In a shocking move, Disney has fired Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn from upcoming sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, after a conservative website dug up offensive jokes made by Gunn on Twitter between 2008 and 2011. The tweets included references to rape, pedophilia, and other hot-button topics like the Holocaust, AIDS and 9/11.
Prior to getting hired to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy in 2012, Gunn was best known for his work on horror movies like Slither and Dawn of the Dead, and his Twitter feed was frequently populated with crude and offensive jokes. Those kinds of jokes pretty much ended once Gunn started working for a Disney-owned company, but he has been an outspoken critic of current U.S. President Donald Trump, which has made him an unpopular figure in some right-wing circles.
Yesterday, right-wing political news site The Daily Caller published an article with the headline "After Attacking Conservatives, Disney Filmmaker's Tweets Reveal Racism, Homophobia, And Incidents Of Sexual Assault Against Children," that included a collection of screenshots of Gunn's most offensive tweets. It should be noted that the claim of "incidents of sexual assault against children" is somewhat misleading; it refers to Gunn recounting a story someone told him about a monkey masturbating in front of a child on the set of Max Keeble's Big Move.
A sample of the tweets that were unearthed follows (warning: graphic and offensive content).
Gunn responded to the article in a series of tweets explaining the jokes, and saying that he has changed a lot since he made them:
2. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over.— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
4. For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it.— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
5. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
That wasn't the end of it, however. The Daily Caller article was followed by a flood of tweets (led by far-right personalities like Jack Posobiec and Mike Cernovich) calling for Gunn to be fired, and Disney soon obliged, making the following statement:
"The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him."
"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 — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also 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. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all."
Gunn's history of making crude and offensive jokes is no secret. The filmmaker started his career working for Troma Entertainment, a production company known for making low-budget shock exploitation films filled with sex, nudity, and extreme graphic violence. Gunn's first screenwriting credit was the Troma movie Tromeo and Juliet, a parody of Romeo and Juliet that was replete with Troma's trademark adult humor.
Gunn's crude sense of humor extended to his other writing, and while the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was in development he came under fire for a blog post titled "The 50 Superheroes You Most Want to Have Sex With." The post (as you can probably guess by the title) was a rundown of mostly female superheroes that, among other things, called Gambit a "Cajun fruit," suggested that Tony Stark could "turn" Batwoman (a lesbian character), and said that Batgirl Cassandra Cain "has the ultimate daddy issues." Gunn apologized for the post, saying:
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog that was meant to be satirical and funny. In rereading it over the past day I don't think it's funny. The attempted humor in the blog does not represent my actual feelings. However, I can see where statements were poorly worded and offensive to many. I'm sorry and regret making them at all. People who are familiar with me as evidenced by my Facebook page and other mediums know that I'm an outspoken proponent for the rights of the gay and lesbian community, women and anyone who feels disenfranchised, and it kills me that some other outsider like myself, despite his or her gender or sexuality, might feel hurt or attacked by something I said. We're all in the same camp, and I want to do my best to make this world a better place for all of us. I'm learning all the time. I promise to be more careful with my words in the future. And I will do my best to be funnier as well.
By and large, Gunn seems to have stuck to that promise since joining the Marvel family, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in particular was praised by critics for its heartfelt exploration of masculinity, friendship and family. The news of him being fired from the third movie in the franchise, for which Gunn had already written the first draft of the script, came as a shock to Marvel fans, and has inspired fierce debate online. We'll keep you updated on any further news as it emerges.
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