As you’ve probably heard, James Gunn is no longer attached to Guardian’s of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and it’s unlikely he’ll continue working with Marvel in any capacity. As huge Marvel fans this is a big disappointment because he’s been a crucial figure in the development of the MCU in the past several years. On top of writing and directing Guardians Vol. 1 and Guardians Vol. 2, Gunn has been the foremost figure in developing the cosmic side of the Marvel universe and was an executive producer on Avengers: Infinity War.
Gunn’s departure is a result of comments he made on Twitter nearly a decade ago being circulated by users who disagreed with his political stance. It’s important to note that Gunn initially made a name for himself by being offensive. He explains this in his response to the controversy, but also mentions that he’s since grown as a person:
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. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor.
While Disney certainly has every right to fire him, the situation is made even worse when we take into account the circumstances surrounding his termination. Gunn’s offensive tweets resurfaced because of political arguments he’d had and an agenda to discredit him. Admittedly, his opponents didn’t have to work very hard to find this publicly damning information. Especially because Gunn has publicly apologized for it before. But it’s still coming from politically motivated individuals rather than a place of sincerity.
There is a place for edgy and dark humor, but there are also times when it crosses a line. These jokes cross that line and it doesn’t help that they’re not funny. It’s essentially just shock humor with many jokes centered around pedophilia and rape. This humor may work well in a closed group of friends, but Gunn made the unfortunate decision to share them with the world. A lot of the jokes are also centered around him, which makes it look even worse. Although it needs to be said that there haven’t been any allegations claiming Gunn has physically or emotionally wronged anyone.
However, it’s undeniable that his comments/jokes are pretty vile and he shouldn’t have made them. But it’s pretty clear that he was a different person a decade ago and has since grown and matured along with his style of humor. Throughout his Marvel career, Gunn has cultivated an honest back and forth with his fans and his responses felt genuine and from the heart. On his Twitter prior to the firing, Gunn further explained the situation:
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 humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies.
All of this puts Disney and Marvel in a very awkward position. As previously mentioned, Gunn has been crucial to the development of the cosmic side of the MCU and been a great proponent of the genre. But there’s no way that Disney would continue to stand next to a man who publicly joked about having sex with children. It’s pretty clear that these were just jokes, but for perhaps the most family-friendly brand on the planet it doesn’t matter.
And you may think that Disney is being hypocritical here. And you’d be kinda right. I’m sure they have connections to people who have said/done far worse things. Robert Downy Jr. has a pretty dark history and wasn’t always a family-friendly character. But RDJ isn’t in the news today joking about rape. You’d be correct that Disney is only severing ties with Gunn because people are upset about what he said. But is that really surprising?
A big topic of discussion lately has been what should the consequences be for stupid comments on social media? In an ideal world, every punishment would adequately match the severity of the crime. But we don’t live in that world. Disney’s decision to part ways with Gunn is perfectly in line with their history and corporate goals. And while it may be unfair to Gunn, who has made an effort to and succeeded in becoming a better person, it’s ultimately Disney’s decision to make. And as unfortunate as it is, there’s no reason for them to continue to stand next to someone who relied so heavily upon edgy shock humor.
As for how this will affect the MCU going forward, we’ll really just have to wait and see. Gunn has been hard at work writing the script for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but whether or not Marvel moves ahead with his script remains to be seen. But I wouldn’t start freaking out about the future of the Guardians or the cosmic side of the MCU. If anyone can find a worthy replacement and figure out a way to salvage such an unfortunate situation, it’s Marvel President Kevin Feige. And unlike James Gunn, Feige’s never let us down.