Intro: I’m the new kid around here and, at my age, it’s nice to a new kid anywhere. I’ve been a writer, primarily in comics, for some 30 odd years, some years odder than others. I used to do a weekly column elsewhere and the good people here at Pop Culture Squad has invited me to their sandbox to play in. I tend to go where my interests lead me so you may never know where I’ll head. If it’s any consolation, I don’t always know either. Let’s see where I went today.
As of this writing, James Gunn has been fired as the director of the next Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The reason? Some tweets he wrote ten years ago where he made light of, among other things, rape and pedophilia. Always good comedy material. (Yes, that’s sarcastic. I don’t want to be Gunned in my first column.) The director says he was trying to be outrageous and provocative and that they no longer represent who he is as a person, which is a good thing because he doesn’t come off as a very nice person. If you really feel the need to read them, you can find them here.
Disney/Marvel have cut all business ties with Gunn, the CEO sniffing, “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.”
I have a few problems with all this, not the least are Gunn’s tweets, which are stupid, heinous, and seriously not funny. I have a bigger problem, however, with Gunn’s accuser, Mike Cernovich, an alt-right columnist, blogger, and social media commentator. His own blogs and tweets show he’s made his own nasty comments on rape, pedophilia, and more. Cernovich was also a key figure in Gamergate which coordinated troll attacks on females in the gamer industry. If you feel the deep seated need to know what Cernovich is saying, The Southern Poverty Law Center has a good round-up of the man and his views here.
So I can’t see that Cernovich gives a rat’s ass about Gunn’s comments per se; his own remarks are as bad or worse. He’s targeted Gunn because Gunn is a liberal and has made some comments on the Great Pumpkin, aka President Trump. After the Trump-Putin press conference, Gunn compared Trump unfavorably to Thanos. So he became a target of the alt-right and specifically Cernovich (other targets includes such left wing media heroes as Trevor Noah of The Daily Show).
Ultimately, however, my real problem is not even with Cernovich but with the executives at Disney Corp. They threw Gunn promptly under the bus, claiming his tweets of over ten years ago weren’t consistent with the studio’s values. I’d suggest that values with which they were inconsistent was Disney’s desire to make money; they certainly don’t want a possible boycott against the next Guardians movie or possibly even against all the Marvel movies which make a TON of money for the Mouse.
Shouldn’t Gunn and others be held accountable for their words/actions? After all, Roseanne Barr was fired from her own TV show for comments she made. Fair is fair, right? The difference is that Barr made the comments about a week before she was fired; it was an immediate response to what she said in the same time frame. Gunn’s comments were made over a decade ago. As Gunn said, his comments do not represent who he is now; Barr’s certainly do.
Firing Gunn validates the tactics used by Cernovich and the alt-right. They worked. If they worked once, they probably can work again. And probably will be used again. Despite the moral tone being adopted, Cernovich and his ilk are doing what they’re doing for primarily political reasons, just as I think Disney has done what they’ve done for primarily economic ones.
A far thornier question is whether or not you can or should judge a work based on what you know of the creator. That, however, is a topic of its own and one we may pursue at another time.
[editor’s note: John hasn’t named his column yet “Working Title” is just a placeholder while he brainstorms]