Disney’s recent firing of director James Gunn has left th eGuardians of the Galaxy franchise somewhat up in the air.
The 52-year-old was let go after some distasteful jokes he made a decade ago (covering paedophilia, 9/11, the Holocaust and rape) resurfaced on Twitter.But while the tweets may have been misjudged, members of the cast (along with 365,000 fans who have signed a petition) argued he shouldn’t have been sacked.
“I will do what I’m legally obligated to do, but Guardians without James Gunn is not what I signed up for,” tweeted Dave Bautista, who plays Drax, on Monday.”It’s also pretty nauseating to work for someone who’d empower a smear campaign by fascists #CyberNazis. That’s just how I feel.”
Over the weekend, co-star Kurt Russell added his voice to the defence of the director, telling Variety: “I do think we’re getting a little too sensitive on maybe some of the wrong people.”
“Gunn has a wonderful heart and a wonderful mind. I hope he is forgiven.”
There’s no doubt Gunn’s original tweets were distasteful, and certainly intended to provoke. But, many argued, they were intended as jokes nonetheless.”It’s important to draw a line between ill-conceived jokes in poor taste and actual acts of paedophilia,” wrote Screen Rant’s Stephen M Colbert.
“By all accounts, Gunn has actually grown and changed significantly since he originally made the jokes, embracing the more family-friendly nature of his work with Marvel.”
At the time of the tweets, Gunn was embarking on a career as a comedian – one whose jokes were actively intended to be edgy and politically incorrect.
He later drifted from stand-up comedy, going on to write and direct the first Guardians film, a huge hit for Marvel when it was released in 2014. A sequel, released last year, was also successful.
But, once his old tweets had been dredged up, several fans expressed outrage.
“Sexual abuse is not funny in the least bit, it affects people’s lives forever,” tweeted Linz, while Ivan wrote: “Disney was right to fire him as their movies and theme parks are aimed at the very same children that he ‘jokes’ about raping.”
Disney was quick to sever ties with the director.
“The studio needed to act quickly,” Karen Krizanovich, a reviewer and journalist who also works in the film industry, informed. “Whether firing was the best thing is questionable.”The only thing that’s certain is that all studios are on a steep learning curve.”
Gunn had previously apologised for some of his misjudged tweets in 2012, but that was prior to the success of the Guardians franchise and so didn’t attract much attention.The recent rediscovery of the tweets, however, received much more publicity – and were difficult to overlook in the zero tolerance age we now see on social media.
After his sacking, the director issued an apology, saying he understood the business decision taken by Disney.
But not long afterwards, a petition was set up calling for Gunn to be reinstated, while principle cast members – including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel – jointly voiced their support for Gunn in a joint statement.