James Gunn Discussion

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Did you know who the Guardians of the Galaxy were in 2014?

Probably not. But hey, that sounded like an awesome name, right? And this movie that they’re featured in is made by the same company that made Iron Man and The Avengers, so it HAD to be good.

That was the mindset that I had when I went to see the James Gunn-directed flick from Marvel Studios, but walked out completely blown away by its wild originality, its beautiful and expansive world-building, its great humor, and by the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy felt so new and fresh within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Despite its obscure D-list characters, Guardians of the Galaxy grossed over $770 million worldwide, defying expectations and becoming one of the most successful movies of the summer – in August, a rare feat for any summer blockbuster. In a skit called “Marvel Can’t Fail,” Saturday Night Live took aim at the fact that, since the monstrous success of The Avengers, Marvel Studios could make a film about anything and still make millions of dollars.

It is that same kind of mob mentality that forced The Walt Disney Company to fire James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, from the production of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 last month, after far-right personality Michael Cernovich unearthed James Gunn’s old tweets from ten years ago, in which Gunn makes gay slurs and jokes about pedophilia, rape, and child molestation among other disgusting topics.

It is impossible to deny the fact that Cernovich had intentions to target Gunn, an outspoken critic of Donald Trump. But what is more disturbing is that Cernovich used movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo to do so.

Ever since Ronan Farrow wrote about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault allegations last October, we have seen powerful figures from various career worlds – journalists, actors, athletes, Hollywood executives, politicians – who have abused their positions of power, being taken down by the public. During the immediate wake of these allegations, there was a small period where the world felt united. People who had decided to come forward with their allegations were met with an outpouring of support from the Internet. Women had begun to truly realize that they were not the only ones experiencing this level of harassment within their daily lives. Around the world, people strove to come up with solutions for what the world could do better.

As more and more cases and allegations were brought to the limelight, however, some claims were proven to be false or over-exaggerated. Not everyone who got accused received the same kind of attention and action as other cases. The more these movements were thrust into the public eye, the more they became, according to Liam Neeson, “a bit of a witch hunt.” By January 2018, #MeToo and #TimesUp became a necessary inclusion into Hollywood’s awards shows and overall culture.

Cernovich, a man who was charged with rape in 2005 and had falsely publicized a conspiracy about Democrats starting a child-sex ring in 2016, exploited this popularity in the movement to target his political enemies. Cernovich saw the public instinct to grab pitchforks at the hint of an abuse of power, and abused it to solely benefit himself. As a result, after Cernovich lit the match and unearthed Gunn’s tweets, the looming power of the public had done the rest – leading Disney to break all business ties with Gunn.

Possibly the worst thing to come out of this situation is that Cernovich took one man’s era of redemption to falsely (and hypocritically) remind the world that humans aren’t allowed to make mistakes. James Gunn has been candid about and has apologized for vulgar remarks he has made in the past, learning from his attitude since then to become a better person. Coming from a studio that often tells and benefits from stories of redemption, tales of rags-to-riches success, and adventures about conquering your own inner demons, Disney’s decision to fire Gunn was incredibly ironic.
Ten days after James Gunn was fired, the Guardians of the Galaxy cast made a joint statement together voicing support of Gunn, with one of the stars Dave Bautista even going as far to say he would quit the franchise if the studio did not use Gunn’s original script. In their memo, the cast hoped that people “can ease up on the character assassinations and stop weaponizing mob mentality,” talking about how Gunn is truly a good man and sharing feelings on how they were “discouraged by those so easily duped into believing the many outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding them.” While they are able to break away from the mob mentality surrounding the situation through their own personal knowledge of Gunn, this is not always the case whenever we read the news about one controversy after the other.

As we are taught to be independent while we transition to college, we are also taught that it’s completely okay to stand out in the crowd. We are taught that it’s completely okay to be different, to stand up for what we believe in, and are taught that our own beliefs matter to us. During Orientation, we are taught that our differences are fundamental to who we are, and all contribute to a part of the campus culture and experience in a greater way that can only benefit ourselves and others.

So the next time when everyone else in the world seems to tell you to move on when you want to speak up, to quote Peggy Carter, “it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say ‘No, you move’.”