James Gunn Deserves Forgiveness


As Gunn’s old tweets resurfaced in July, scandal thrust his future with the Disney franchise into jeopardy. (GAGE SKIDMORE VIA FLICKR)


Imagine that you’re James Gunn. You’re a couple weeks away from your 52nd birthday, and you’re taking a little time to look back on your life. You had a couple of missteps when you were younger, for sure, but you’ve grown — and you’re proud that you’ve grown. Now, you’re at the head of an extremely successful movie franchise which has made hundreds of millions of dollars for The Walt Disney Company. You’re helping spearhead an entire division of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and even have input on blockbusters like “Avengers: Infinity War,” which has locked in about $2 billion at the box office. You’re happy. Your family is happy. And the people giving you money are happy. Everything is going great and you’re looking forward to directing the third entry in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series.

Then on July 20, 2018, Disney fires you.

You were removed over a series of tweets posted many years ago that made some very inappropriate jokes concerning sexual assault and pedophilia. They’re bad jokes, truly terrible jokes and you regret having made those jokes — as you’ve made clear to reporters time and again. But you still made those jokes. Disney is in the middle of an extremely sensitive merger with 21st Century Fox, and you know that they can’t risk a PR problem right now. So, the company fires you. Your relationship with Disney has evaporated over atoned sins and poor timing. It seems like just bad luck — which it would be, if it wasn’t absolutely premeditated.

Does the name Mike Cernovich sound familiar? He’s an alt-right activist who seems to relish in spreading conspiracy theories and conducting smear campaigns. You probably know him for the infamous “Pizzagate” debacle, wherein he alleged that John Podesta, former White House deputy chief of staff and Democratic leader, was actually running a child sex slave operation out of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C. With absolutely no basis in reality, Cernovich used this false information to help radicalize people into the alt-right. He received concrete proof of his success when 28-year-old citizen Edgar Welch walked into the pizzeria with a loaded assault rifle, claimed to investigate the Podesta child sex ring and fired the gun. While there is obviously no secret sex trafficking enterprise coming out of that pizzeria, it speaks to Cernovich’s ability to manipulate others that he can get things like the pizzeria shooting to happen.

And now, Cernovich has smeared Gunn’s reputation by spreading his old tweets to his large network of followers, doing to him what he had done to John Podesta. Tactically, this happened not only in the middle of Disney and Fox’s merger, but during San Diego Comic Con, when Disney would want the least amount of negative press possible. Unfortunately, a reactionary uproar about Gunn’s years-old tweets erupted and, in a rash move, Disney chairman Alan Horn decided to terminate Gunn.

So, why target Gunn in the first place? It seems readily obvious: Gunn was one of the most outspoken and vocal directors in Disney’s employ. He used his platform to help spread awareness about the #MeToo movement and often criticized the actions of President Trump and the alt-right. In other words, he was yet another symbol of the “liberal intelligentsia” that Cernovich absolutely despises, so he had to be brought down. Now that Cernovich has proved successful in getting results from his attacks, no one is certain who is next on his list.

Perhaps most upsetting about the Gunn situation is that he absolutely does not deserve to have been raked over the coals the way he has been. If he were actually a pedophile and a sexual predator, then the situation would be something else. However, no one has come forward to say that Gunn is, in fact, these things. Indeed, quite the opposite has happened. The entire main cast of “Guardians of the Galaxy” came out in defense of Gunn, even issuing a statement of support signed by all of them. There are now even rumblings of discontent within Marvel Studios concerning Gunn’s firing, and the Twitter hashtag #RehireJamesGunn has gone viral.

Gunn’s firing was an injustice; there is no mistaking that. Mike Cernovich executed a plan that deeply damaged this man’s career and reputation for no other reason than that he didn’t like what Gunn said on social media. Did Gunn make bad jokes that made light of pedophilia, rape and sexual harassment? Yes, he did. But isn’t part of the reason why we fight against those issues to show the people who make those jokes why their jokes are in poor taste? Gunn learned that lesson and we should be commending him for having grown up. Bowing to the whims of the alt-right’s manipulation of today’s reactionary social climate and modern cancel culture in order to destroy a man whose only crime was making bad jokes for which he has apologized repeatedly is not my idea of compassion and empathy. Gunn figured out what was right and what was wrong, and he became a better person as a result.

James Gunn deserves your forgiveness, and it would be a huge mistake for Disney not to rehire him.