“Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn was fired this week over offensive tweets he wrote almost ten years ago. During this time, Gunn was a self-described “provocateur” who said things to purposefully produce shock and outrage.
The majority of these tweets were about paedophilia. Here are just two examples of these tweets:
“I like when little boys touch me in my silly place.”
“The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like, ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’”
These tweets lack any semblance of humour or wit and are simply disgusting. They are indefensible, but are they unforgivable?
According to Gunn’s apology, he’s a different person now. He said that his humour has changed and that his “days [of] saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over.”
Should we accept this? Is it fair that Gunn was fired for tweets from almost a decade ago? Personally, I see no reason to question Gunn’s sincerity. He has taken responsibility for his past actions and acknowledged that his words hurt people.
I also don’t believe it was fair of Disney to fire Gunn. They must have had a very poor vetting process to have been unaware of his previous style of “humour”. Moreover, Disney seems to have no problem working with other controversial characters such as Johnny Depp, an alleged domestic abuser.
This entire situation should remind us of the purpose of callout culture. It shouldn’t exist to simply point out the bad things that people have done. There needs to be a willingness to accept that, after being called out, people can and do change.
That’s not to say we should just accept every apology a celebrity gives, as many of them are performative. Rather, we should examine the evidence to see if it’s true that the person has indeed changed.
In Gunn’s case, he hasn’t tweeted or said anything close to what he used to in years. His apology includes a recognition and understanding of his previous misdeeds. This is exactly the kind of growth we should want, not punish.
It’s also important to keep in mind who is leading this call out. Gunn’s old tweets were brought to the public’s attention by Mike Cernovich.
Cernovich is a member of the alt-right community, and considering he used Gunn’s tweets to speak for his character, perhaps I should use Cernovich’s tweets to speak for his character:
“Have you guys ever tried ‘raping’ a girl without using force? Try it. It’s basically impossible. Date rape does not exist.”
“Since prison rape is no big deal (after all, criminals deserved to be raped), why don’t we have co-ed prisons?”
It’s clear from even a cursory glance at his twitter that he has no sincere moral outrage over Gunn’s tweets. How can he when he tweets such vile things himself? Instead, Cernovich is weaponizing the morality of the left wing to undermine people he disagrees with.
Gunn was very much anti-Trump and considering that Cernovich is alt-right, you probably won’t find it surprising that he most likely targeted Gunn for this very reason.
Now I’m not going to lose any sleep over Gunn getting fired. He has a net worth of 40 million dollars, so I think it’s safe to say he’ll survive. What I am worried about is the precedent this sets. We cannot allow our moral anger to be dictated by people who are amoral.