It looks like Disney won't be rehiring James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The director was fired from the sequel almost a month ago after old tweets featuring pedophilia jokes resurfaced, and the latest word is that his status won't change.
Since Disney's swift response, there has been outcry from all corners, with fan-pushed hashtag #RehireJamesGunn taking off as many protested Disney to reverse their decision. The Guardians actors themselves released a statement calling for Gunn's reinstatement, and before and since Dave Bautista has been particularly vocal about wanting the director back. At one point, it looked like it might actually happen, with one of many trade reports suggesting Marvel was pushing the Mouse in that direction. However, that is now looking unlikely.
While it goes against the social media crusade, Disney's final decision is not too surprising. Rehiring James Gunn wasn't an easy option, and looking at the full scope of the PR situation, there was really only one outcome.
Rehiring James Gunn May Be Even Worse PR For Disney
From the perspective of Marvel fans or Film Twitter, rehiring James Gunn may seem like a unanimously approved notion. Stepping outside that social media bubble, however, and the situation is a lot more complex. While in the context of the telling Gunn's pedophilia-related jokes have some degree of justification (even if nobody, not even Gunn himself, would defend them), that doesn't go far in excusing to general audiences that the Guardians of the Galaxy director still made "pedophilia-related jokes". In the mainstream, it's a much more controversial aspect, and would hang over a Gunn-fronted Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
It's arguable that if Disney had handled the Gunn situation differently, perhaps suspending Gunn pending investigation before making any brash moves, we wouldn't be here; if they'd actively quelled the fire, then there wouldn't have been a reason to drop him. However, now it's happened, there's no going back. "Disney rehires pedophilia joke director" is even worse optics than what came before, especially as nothing in the circumstance has really changed. While having Gunn direct Guardians 3 is the best outcome creatively, the moment the firing decision was made, nothing could change.
What the company is doing is thinking extremely macro. While fans are often the loudest members of an audience, analysis proves they don't impact the box office all that much. The potential losses from a mainstream backlash is certainly higher than that of any fan-based boycott (see Solo: A Star Wars Story, whose box office struggles came from apathy with the idea more than complaints of those burned by Star Wars: The Last Jedi).
Putting James Gunn On Another Marvel Project Is Easier
That doesn't mean, though, that James Gunn won't come back. Throughout the various reports on the ongoing Guardians of the Galaxy 3 situation, one possibility has been repeatedly stated: James Gunn could return to Marvel on another project. This may sound entirely contradictory of everything already discussed, but is actually a completely different beast - at least from the outside.
While hiring Gunn for a new movie may in reality be part of the decision to not rehire for Guardians 3, it can appear as a separate move. Instead of Disney going back on a previous decision, this is them evaluating a new situation. Gunn can apologize, giving the illusion of change, and things move forward in a similar manner. And, really, that would be a fittingly weird and complicated ending to one of modern Hollywood's weirdest and most complicated stories.
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