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Disney Won’t Rehire James Gunn … and That’s a Good Thing

It's time to face the music.

attends the European launch event of Marvel Studios' "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2." at the Eventim Apollo on April 24, 2017 in London, England.

Despite the mass outpouring of support, including from the Guardians of the Galaxy cast in an open letter, Variety is now reporting that no, Disney will most likely not rehire James Gunn as the director for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

The article details how Disney studio chief Alan Horn and CEO Bob Iger signed off on the firing, and posits that the fact so many higher-ups at the studio were involved will cause a lack of support for the cast’s letter.

And you know what? I’m walking back on my original neutral stance on the issue to say that that’s a good thing.

There’s a difference between, say, a teenager making “edgy” jokes on the internet and a forty-year-old man. James Gunn was an adult when he made these jokes, and adult should be able to face the consequences of their actions. It wasn’t one tweet either, it was a significant number of them, which shows that he continuously relied on these shocking statements for “humor.” And as writer Clarkisha Kent pointed out in her fantastic piece on the issue, pedophilia has never been funny, and we’d be having a vastly different conversation if Gunn were not a white, straight man.

There is, of course, the question of whether or not Gunn’s firing was justified or whether it was simply the result of a far-right troll hellbent on discrediting a man whose politics he disagreed with. But if we don’t have accountability for those who are on the same end of the political spectrum as we are, then we have no accountability whatsoever. We can recognize that Gunn’s firing came about because of a right-wing attack while still holding Gunn accountable for his actions and past statements.

This is a different right-wing attack from the more recent ones on Sarah Jeong as well. Jeong, an Asian-American woman, made jokes satirizing and expressing anger against white people as a collective. She was punching upwards. Gunn was punching downwards. And also, to continue to quote Kent’s thinkpiece, pedophilia has never been funny. He wasn’t making a joke, and if he was, that’s a particularly nasty kind of humor.

The Mary Sue had previously called out Gunn for his vile statements concerning certain female superheroes in the past. Let’s not forget that in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, he has another character refer to his female lead as “that green wh*re” for no apparent reason (seriously, if Drax only points out the obvious then he’d be more likely to call her a murderer or something like that). Gunn has always been #problematic, but these tweets go beyond a problematic fave. They’re deeply harmful to victims of sexual assault and child abuse, and those victims deserve better.

Of course, he’s now apologized for those tweets and has apologized for his behavior before, but at the same time that doesn’t mean we have to forgive him. Forgiveness is something we give if we feel it is earned. If you forgive James Gunn, that’s your choice. This is not an article to shame those who have decided to forgive him but rather to explain why I’ve chosen not to.

The fact is, Disney won’t rehire Gunn and walk back on their decision; it would set a dangerous precedent. It would say that “oh, if they apologized, then they shouldn’t suffer consequences for their actions.” And there’s a difference between one tasteless joke and multitudes of offensive comments over the course of many years. We need to accept that Gunn’s firing is a consequence of those actions, just as we can accept that the tweets were dragged out to discredit Gunn over his politics.

Gunn will be fine. He’ll make movies again. But Disney needs to stand by their words and not rehire him, and then make sure they never work with Johnny Depp or any abuser ever again. Because to fire Gunn but hire an abuser shows they really don’t care, they just care about the optics of the immediate moment. But that’s an article for another time.

(image:  Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Disney)

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Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.