After several meetings with Disney chairman Alan Horn, discussing their business decision previously influenced by an online smear campaign conducted by far-right trolls, controversial filmmaker James Gunn has confirmed he’s been rehired to direct the third instalment of Marvel’s beloved “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise.
The decision follows months of grassroots efforts to reinstate Gunn’s position, most notably a petition which garnered more than 400,000 signatures from the public and even an open letter of support signed by the film’s ensemble cast—including stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and recent Oscar-nominee Bradley Cooper. The controversy began after right-wing news personalities resurfaced old tweets where Gunn was using dark humour to joke about rape, incest and paedophilia during the height of the #TimesUp movement.
At the time, Gunn stated he expressed remorse for his old “bad taste” tweets, which he already apologised for in the past, though lightly defended the content on the grounds of comedic intent and freedom of speech. Through their posturing in the public space, Disney made clear this didn’t matter. The campaign, which originated from conspiracy theory commentators the likes of Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec, Mark Dice and several news contributors for The Daily Caller, forced the movie studio to fire their director in a spectacular reactionary fashion after the bad faith PR pressure.
“Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo,” Gunn tweeted in July. “As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humour. 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.”
“In the past, I have apologized for humour of mine that hurt people,” Gunn continued. “I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies. 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. 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 to you all.”
It appeared that Disney originally ignored this. “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,” Horn said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter at the time, days after conservative activists planned to confront Gunn during an appearance at San Diego Comic-Con. After reportedly being told not to attend the event, Gunn was soon left without a job, vindicating the far-right who framed the man as “everything wrong with Hollywood” over jokes. The traditional free speech crowd were devilishly silent that day.
So why the sudden change of heart?
Well, it appears Gunn wasn’t really fired from the project at all. According to industry insiders from both Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter, two highly credited publication in cinema, the film studio had “never undertaken a search” for another director at all and had “gone back to Gunn and made a deal… in secret…” months before the announcement earlier this week. No details about this secret deal were made public, though journalists within this field should ask for statements or to view Gunn’s new Disney contract for the sake of transparency.
The official narrative being spun by the studio, however, is that upon months of reflection, Horn was “persuaded by Gunn’s apology” and the studio eventually changed course. This was suggested by star and letter co-signer Dave Bautista who told Entertainment Weekly that the studio executives “realized they made a harsh, rash decision” to the jokes and that Gunn would “bounce back in a huge way”. Little did the public know he meant it’d be a literal bounce back towards the project.
It’s right for the public to cheer over Gunn’s return. Whether Disney abused the situation as a PR stunt or genuinely reversed course, the reinstatement does present a free speech victory against outrage culture mobs digging into the record of celebrities to cancel their public status. There’s no doubt the cast and audience will benefit from the return of their champion who turned the niche Guardians comics into a billion-dollar juggernaut, but what’s the catch?
With all this said, this does raise questions of whether there’s a double standard within neo-liberal and progressive institutions in opposing the mob, as Posobiec tweeted that ABC should grant this same redemption treatment to the conservative comedian Roseanne Barr, former star of the widely-popular television show Roseanne, who was fired after centre-left activists demanded the show’s cancellation after she made a racist tweet against an Obama administrator during her night of over-medication and binge drinking. Readers should wonder why there’s a difference of response depending both on one’s political ideology and whether those circles are acting in bad faith.
Is redemption exclusive to the left?
If this was true, why doesn’t the left rally behind reinstating Cenk Uygur as a leading member of Justice Democrats, TYT’s progressive news anchor who was forced out of his own political group for “sexist comments” made during his time as a conservative over 18 years ago (which he as continually disavowed)? If this was false, why are Tim Pool and Tucker Carlson correct in noting there's a lake of outrage towards Media Matters, the institution who dug up horrific comments made by Carlson, whose President Angelo Carusone was caught with a blog hosting both “racist” and “transphobic” content as early as 2011? Why are these cases different than Gunn’s? And why is this so-called free speech crowd of the reactionary right pushing all three?
We shouldn’t sit as culture is weaponised and manipulated by partisans seeking power. The only cure for this is consistency — where either the people have the liberty to speak their minds, allowed the ability to redeem for their wrongdoings, or it’s a simplified cancel culture where only those of us without original sin can actually cast the first stone. For Gunn, we’re given a rare example of legitimate justice, but it goes beyond one man and a studio. It must be universally applied. “I deeply appreciate Disney’s decision and “I have been and continue to be incredibly humbled by your love and support,” Gunn concludes. “I am excited to continue making films that investigate the ties of love that bind us all together.”
Thanks for reading! This article was originally published for TrigTent.com, a bipartisan media platform for political and social commentary, truly diverse viewpoints and facts that don’t kowtow to political correctness.
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