Disney has severed ties with Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn following a clash with far-right Twitter supporters who resurfaced a series of older controversial tweets from the filmmaker. Gunn’s Twitter account was also deleted, but later restored.
“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 in a statement.
Gunn will no longer direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 for Marvel.
The Guardians of the Galaxy director defended himself on Twitter this week after a far-right personality dredged up a series of Gunn’s old tweets that included provocative and offensive jokes.
Gunn was the target of internet personality and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich who exhumed tweets going back 10 years that showed the filmmaker making jokes about controversial and sensitive subject matter, including pedophilia and rape. Cernovich, best known as being a key figure behind promoting Pizzagate, a false conspiracy theory that alleged Hillary Clinton and her former campaign chair ran a child sex ring at the basement of a pizzeria, took screenshots of Gunn’s old tweets and blog posts, and circulated them to his more than 430,000 followers.
Cernovich accused Gunn of being a pedophile, based on his writing. Cernovich and his followers attempted to raise the accusations up to Disney, owner of Marvel Studios, which works with Gunn.
Gunn responded shortly after, acknowledging the tweets were “outrageous and taboo,” and noted that he’d long ago apologized for the content of his jokes. Gunn also responded to allegations that he supported or even participated in any of the acts he joked about. Gunn’s full statement can be read below:
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.
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.
In the past, I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies.
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.
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.
This wasn’t the first time that Gunn was called out for his offensive tweets and blog posts. His earlier writing received attention in 2012. Gunn issued a statement after the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation reached out that year, and offered a similar sentiment to the one he issued last night. His statement, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter, read:
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog that was meant to be satirical and funny. In rereading it over the past day I don’t think it’s funny. The attempted humor in the blog does not represent my actual feelings. However, I can see where statements were poorly worded and offensive to many. I’m sorry and regret making them at all
People who are familiar with me as evidenced by my Facebook page and other mediums know that I’m an outspoken proponent for the rights of the gay and lesbian community, women and anyone who feels disenfranchised, and it kills me that some other outsider like myself, despite his or her gender or sexuality, might feel hurt or attacked by something I said. We’re all in the same camp, and I want to do my best to make this world a better place for all of us. I’m learning all the time. I promise to be more careful with my words in the future. And I will do my best to be funnier as well.
Gunn received more scrutiny after his involvement with Guardians of the Galaxy. A Mary Sue article from 2015 resurfaced an article that Gunn wrote in 2011 called “The 50 Superheroes You Most Want To Have Sex With,” which crowdsourced suggestions on Twitter and Facebook for the hottest superheroes.
Gunn then took that list, and wrote a series of bizarre descriptions that are both offensive and insulting. Here are a couple:
Rising a full 24 places, Storm is once again our highest ranking woman-of-color and considering most of our other women-of-color on this list are green or blue or pink, that’s quite a feat.
This lesbian character was voted for almost exclusively by men. I don’t know exactly what that means. But I’m hoping for a Marvel-DC crossover so that Tony Stark can “turn” her. She could also have sex with Nightwing and probably still be technically considered a lesbian.
Gunn pointed to earlier apologies and statements at the time. Gunn’s previous tweets and blog posts seem to come up again from time-to-time, but the conversation on Twitter today has developed further.
Prior to working on Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel, Gunn’s work was much more provocative and raunchy. He wrote the Troma Entertainment comedy Tromeo and Juliet and schlock horror-comedy video game Lollipop Chainsaw, and directed horror movie Slither and superhero black comedy Super.
Cernovich is using Gunn’s tweets, which Gunn said were jokes made in poor taste at a time when few people understood Twitter’s impact, as a way to try and sell a new conspiracy theory about an underground pedophile network operating in Hollywood.
“Friends, What we unearthed tonight was a proven pedo network operating in Hollywood,” Cernovich tweeted on Thursday. “We have archived Tweets, we saw them get deleted in real time. We saw the clear connections and comments. Expect the media to attack me to tomorrow in a way you have never seen. Godspeed.”
Cernovich added that, “James Gunn didn’t make a few jokes. He openly discussed pedophilia. He is everything wrong with Hollywood.”
“I love tasteless jokes and gallows humor,” Cernovich said. “That’s not what he did. No pedophiles allowed!”
Cernovich’s proclamations over an underground pedophile ring in Hollywood won’t surprise his biggest critics; it’s the same tactics he used to spread Pizzagate conspiracies. Far-right website Breitbart is already referring to the tweetstorm as Gunn being exposed, while other publications include paragraphs asking whether or not the tweets are “just jokes.”
This is what Cernovich is known for; it’s why he’s been labeled as one of the most dangerous proponents of fake news by publications like The Washington Post. Cernovich uses his audience on Twitter to spread a conspiracy theory, aggressively tweeting and retweeting his opinion and facts, along with other people who add to the narrative he’s trying to spin. As The Washington Post reported in 2017, his “Twitter feed and website are a relentless stream of unproven accusations and theories about the left, the establishment or others whom Cernovich sees as an enemy.”
Most importantly, The Washington Post notes, here’s how Cernovich responded to an interview with CBS Evening News anchor, Scott Pelley:
Pelley showed up prepared to fact check Cernovich’s many unsubstantiated claims. Cernovich, meanwhile, arrived prepared to do what he does best: reject Pelley’s facts and their sources, and simply substitute his own, adding his characteristic mixture of contempt and performed apathy for everything that he believes Pelley represents.
Both Cernovich and Gunn have existed on the internet for so long that their ideological growth and past mistakes are there for everyone to see. Gunn, who is staunchly anti-Trump and frequently tweeted against the President and conservative politicians, has apologized for his tweets numerous times in the past, and continues to work for major studios like Disney. But Cernovich is using old tweets to try and spin a new conspiracy about Hollywood — an industry he’s admitted to detesting numerous times in the past.
Update: James Gunn has issued a statement about the situation, as reported by ABC News, stating, “Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself.”
NEW: James Gunn apologizes for past tweets: "I understand and accept the business decisions taken today...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." pic.twitter.com/YUMfHYGv85— ABC News (@ABC) July 20, 2018