When did we start letting the trolls win?
In case you’ve been living under a log for the last week, the director and creative mastermind behind Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, James Gunn, has been abruptly and unceremoniously fired from his role with the studio — and consequently his involvement with the much anticipated Guardians vol. 3 — the studio citing “offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed”as being inconsistent with the studio’s values. Gunn was in the midst of completing Guardians vol. 3’s script, and shooting was slated to begin this fall.
I fucking hate focusing on the politics surrounding nerd culture, instead of the content and philosophy of the works themselves. It’s boring, and obnoxious, and it’s pretty much the same goddamned conversation every time. The arguments and behavior are more canned than a DC movie that’s taking itself too seriously. #DCburn
Ennui towards political outrage notwithstanding, I have to say that I found Gunn’s firing, and the circumstances surrounding it, to be shocking. And not a little terrifying.
But more than anything: I just feel so sad. Sad for the incredible GotG goodness that will now never exist in the world. Goodness which would have undoubtedly had as much if not more healing power than its two predecessors.
But before we talk about the impact of Gunn’s work, let’s start by doing our due diligence: let’s look at the source of these offensive tweets that were “discovered”.
We’ll talk about the tweets themselves in just a minute, but first, let’s meet the author of this cute little scrapbooking project: Mr. Posobiec, One America News Network correspondent, aggressive Trump supporter, and professional troll (I’m not going to call him a journalist because his work offers no evidence that he is one). The day before he tweeted this compilation, Mr. Posobiec was interviewing a Trump supporting Hollywood director “about the liberal culture in Hollywood and fake news against President Trump”, concluding that more Trump supporters are likely to be making themselves known in Hollywood.
Then he posted the above turdnugget: a highlights reel of the most offensive jokes Posobiec could find on Gunn’s Twitter history, dating all the way back to 2009, just a few years after the platform initially launched — aka “the wild wild west of Twitter”.
Posobiec’s entire career is focused around trolling the political left, so it makes perfect sense that he would target Gunn, a vehement and vocal opponent of Trump on — you guessed it — Twitter.
So as far as sources go, this guy’s is bunk. From a journalistic POV, he’s as verifiably biased as it gets, and his political motives for destroying a man’s career — altering the political dynamic in Hollywood — is crystal clear. Not to mention there is absolutely no evidence (including accusations) of any pedophilic or bigoted behavior attributed to Gunn.
Yet here we are. With no one at the helm of GotG vol 3.
So why? Is it because the tweets from nearly a decade ago were just that vile? Let’s examine.
What are we looking at here? A James Alefantis-style feed of disturbing pictures and known pedophile codespeak? Another series of Kevin Spacey-esque uncloseted confessions?
No. No, we’re looking at really bad jokes from a writer trying desperately to make it in Hollywood by pursuing the rough humor/horror niche.
Most of the tweets in this compilation are from between 2009–2011, with a few from 2014 which reference transgender individuals (all the others reference pedophilia). Gunn’s past creative work with really gritty, rough horror genre flicks and his previous phase of rough humor was well known to the studios before his hiring. He’s long since come out and apologized for many of these past statements represented here, and has continually expressed his personal growth and evolution as a writer and as a human.
I don’t know about you, but I’m horrified at the idea of going back and looking at my tweets from 2009. I was a fucking moron. And really angry and bratty (lol, even more than now — inorite?). God only knows what I said the first year I opened an account, when everyone was bumbling around vomiting their thoughts into social networks like a bunch of drunk babies.
Adam Rants Movies really says it all and says it best, I think:
At best, James Gunn was a hack comedian on Twitter. At worst, he was carrying out his actions. I have yet to see a single shred of evidence that leads me to believe that he really is like that, and I took at least 15 minutes searching the internet for it, which is about five times longer than the mob did when they called him a rapist and a pedophile and all those other things under the sun.
I think it’s a total shame that this shit happens more frequently now.
I think so too, Adam. I think so too.
Where are the conversations about the work?
This is the last, and really I think the most important thing I want to say about all this — which is, of course, about Gunn’s recent work, and its impact.
GotG swept into my life when my husband and I first started dating, and it quickly became the go-to feel good movie for our newly blended family of five (ages spanning 4–14). The characters were burdened, and flawed, and made mistakes, in ways not dissimilar to our own real lives. But at the end of the day, no matter how much Groot or Rocket or Drax or Starlord screwed things up, and no matter how standoffish Gamorra acted, they loved each other. They were a family. This was the kind of family we could see ourselves in.
Don’t ever forget, friends, that Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 brought us this pure gift from the Universe:
We are Groot.
GotG Vol. 1 taught us what it means to be family, and the meaning of sacrifice, and about how when we stand together we’re powerful enough to protect what we hold most dear.
And how to save the world with a dance off.
Then GotG Vol 2.stepped in and upped the ante, not only in blockbuster and cinematic quality, but in its examination of family, and in the stories of its flawed characters.
The second installment is essentially about (spoiler alert) Starlord’s grappling with his parentage — learning a hard lesson of disappointment from his biological father, while realizing the immense love his adopted father had for him. In an instant of clarity, everything Starlord thought he knew about his childhood his shattered: his mother’s ideal of a divine and benevolent biological father is shattered by the reality of Ego’s cruel narcissism, while he simultaneously realizes that Yondu, whom he viewed as his captor, had actually been his loving protector. His real father.
As Yondu and Starlord rocket out into the atmosphere, and Yondu tells Starlord that he’s “damn proud you’re my boy,” my husband and I sit and bat the tears from our faces. Because it’s so damn true it hurts.
Beyond the main storyline, we also have a shining gem in the story of Gamora and her sister Nebula, as they grapple with what it means to be siblings who were pitted against one another by an abusive, sociopathic father. Nebula’s fierce quest throughout Volumes 1 and 2 to finally “win” against Gamora is followed by the apology and sisterhood she never thought she’d ever get.
Gunn’s involvement in the most recent Infinity Wars deepened this storyline, and we see Nebula’s loyalty towards her sister grow even as Gamora finally realizes the depths of co-dependent abuse her adopted father is willing to sink to, laying at her feet a gruesomely twisted caricature of love as she’s killed by her own father.
This is some seriously deep shit, folks. This is not your standard Leave It To Beaver, Brady Bunch happy family fuff. These films have created the space to explore some of the most difficult issues we as humans and families are faced with — issues which are usually too deeply buried to explore outside the gritty confines of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo genre. Too difficult to examine in family-targeted films.
Yet children experience abuse, neglect, feelings of abandonment in the wake of divorce, haphazardly blended families — they experience them every day, with little in their environment to help them normalize and understand what’s happening to them.
But Gunn’s Guardianshave given this to us in spades. From the at times tear-jerkingly well timed soundtrack (how about Fleetwood Mac’s The Chainblaring as the Guardians face off against Starlord’s bio-dad?) to Drax’s tragic backstory, these films give kids, adults, and families the tools to process some of the most difficult and unspoken challenges in our lives.
GotG Vol 3. was supposed to center around Gamora, finally giving us the opportunity to unpack and humanize her complicated character — a character which has suffered unspeakable childhood abuse. Now — who knows who will take over, or what the result will be? Guardians are undeniably a production of Gunn’s creative vision, so with the swift severance, it’s difficult to hold out great optimism that there will be no negative impact on the film.
The great irony in all this is, of course, that not only has pedophilia gotten a heluvalot of free press over this episode of politically-fueled troll pandering, but that the result has compromised the integrity and success of a creative work that had the potential to make a significantly positive impact on victims of childhood abuse around the world.