It was announced on Thursday that Disney cut ties with Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn over nearly decade old tweets that surfaced recently after Gunn had gotten into a spat with Ben Shapiro over the debacle with Mark Duplass.
Apparently, angry over the back and forth between Gunn and Shapiro, a group of people dug through Gunn’s tweets and found some that were nothing short of gross, three of them discussing sexual acts done to little boys. To be sure, Gunn should be called out for these tweets and be made to apologize.
However, I’m not so sure he should have been fired by Disney for them.
Ben Shapiro has weighed in on this, and it seems he’s come to the same conclusion as me. Shapiro discusses how we as a society have become too wrapped up in hunting for scalps, and that we look to destroy our political opposites through any means necessary. I will say that the left did start this trend, but the right can be just as vicious about it.
But while Shapiro comments on the state of our society, and the fact that Gunn’s sins are light compared to some still fully employed directors who have done far worse, I want to bring up something that I feel our society is tragically forgetting.
Gunn was a provocateur before he was a mainstream success. Like an provocateur, Gunn would push the envelope to elicit reaction. For some, outrage is their favorite response. In order to chase that reaction, people like Gunn would make their jokes dirtier and dirtier just for fun.
This would result in Gunn making pedophilia jokes. Herein lies my point. The jokes were disgusting, they were wrong, and they were jokes.
I think it would be inaccurate to say that Gunn endorses pedophilia, firstly because because joking about something should hardly be considered an endorsement. If jokes, no matter how bad they are, are an endorsement then a good majority of us are guilty of endorsing a lot of evil. Gunn definitely made jokes in ways he shouldn’t have, but that hardly makes him guilty of championing pedophilia.
Gunn is a lot of things. He’s misinformed, and prone to believe conspiracies about his political opposites. I’ve rolled my eyes at quite a few of his anti-right tweets. That said, Gunn is prone to standing up for others who don’t necessarily believe as he does. While he did attack Shapiro, let’s not forget that he was doing so right in the middle of defending Duplass. Let’s also not forget that when actor Chris Pratt was being attacked for calling for prayers when director Kevin Smith suffered a heart attack, it was Gunn who spoke up and supported the idea of thoughts and prayers.
Gunn’s defenses of others when they’re being attacked by the mob are often middle of the road, and sometimes lukewarm, but even that is a larger effort than many in his position make. This tells me that there’s a lot to respect about Gunn, and a character trait that I can appreciate. It’s hard for me to make some old crass jokes the foremost thing about a guy who’s shown he’s willing to look askance at the mob to defend what’s right.
We should also remember that these jokes are nearly 10 years old. I’ve stood by the philosophy that no one is who they are years ago. People grow, change, and learn. It’s likely that Gunn still has a dark sense of humor, and that’s evidenced by some of the jokes he puts in his movies, but I doubt he’s the provocateur he was long ago.
There are things we all regret from our past. Mistakes we made in anger, spite, drunkenness, or immaturity. It would be wrong to put each other on trial for actions we made long ago, as very few of us are undoubtedly those people anymore. Gunn should be forgiven for his stupid tweets, just like you should be forgiven for whatever stupid thing you did back in the day.
So no, I don’t think Gunn should have been fired by Disney. In fact, I find his firing worrisome. We shouldn’t have our careers destroyed over bad jokes, even disgusting ones that fall flat and age like milk. We also shouldn’t be scalping each other over our political differences. There are times to call for firings and disassociation, but we’ve gotten to the point where even small Twitter spats result in one party or another having their life’s mistakes laid bare.
We’ve become a society of witch hunters. The bad joke here is that at some point in our lives, we were all witches.