Define The MCU

Calls from fans, industry figures and cast members alike for Marvel to rehire Gunn have grown, but while rumors swirled that a U-turn could happen, the latest word suggests it’s highly unlikely. It’s not just a bad business mistake on the part of Marvel and Disney: it’s a potentially destructive precedent for one of the world’s most powerful entertainment corporations to set.

Why James Gunn’s Background Matters

James Gunn got his start as a filmmaker working for Lloyd Kaufman’s infamous Troma Entertainment. The low-budget horror maestros specialize in over-the-top gore, crude humor, farcical satire and exceedingly bad taste. Some of Troma's more iconic movies include Killer Condom, Redneck Zombies, Cannibal! The Musical, and the Toxic Avenger series. Gunn made his industry debut writing the screenplay for Tromeo and Juliet and would later be the screenwriter of Zack Snyder’s reboot of Dawn of the Dead. His own directorial efforts were heavily Troma influenced, such as the intensely gross but deeply hilarious Slither, the bleak indie superhero tale Super, and his web-series, James Gunn’s PG Porn.

His work was full-on, close to the bone and decidedly not for mainstream audiences, which was what made his hiring to the family-friendly Marvel franchise so unexpected. At the very least, it meant an executive somewhere at Disney had to Google Tromeo and Juliet. They had to know of the kind of work he made, his personal sensibilities, and how fiercely oppositional they are to what Disney is best known for. Gunn’s esoteric sensibilities proved a major boon to Marvel and his freewheeling take on some of the series’ less popular characters helped elevate the franchise to new heights. This context matters because it’s something Disney and Marvel could not be unaware of when news broke of Gunn’s discomfiting history of offensive tweets.

Why Disney Fired (And Didn't Rehire) James Gunn

Gunn himself had made no bones about his crude sense of humor and had previously apologized for some of his more off-color remarks. That didn’t seem to matter when right-wing conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, partly in retaliation for Gunn’s anti-Trump views, dug through his Twitter history and posted the most offending jokes. Gunn once again apologized but it didn’t take long for Disney to take action, and they fired Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Almost immediately, the grassroots campaign #RehireJamesGunn exploded on social media. Fans called out the bad faith nature of Disney and Marvel siding with a noted conspiracy theorist whose agenda was specifically to take down someone he disagreed with. A concerted effort to “punish” someone for being vocally against Donald Trump had little to do with the content of the person’s tweets beyond the ability to use them as political ammo. This was a point made most strongly by Dave Bautista, the Guardians of the Galaxy cast member who has been the most vocal in his support of Gunn.

Related: Screen Rant's Thoughts On James Gunn's Firing

Other famous supporters followed, from Selma Blair to Patton Oswalt to Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland, along with various media outlets. On July 30th, the Guardians of the Galaxy cast released a joint statement through social media that expressed their support for Gunn. Bautista even confessed on social media that, while he would fulfill his contractual obligations with Disney to play Drax, his loyalty first and foremost remained with Gunn.

Throughout this controversy, talk continued over rumors that Disney would eventually rehire Gunn. Variety recently reported that Disney Chairman Alan Horn was standing by the studio's original decision to fire Gunn, with Marvel's Kevin Feige also supporting that choice. Gunn's script will reportedly still be used for the third film regardless of who directs it. No names have been discussed yet for Gunn’s replacements, although fans have theorized that Disney will stick to proven Marvel talents such as Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi or Doctor Strange’s Scott Derrickson.

Page 2: The Problems Not Rehiring James Gunn Creates For Disney And Marvel

Key Release Dates
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
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