By Max Godnick
Disney's decision last week to fire director James Gunn may be the latest battleground in the culture wars.
The filmmaker behind the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies was relieved from his post at the helm of the third installment in the franchise after several of his joke tweets on pedophilia and masturbation surfaced. While there's little debate about the offensive nature of the tweets, Disney's decision has sparked widespread criticism that the studio acted too quicklyーand too harshly.
"I think that this was panic," said Mark Harris, a columnist for Vulture, in an interview with Cheddar on Wednesday. "Disney basically panicked at the word pedophilia."
"Guardians of the Galaxy" stars Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista and Zoe Saldana voiced their opinions on Twitter this week, and a [petition] (https://www.change.org/p/marvel-re-hire-james-gunn) for Disney to re-hire the director has nearly 300,000 signatures. The consensus among Disney critics is that Gunn's tweets were nearly a decade old and posted years before his relationship with the company.
And, Harris added, the tweets were largely decried by right-wing groups with political motives.
"This was very clearly an attempt to sort of get back at the left for what's seen as excessive policing of offensive speech," Harris said.
Right-wing conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich was the first to re-post Gunn's old tweets and insinuated that the director's jokes about molestation may imply he is a child molester himself. Cernovich, who also uses Twitter as a political platform, claimed that "date rape does not exist" in 2012 and wrote in 2013 that images of animals mating is "basically rape and it's also the natural form of sex."
"By Cernovich's own standard, he would be absolutely unhireable by any major corporation," Harris said. "Unlike James Gunn, he wasn't kidding."
But other conservatives have also voiced complaints. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) suggested that Gunn should be prosecuted if his off-color tweets reflect his personal reality.
Gunn has incurred similar criticism in the past, though: years before his first Guardian film, he issued a public apology after fans dubbed content in his blog homophobic and sexist.
The latest incident is not a first for Disney. Earlier this year, the company cancelled the reboot of "Roseanne" after its titular star compared Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to an ape. Opponents to Disney's decision argued the company drew a false parallel by punishing Gunn and Barr in equal measure.
"You cannot do a case by case on this," Harris said. "One offensive tweet does not automatically equal another offensive tweet and the response to it can't be one size fits all."
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