James Gunn's firing from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 by Disney has shaken Hollywood. It's been three weeks since the Mouse House cut ties with the famed Marvel filmmaker, and in that time the story has only got more complex.
The Gunn fiasco blew up during the San Diego Comic-Con weekend, with Disney removing him after controversial tweets were uncovered. Since then, there has been an outcry on both sides. Many celebrities have come forward in Gunn's defense calling for his reinstatement, including the Guardians of the Galaxy cast. Most outspoken has been Dave Bautista, who has threatened to quit if Gunn's submitted screenplay is not used. Recently, it's been rumored that Gunn may return to Marvel in a different capacity, although nothing has been made official.
Screen Rant's editors have been covering the story from the very beginning. Here are our thoughts on the current situation, and where we see it going.
James Gunn's firing is about so many things beyond Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. It's about the alt-right, Me Too, the Disney monopoly, fandom, Marvel's cosmic future, Marvel vs. DC (because of course), and the question of a person's ability to change. Covering the ever-shifting story has been a challenge - so much is up in the air - and some of the more recent developments (Gunn may return to Marvel under a different franchise) make the whole thing seem farcical.
Plainly, I don't find Gunn's jokes that funny, but can't condemn him now for making them a decade ago and certainly don't think they're a fireable offense. That's the core of this. Disney should have done their due diligence and looked into the context; everything that's followed in this PR disaster stems from that rushed decision. Had they just paused for thought, I guarantee this entire thing would have blown over. Unfortunately, the Hollywood machine never looks back (see: every great idea cut from a first draft) and so Disney and Gunn are going through this tortured situation for no real gain.
All this really shows is that big companies can be influenced by political mavericks, that knee-jerk reactions can overcome reason. And in the fraught world we find ourselves in, that's not a good policy. I have no doubt Gunn will be fine - this entire thing has probably made him a bigger name - but even if he returns back to Marvel, the lesson and legacy of this decision is worrying.
The Gunn situation is unfortunate and not nearly as simple as anyone seems to think. Those that defend him are willing to move past his inappropriate jokes because they were years ago and he seems to be a changed person since then. They think Disney can and should simply reinstate him as director because it was an obvious smear campaign and those that don't agree will get over it. Those that aren't letting him off the hook think the jokes are emblematic of a larger issue with Gunn's character, expecting another shoe to drop like so many other Hollywood figures recently. Making matters worse, the issue is also intrinsically linked to partisan politics and fanboy bias, meaning it's nearly impossible for any meaningful or enlightening discussion to happen in the short term.
The fact that Disney was so quick to fire him is the most complicating factor, throwing an even bigger spotlight on the issue when it could have been handled in a more measured way, avoiding as much attention, and allowing Gunn to stay on after an investigation and character review. Fans and general audience members will likely eventually move on, provided nothing else comes to light, but society is slow to process this kind of situation, so it'll be a number of years before he's not such a polarizing figure. So, while it's unlikely that he'll direct Guardians of the Galaxy 3, his relationship with Marvel Studios as a director probably isn't over, and he likely has opportunities elsewhere as other studios seem less bothered than Disney by his predicament.
No one is denying that James Gunn's tweets and jokes are deplorable, and they probably should've been taken into account when Disney hired him in the first place (if they weren't at the time). But given that Gunn has apologized for them in the past, and how far he and his movies have come since then, if he were given the opportunity to formally apologize for them now - after they resurfaced - this whole situation would've blown over. But, Disney's knee-jerk reaction to the tweets has instead overwhelmingly backfired, at least within the fan community.
I don't have an opinion on whether Disney should rehire Gunn or not, but I do believe it's important to look at the situation objectively and from all points of view. Disney isn't the enemy; they're a family company, first and foremost, and firing a director who has made obscene comments for years is not the same thing as firing an actor, which is why this shouldn't be compared to them keeping on Robert Downey Jr. (who was brought on prior to Disney's acquisition of Marvel). The way franchises work, Guardians of the Galaxy can survive without James Gunn, but it won't be the same - and fans want Gunn to finish his trilogy. It's almost like how fans of a rival franchise feel about a particular director and his vision...
On one hand, I can completely understand why Disney took the swift action it did against Gunn, at least from a PR standpoint. The company wasted no time in firing Roseanne Barr after she posted an offensive tweet, and while I would argue that the situations are very different when you look at the specifics, the court of public opinion is usually far from fair or objective. So I get why they fired him, as his jokes were definitely in extremely poor taste, at least by most standards.
That said, they were still just jokes. No evidence has been presented to support Gunn actually harming anyone, or harboring secret urges to do so. Whether a joke is funny or not is entirely subjective, and I'd wager nearly everyone alive has cracked a joke at some point that might get them at least a talking to from HR if they had said it at work or on social media. Based on the glowing character reviews presented on his behalf by his colleagues, I see no reason why he shouldn't be reinstated as director of Guardians 3. Still, I don't think there's a real chance of it happening.
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