James Gunn and modern day “cancel culture”

The controversy surrounding James Gunn and its conclusion.

A still from Gunn’s film Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

A still from Gunn’s film Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

Skyler DiLoreto, Staff Writer

James Gunn is an American filmmaker who first began his career as a screenwriter and eventually began working as a director. This led to him combining the two career paths in projects such as in the film Super (2012) and in his most notable and well-known projects Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017). Both of the Guardians of Galaxy films are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the MCU owned and controlled by Disney.

While Gunn was fairly well known because of these films, he tended to stay out of the public eye until recently when he became the center of a controversy. In July of 2018  Mike Cernovich , an alt-right conspiracy theorist who had taken issue with some of Gunn’s political statements, brought attention to tweets that had been written by Gunn joking about things such as pedophilia, rape and child abuse. These tweets had been written from the time of 2008 to 2012. While Gunn did publicly apologize for his tweets, Disney decided to fire him from his previously announced position to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 along with dismissing him from other writing and advising positions in the company. This was met by scrutiny not only from the public but also from many of Gunn’s peers. This also impacted Gunn’s career with studios outside of Disney; Sony Pictures decided not to promote Brightburn (2018) , one of Gunn’s upcoming films at San Diego Comic Con though Gunn’s name was prominently featured in promotional material for the film. Numerous media outlets, actors, directors, musicians and other entertainers publicly criticized Disney’s decision along with the majority of the cast of the previous Guardians of the Galaxy movies. In March of 2019 Disney reinstated Gunn in his directorial position after numerous meetings between the chairman of Walt Disney Studios and Gunn.

This is one of numerous examples of Cancel Culture, the phenomenon of “cancelling” a person (most often a celebrity) by abstaining from supporting them because of a morally questionable action. While this can be positive in holding celebrities such as R. Kelly responsible for their actions, it can also be overwhelmingly negative. Often times an apology of the person in question will be completely ignored and the movement as a whole discourages learning and instead chooses to focus on punishment. Often times it can be largely ineffective because of the short attention span of internet users. Many instances such as the one with James Gunn result in the people affected by a scandal returning to the same position they previously held once the whole situation has blown over such as in the multiple attempts to “cancel” Kanye West for various things he has said or Cardi B for getting back with her husband after his affair.