Last July, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was fired from Disney after old tweets of his surfaced, in which he had touched on multiple sensitive and offensive topics, making jokes of them. Gunn appeared to apologize, and the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy came out in support of him – most notably Dave Bautista, who plays the character Drax in the Marvel films. There was a social media debate that lasted for months, James Gunn retreated from Twitter, and there was even speculation that Dave Bautista would also be let go.
James Gunn then got picked up by Warner Brothers in October to direct the DC Suicide Squad sequel. Meanwhile, Disney appeared to be looking for someone new to helm the Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 film, but it seemed no one could be found. However, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he had supported the unanimous decision by Disney executives to fire Gunn, and, “I haven’t second-guessed their decision.”
Yeah, well, today, it became clear that he did.
Today, Disney brought James Gunn back to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. There was fanfare about it too: Marvel directors such as Peyton Reed and Scott Derrickson welcomed him back, and Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan quoted the franchise’s mascot Groot with the line “we are groot”, as if to say the Guardians family is back together at last.
James Gunn himself has issued multiple apologies for his offensive statements, and it is worth noting that the tweets were brought to light for overtly political reasons: on the other hand, was this really the right move? As a marketing strategy, certainly, this doesn’t seem like a good idea: for Marvel fans, it has already proven divisive, with some saying the firing was misguided and provoked by politics, and others claiming that Gunn shouldn’t get a second chance after some of the remarks he made.
For myself, I believe that Disney should not have rehired Gunn: I just feel that this will increase rifts between the opposing sides of the fandom. A new director, such as Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), could have filled Gunn’s shoes easily. I also understand, though, that a lot of people believe the outrage that sparked the firing was itself contrived, and that the tweets were made long ago. But I don’t know if I, personally, can feel comfortable supporting this decision yet. If I can have solid proof that Gunn’s old tweets do not represent who he is as a person (proof other than his own apologies) then maybe…maybe I can get on board. But this is simply not the sort of controversy that should have to accompany the MCU going forward, nor was it unavoidable. Disney could have hired a new director: however, we know now that they never even considered the possibility. They always meant to bring him back on. Which means Bob Iger lied.
And that…that is what makes me so angry. Why fire him in the first place, if you knew he was blameless? Iger’s plan seems to have been to let the scandal die down for a few months before bringing him back into the MCU. This is something that, even if it is entirely innocent, simply doesn’t look good.
Will it prove to be a blunder for Disney? Will James Gunn be re-fired and re-hired again? Well, we don’t know yet. But I know that from this point on, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 will become a hot-topic in the Marvel fandom, and maybe not in a good way. But who knows? Maybe Gunn (who apologized again today) really is a better person: maybe he isn’t the man that he implicated himself to be with those tweets: maybe.
This debate, I feel, does not end here.