James Gunn was recently fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 because of stupid things he had written years ago. Many are upset because his firing is due to comments exposed by Mike Cernovich, but there is another facet of all of this: the shameless hypocrisy of journalists and public figures who claim to be outraged by the comments while publicizing it for the sake of clicks and outrage.
I’ve always thought that whenever there’s this kind of controversy about someone saying something stupid in a private venue, there should be more blame for anyone with a megaphone who repeats the comments. For example, years ago, Gilbert Gottfried was fired as the voice of the Aflac Duck over some comments on his twitter feed about a natural disaster. Anyone following his twitter feed knew what they were getting into, given that his best-known bits involve an unbelievably filthy version of the Aristocrats joke, and Elmer Fudd in Vietnam. It was the media’s coverage of his comments that resulted in people getting offended.
Ted Cruz’s twitter comment on Gunn highlights this phenomenon. James Gunn made his jokes as an obscure filmmaker, years before he was offered the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Ted Cruz is posting this as a prominent Senator, with millions of followers. He is the one exposing children, whose parents might have assumed that the twitter feed of a right-wing Senator would be appropriate for all-ages, to the comments that he claims to denounce.
And then there’s the freedom of speech implication of calling for someone to be prosecuted over a sick joke. His claim there is that he believes Gunn was confessing to horrible crimes, although that doesn’t really apply to the majority of the comments.
There is the question of what Disney could have done, and there are four potential responses for the House of Mouse.
1. The best approach would be to say nothing, and wait for the controversy to die down.
2. The diplomatic approach would be to make some comment about how everyone, including James Gunn, is aware that what he said was wrong, but that these was bad jokes made years ago, well before he had made two standout films that have inspired a new generation with their wit and irreverence.
3. Disney could also go negative. These comments were promoted by Mike Cernovich, a disgusting right-wing troll who is pissed off that Gunn made some left-wing comments, and it is wrong to allow Cernovich to ever get what he wants, because to do so endorses his views and behavior. If the comments Gunn said as an obscure filmmaker were wrong, it is a greater wrong for anyone to use those comments now for clicks and ratings. Shame, shame, shame on anyone traumatizing the sensitive. Name names and organizations.
4. Disney could go with a defense of free speech, and the value of the individual artist. Every time anyone demands an artist be fired for something that has nothing to do with the value of their work, they are demanding worst work, because if the people making hiring decisions were doing their job right the first choice is on average better than the second choice, and this is something that should be fought against in all but the most extreme cases.