In a move bound to make many Marvel fans happy, James Gunn has been reinstated as the director of the third Guardians of the Galaxy installment. To paraphrase Quicksilver, I didn’t see this coming, did you?
Deadline Hollywood reports in an exclusive that Disney has brought Gunn back to Guardians, the superheroes-in-space franchise he kick-started to popularity for Marvel Studios. Gunn was fired from the post last July after an alt-right brigade resurfaced decade-old Tweets written by Gunn, wherein he’d made crass jokes about rape and pedophilia. The compiled Tweets fast circulated online, and Gunn was out at Guardians by the end of the same day.
While Gunn’s jokes were beyond poor taste, they were also many years old and from another era of his life, and Gunn was never anything but apologetic in the aftermath.
“My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative,” his July 2018 statement read. “I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time.”
After the initial brouhaha died down, many of us were uncomfortable that the alt-right trolls had succeeded in their mission: getting Gunn ignominiously canned. He was targeted because he was an outspoken critic of Trump and often spoke about progressive politics on social media.
As Deadline points out, Gunn’s behavior when he was called out showed how best to respond to scandal—and was likely the reason Disney reversed its decision in the end:
The social media messages were indefensible, but the filmmaker never did anything but blame himself for poor judgment displayed at a time when he was emerging from the Troma film factory and attempting to be a provocateur. There were no reports that Gunn ever engaged in the behavior he lampooned. Unlike the defensive posture exhibited by Kevin Hart that led him to skip hosting the Oscars, Gunn fell on his sword early and often and never lashed out at Disney.
It’s understandable that in July, Disney felt that they had to do something in response to the outrage machine-generated backlash to Gunn’s collected Tweets, but they moved much too quickly—then seemed unwilling to budge in the aftermath. The Mouse House needed to be seen as family-friendly, and rape and pedophilia commentary didn’t mingle well with the director of a wildly popular space epic starring a smart-talking raccoon. Yet Disney failed to take the Tweets’ compilation and release into context and dropped Gunn without considering that they were emboldening a toxic movement of ultra-conservative trolls.
Gunn, newly a free agent, was courted by multiple studios, eventually signing on to direct Suicide Squad 2 for rival DC/Warner Bros.(According to THR, Disney and Marvel never really undertook a search for a new director in earnest, and approached Gunn in secret to make a deal, despite reports to the contrary.) In the meantime, any momentum on Guardians 3 stalled: while Marvel announced plans to still use Gunn’s script for the movie, no replacement director was named, and the entire cast, which signed a letter in ardent support of Gunn, was clearly unhappy with the situation. They’re no doubt thrilled by Gunn’s reinstatement.
The same is likely true amongst GoTG and MCU fans, many of whom have been angry about Gunn’s dismissal, circulating petitions and making further efforts in his defense. In the end, while this cannot have been an enjoyable ride for James Gunn, he seems to have emerged stronger than ever: given the reins to two high-profile franchises, now a household name, and enjoying the goodwill of fans and peers.
What do you think about Disney’s decision to bring Gunn back to Guardians?
UPDATE: Gunn has issued a statement (his first Tweet since the events of July):
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) March 15, 2019
(via Deadline Hollywood, image: Getty Images)
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