James Gunn has lost his place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after a series of offensive tweets he made years ago went viral. Surprisingly, he is getting support from an unlikely source.
Before he went mainstream as the director of the Guardians of the Galaxy film series for Marvel/Disney, Gunn made schlocky B-movies for Troma Studios like Tromeo and Juliet. Those films featured shocking, often offensive humor, something that he carried over to his Twitter account.
The tweets recently came to light after Mark Duplass, an actor who identifies as liberal, suggested people follow commentators on Twitter they may not agree with, to expand their perspective and reach out across political and social aisles. He recommended that liberals should follow conservative columnist Ben Shapiro, calling him a good man whose reasoned views people should at least hear.
In response, Duplass was mercilessly attacked online by other actors and liberals for recommending Shapiro, who they called a homophobe. Gunn also attacked the idea of reaching across the aisle to conservatives, and said Shapiro was a racist bigot who posted offensive tweets. He offered no examples, and there is no evidence that Shapiro (who is Jewish) has tweeted anything racist.
Duplass quickly apologized (statement seen below) and deleted the tweet, saying he now thinks Shapiro is a bigot.
Many denounced the mob rule that forced Duplass to rescind his attempt at bipartisanship.
Look, I’m not a fan of @benshapiro, but if a liberal like @MarkDuplass wants to follow him and thinks he’s interesting, then that shouldn’t lead to being mau-maued and forced into a Soviet self-denunciation ritual. Shapiro isn’t my cup of tea; if he’s not yours, don’t follow him. https://t.co/6gwxmc351B
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) July 19, 2018
In response to Gunn’s attacks on Shapiro, some independent journalists combed through Gunn’s tweets and found some pretty offensive stuff, including off-color references to pedophilia, 9/11, rape, and the Holocaust.
This tweet includes screenshots of some of the tweets. Be warned: they are not safe for work.
— Jack Posobiec🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) July 20, 2018
After the tweets began to circulate online, Disney quickly cut ties with him, removing him from his directing and writing duties on Guardians of the Galaxy 3. Disney Chairman Alan Horn said Gunn’s tweets were “indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”
Gunn issued a statement, apologizing for the tweets.
“My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. 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.”
“Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.”
While many of his co-workers and fans still voiced support for him, Gunn surprisingly found a defender (of sorts) in the man he initially blasted on Twitter: Ben Shapiro.
While Gunn decided to go low on Shapiro, the conservative commentator went high. He didn’t defend Gunn’s actions, but instead denounced the “mob mentality” that got him fired. It’s the same sort of mob mentality from the “outrage machine” that was used against conservatives from Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly to the President himself, and Shapiro argued it was time to stop.
In a column for The Daily Wire, Shapiro criticized Disney’s decision to fire him, pointing out that Gunn had been open about his crude sense of humor in the past (which Disney was aware of) and had even apologized for it. Even though Shapiro found the jokes disgusting, he finds the idea of firing someone over a decade-old mistake to be wrong. He has long argued that being politically incorrect is not a crime, regardless of where you fall politically.
Shapiro said that even though the tweets were offensive, “That doesn’t mean he should have lost his job at Disney,” Shapiro said. “James Gunn says that his tweets were ‘outrageous and taboo,’ adding, ‘As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor.’ If everyone in Hollywood lost their jobs for saying loathsome things, there would be a lot of people in Hollywood about to lose their jobs (virtually every major comedian, for starters).”
Shapiro also said the mob mentality and outrage culture in America needs to stop, on both sides of the political and cultural aisles.
I do fear, however, that everyone is falling in love with the mob mentality, and that if one side disarms, the other side will merely run roughshod over them. Everyone is far too gleeful about scalps these days. That bespeaks a country full of folks interested in first use of rhetorical nuclear weaponry rather than a country full of people who would like, in the end, to go back to their daily business without having to worry about ending other people’s careers.
Without a limiting principle, the outrage machine will simply destroy us all.
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