Warning: sexual assault is mentioned throughout this article.
Director James Gunn was fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 on Friday for offensive posts on his Twitter account, mainly originating from 2008 and 2009. Gunn had directed both previous installments in the Guardians franchise for Walt Disney Studios, which both made about $40 million in their first week.
Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn announced in a statement, “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.”
Gunn’s tweets were brought to attention by conservative news site The Daily Caller, according to The Hollywood Reporter. They then picked up traction among conservative influencers, which ignited a movement to get Gunn fired. Gunn’s questionable Twitter feed contained subject matter ranging from the Holocaust, to 9/11, to a monkey masturbating onto a young boy. Tweets include “I like when little boys touch me in my silly place” and “The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’”
In response to this backlash, Gunn has been vocal about his distaste for the posts. “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,” he tweeted, going on to say that his days “saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over.” Over the course of Thursday and Friday, Gunn repeatedly stressed that his prior commentary did not reflect the person he is today.
Gunn responded to the Disney statement by saying that he has “regretted [those tweets] for many years since [posting them]—not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like [he] had hoped, but also because they don't reflect the person [he is] today or [has] been for some time." He then went on to “take full responsibility” for the comments that were being circulated. “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."
A Change.org petition to rehire Gunn has amassed over 275,000 signatures of its 300,000 goal as of Tuesday at 6:00 PM. Others are tweeting with the hashtags “#RehireJamesGunn” and “#WeAreGroot”—a reference to the popular Guardians films. The stars of Gunn’s expansive franchise have largely come out in support of him.
Gunn’s plight begs the question: When are our mistakes allowed to be forgiven? When are they too recent, too unforgivable, too publicized for us to get a second chance?
Gunn’s career with Disney and Marvel is done. The questions about that ending’s ramifications have only begun.