James Gunn was fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 recently after old tweets were brought to light of him making inappropriate jokes involving pedophilia. A small but loud crowd were in outrage over these old but still horrific jokes, and Disney reacted quickly and swiftly. In the aftermath, it seems that perhaps hardcore right-wingers are going through outspoken liberals Twitters and exploiting old inappropriate jokes to crucify them in this post-#MeToo world. And Disney took the bait.
Ok. So it’s a lot. And I’ve been processing it all. And I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
My first gut reaction: I loved Guardians 2. It’s easily my favorite of the Marvel films. I was not expecting a super hero movie to be so genuine and relatable, especially when the story involves a baby tree that dances and a talking foul mouth raccoon, all while flying through space. But damnit that movie got real, and I was calling my therapist when it was over, and it was perfect for all of the right reasons. Seriously. I was in tears by the end of that film. And so I am sad that he will not be involved in the next film.
But then I started to wonder, is this justified or not? Is this part of the over correction and exploration of the #MeToo movement, or is this just the next phase of cleaning house? Overcorrection is going to happen. Everything offends someone, and now there seems to be a sounding board to scream about it all, and the higher up powers are finally afraid of the masses. But is this necessary or is this going to far?
So here is my long winded opinion.
I’ve never been a fan of Twitter. Free speech is wonderful, and having zero censorship is a privilege we should always value. But just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. And most people who use Twitter seem to think I can, so why not? Twitter is not censored or regulated like other social media platforms, which has lead many (not just celebrities) to say whatever crass, offensive, or shocking thing they want, simply because they can. And until very recently, no one was overly worried if there would ever be consequences.
Many times now celebrities have tweeted things that got them heat – and that was the point. They wanted the attention (all press is good press). But they didn’t get fired. Because we weren’t taking them seriously. Before #MeToo no one has notably lost work due to something they tweeted, past or present. Now, full television shows are canceled, directors are being taken off big projects, actors or dropping out of films before they even start shooting.
And again, none of this is happening because of the crimes or bad choices they are making. Just like when #MeToo started, those men weren’t losing their jobs because people were trying to do right by the women coming forward, they were losing their jobs because overnight they became suddenly not marketable.
Now they are firing people and canceling full projects because of the feared fallout. For marketing. For profit. For bottom line.
James Gunn wrote and published those tweets almost ten years ago. Long before Disney hired him. They knew they were there, and they weren’t concerned about them then. They are only concerned about them now. Because the small group of loud shouting people have become a feared mob.
But here is my real rub. James Gunn apologized. Honestly, earnestly, apologized. He owned up to his mistakes, took responsibility for them, and agreed they were in poor taste at best. That is not who he is any more, and he hopes we will all let his work speak for itself.
And we aren’t.
So are people allowed to grow and change? What mistakes are forgivable? What actions make up for those mistakes? When is an apology sufficient?
Here’s where I may get some heat. Of all of the celebrity fall outs from #MeToo, I am willing to forgive Louis CK. I may even be willing to watch his future projects. And here is why: he owned it, he fully apologized, he didn’t make excuses, deny it, attack the women who came forward. He took full responsibly, he seems to understand the long reach of his actions, and he seems to genuinely understand he needs to learn and grow. And that’s why I can make my peace with him (does my opinion matter, no; does my forgiveness matter, absolutely not).
And that’s why I am ok with James Gunn. He’s not shouting from the roof tops defending his actions, he is not displacing the blame onto others or drugs, or justifying his wrong doing because others did it too. He knows what he did, he stopped doing it long before the internet decided to charge him for his crimes, and he hasn’t been that person for years.
I believe in repentance and forgiveness, blame my Christian upbringing. If James Gunn made those jokes today, that would be an issue. If he were to dismiss his actions or displace the responsibly on something stupid like medication or culture or someone else did it too so it’s fine, that would also be an issue. But these were past mistakes that he has already repented for. And so I believe he deserves forgiveness. And I don’t think he deserved to be fired, or have his career impacted at all.
We all have our dumb moments, we all have our blind spots, we all need to learn and grow. Making mistakes is inevitable, but owning up to them and apologizing for them is rare. We have to allow people to learn and grow from their mistakes. And we have to accept their honest repentance.