A couple weeks ago, Disney abruptly fired writer-director James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 after some old offensive tweets were dug up by alt-right goons who didn’t really have a problem with Gunn’s bad jokes as much as they had a problem with Gunn teeing off on Donald Trump and alt-right goons. Nevertheless, Disney fell for the ruse, and desperate to protect their family friendly image, got rid of Gunn. Earlier this week, the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy released a statement in support of Gunn, acknowledging that while the tweets were wrong, Gunn has shown remorse and grown as an individual.
Nevertheless, Variety reports that Disney is unlikely to rehire Gunn. “I don’t see Disney re-hiring him,” says one person close to the matter. “Those tweets were so horrible and Disney has a different standard then other studios.” The article also states that “Gunn’s firing was approved by Disney Studios chief Alan Horn, with his boss, company CEO Bob Iger weighing in on the final decision.” With some added Disney-friendly spin, the article continues “Disney insiders say the company was not aware of the offensive tweets and was taken aback when they were recirculated.”
Even if you believe that Disney, a multi-billion dollar company with vast resources was somehow unaware that Gunn had a past as a provocateur, the fact remains that this firing wasn’t because of #MeToo or company standards. This was trying to avoid controversy by throwing Gunn overboard in the face of criticism from a force Disney didn’t care to understand. They saw some awful tweets and rather than assess if the criticism was in good faith (it wasn’t) or if Gunn had truly changed (by all appearances, he has), they fired him because it was politically expedient.
The notion that Disney somehow has a higher standard than other studios is ludicrous, and if you don’t believe me, check out the name of the company. Walt Disney was a complicated and in some ways despicable figure with a virulent strain of anti-Semitism. But they’re not going to rename the company because the Disney brand has value, and it’s easy for them to paper over the past. If Disney really wanted to hold itself to the standard it claims to hold others, it would reevaluate its founder. But it won’t because those standards are for other people. Getting rid of James Gunn was easy, and now we’ll see if the Guardians franchise can move on without him.
Variety notes that although the actors are in support of Gunn, they likely can’t leave Guardians 3 without breaking their contracts, so they’re pretty much stuck. Disney is also stuck since they have to find someone with Gunn’s irreverent tone and heart. In all likelihood, they’ll find some pale imitation who drops a bunch of 70s needledrops and loses any sense of what make Gunn’s Guardians movies unique. But hey, at least a movie studio avoided some tough conversations.