When Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was unceremoniously fired from directing the series's third installment this month, some fans were left scratching their heads. What could he have done to piss off the powers that be at Disney to this degree? It didn't take long for word to get out that it had everything to do with a series of old jokes discovered on Gunn's Twitter feed that made light of pedophilia and rape.
"The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James' Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio's values, and we have severed our business relationship with him," Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said while announcing the termination on July 20.
Now, a week after the fact, the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy is asking that Gunn be reinstated.
Here's what has gone down thus far, including why the cast believes Gunn should helm the third movie in spite of his tweets.
Why was James Gunn fired?
Gunn was taken off Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 after a series of offensive tweets of his resurfaced on July 19. The original tweets were written between 2008 and 2011, with most created in 2008 and 2009.
In response to this, Disney fired Gunn, and Gunn took to (what else?) Twitter.
"Many people who have followed my career know, when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I've developed as a person, so has my work and my humor," Gunn wrote. "It's not to say I'm better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it's shocking and trying to get a reaction are over."
But wait, what did his offensive tweets say?
The tweets mostly consisted of "jokes" about controversial topics, including pedophilia, rape, 9/11, AIDS, and the Holocaust.
According to Deadline, the following tweets were part of what convinced Disney and Marvel to sever ties with Gunn.
“The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’”
“I like when little boys touch me in my silly place.”
What has the response to his firing been?
While many are praising Gunn's firing and would like the situation to remain this way, not everyone agrees. Despite the graphic nature of his tweets, some have come to Gunn's defense, since many of his tweets were written a solid decade prior. The whole thing has sparked a national conversation about outrage culture, and whether holding Gunn accountable is fair or beneficial.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tackled the topic in a story for The Hollywood Reporter, where he addressed "this twitchy trigger finger ready to target anyone who may offend," and how Disney's claim that Gunn's tweets are "indefensible" is loaded with hypocrisy.
"Disney’s sentiment seems sincere, but the actual words are problematic. If we start going back through Disney movies in the past, how much blatant sexism, racism and homophobia will we find?" Abdul-Jabbar wrote. "Disney would rightfully claim that, though those offenses may have occurred, the company has evolved since then. Which is the same claim Gunn has made regarding his tweets."
A Change.org petition has garnered more than 340,000 signatures from fans who want Gunn reinstated. The cast of Guardians of the Galaxy seems to agree, and they published a note Monday asking the studio to reconsider his firing.
Why is the cast defending him?
On Monday, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn and Pom Klementieff released a joint statement in full support of Gunn.
They made it clear that they were not going to defend his jokes, but did point to the lack of due process in the "court of public opinion."
"James is likely not the last good person to be put on trial. Given the growing political divide in this country, it's safe to say instances like this will continue, although we hope American from across the political spectrum can ease up on the character assassinations and stop weaponizing mob mentality," it read.
"It is our hope that what has transpired can serve as an example for all of us to realize the enormous responsibility we have to ourselves and to each other regarding the use of our written words when we etch them in digital stone; that we as a society may learn from this experience and in the future will think twice before we decide what we want to express; and in so learning perhaps can harness this capability to help and heal instead of hurting each other."
The letter in full is posted above to Pratt's Instagram.