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James Gunn Wins PETA’s Person of the Year Award

James Gunn walks the red carpet with a live raccoon on his shoulder.

Director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad) is PETA’s 2023 Person of the Year. The new DC Studios co-CEO was awarded by the animal rights activist group for his film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

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The third and final chapter in his GOTG series, Vol. 3 explores the origins of fan-favorite character Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), who suffered horrific abuse and experimentation at the hands of the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). It was a surprisingly dark and disturbing turn for the lighthearted and comedic franchise, offering a pointed indictment of animal cruelty.

“For using impressive and stunningly well-crafted CGI animals to inspire tens of millions of moviegoers—who flocked to theaters to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3—to have compassion for the millions of animals killed by experimenters in laboratories, director James Gunn is PETA’s 2023 Person of the Year,” PETA said in a statement.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk added, “By telling the story of the millions of vulnerable animals abused in experiments, James Gunn has shown himself to be a true animal guardian, … PETA is delighted to honor him for encouraging exactly what the world needs: empathy for all living beings.”

Gunn shared the announcement on his Instagram, writing that he was “honored and touched” to receive the award. Gunn, who has a rescue dog and a rescue cat, frequently promotes #AdoptDontShop which encourages people to adopt pets from shelters and non-profits instead of purchasing them.

Gunn’s brother Sean, who plays Kraglin in the GOTG films, said in a YouTube interview with Phase Zero’s Liam Crowley,  “I’m not sure you could find a big movie, at least a big budget sort of tent pole movie, that is more or that is a greater advocate for animal rights.”

(featured image: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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