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Disney has removed James Gunn as the director of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy franchise after a series of problematic social media arguments touching on subjects like pedophilia and rape were unearthed, Deadline reports.
"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," said Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn in a statement, per the Hollywood Reporter.
Gunn issued an official statement after being fired by Disney, per Deadline. The response reads as follows:
My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time.”
Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.
The tweets were unearthed by Jack Posobiec, an outspoken conservative and supporter of Donald Trump. The tweets were discovered and found just two days after Gunn became involved in a Twitter argument between Mark Duplass and The Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro. According to IndieWire, Duplass tweeted on July 18 that his “fellow liberals” ought to follow Shapiro in an attempt to “cross the aisle.” He was immediately criticized for the suggestion, with many pointing to racist positions held by Shapiro, including a Tweet that blamed Trayvon Martin for getting shot, as a reason why he should not be tolerated.
Gunn, an outspoken critic of Trump, defended Duplass, saying he disagreed with his fellow director but that the outrage was being directed at the wrong side. “Maybe you disagree with Mark Duplass,” Gunn wrote. “But that doesn’t make Duplass’ point-of-view evil. There are a lot of traitors & racists in the country today. Perhaps save the outrage for them.”
“Mark Duplass tweeting how you should follow an asshole because he thinks it’s the kind thing to do simply can’t be the bar for moral outrage,” he added.
Not everyone can be right all the time about everything, and, if you think that's possible, then eventually you're going to be standing by yourself, "right," but alone. 2— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 18, 2018
Mark Duplass tweeting how you should follow an asshole because he thinks it's the kind thing to do simply can't be the bar for moral outrage.— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 18, 2018
Have a good day. 4/END
Duplass eventually issued an apology for his tweet, adding that he in “no way endorse[s] hatred, racism, homophobia, xenophobia or any such form of intolerance.”
The next day, conservative personalities and Trump supporters Jack Posobiec and Mike Cernovich published a series of screenshots of now-deleted tweets containing a slew of homophobic, transphobic, rape- and pedophilia-related jokes published on Gunn's Twitter account several years ago.
At the time, Gunn admitted he did write those tweets and he apologized. "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.” He added that he is “very, very different” than he was back then. He also canceled an appearance at San Diego Comic-Con with Yahoo Entertainment.
2. 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.— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
4. For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it.— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
5. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
Gunn has directed both previous Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and had been working on writing the script for the third movie. The first movie made $773 million worldwide while the second made $863 million, and their success has been attributed to Gunn's "off-kilter filmmaking sensibilities that owed more to indie genre movies than slicker cookie cutter studio fare,” as The Hollywood Reporter notes.