If you have been living under a rock, Disney and Marvel have been dealing with a fair amount of controversy and backlash in the last few weeks. After the firing of James Gunn over past controversial tweets, the wave of disappointment and anger has been coming from fans and actors alike. As this saga reaches its conclusion with Disney and Marvel standing by their decision, I have a few thoughts about this topic.
Gunn has had a history of offensive tweets from the beginning of his career while he was trying to establish himself as a unique, creative voice in Hollywood. I’m not condoning what he said but these were tweets of the director’s past. It says nothing to who he is now and he’s even apologized for them time and time again. While those tweets were nauseating, the way they were exposed to the world was just the same.
It’s understandable why Disney made the decision they did. They are a massive company and a company entirely defined very heavily by their family-friendly appeal. Even though these tweets were in Gunn’s past, their resurfacing is a bad image for a movie director who helms one of the best family-friendly film franchises in recent years. Pedophile jokes are not a good look. As I mentioned before, the context of his firing is the troubling part. The tactics of being reactionary so quickly to a conspiracy theorist’s agenda is what angered so many. This reaction damages Gunn’s career, gives the alt-right a victory, and ultimately does not end well for Disney.
Calls from industry figures, fans and cast members alike for Marvel to rehire Gunn have grown in mass since the news was released. The cast members from Guardians of the Galaxy even signed a petition to call for the rehiring of their director, standing by the man they have gotten to know over the years. While Marvel wasn’t instrumental in the decision, they have stood by the media conglomerate. Had there been more of a thorough internal investigation or deeper consideration, the PR backlash might not have gained as much momentum as it has in the past few weeks.
The main reason that this decision might affect the immediate future of Marvel Studios: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Gunn is popular, both within Marvel Studios and with fans, and has helped shade the aesthetic and humor of the franchise as it traveled into the cosmos. I see the core future of the MCU lies in the galactic adventures of characters such as Guardians of the Galaxy. Whoever takes over the reins of this franchise not only has the possible future of the MCU in their hands, that person also has to deal with working as the cast who are loyal to their director and press who will just ask questions about James Gunn.
To possibly recover, Disney will have to talk to James Gunn and work with him in other aspects: the director, whoever that person will be, will need Gunn’s support. The script will and should still be Gunn’s so he’ll get writer credit. And the cast. Dave Batista, who has played Drax, has been the most vocal supporter of James Gunn, might have a hard time working with a new director without Gunn’s blessing. He will need to have internal discussions with all the cast to ensure they give their best to this final installment.
I’m not a fan of trigger reactions for this very reason. That’s the bigger issue out of all of this. Starting a smear campaign because someone might disagree with a political figure such as our president or another’s idea can have long-term effects; this problem is also not just a Hollywood issue. As a society, we need to get better and actually do our due diligence instead of holding a person’s social media past against them. In this case, we’ll see how this affects Disney and Marvel in the long run.
I apologize for the long rant but I’ve been holding this in for a while until a decision was made. What do you all think? Please leave a comment.