Disney has fired Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 writer-director James Gunn after a series of offensive tweets posted a decade ago resurfaced in the past few days, thanks to an American right-wing media personality who was earlier involved in peddling the false "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory.
“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 written statement.
Earlier this week, media personality and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich began dredging up several tweets made by Gunn in 2008 and 2009, which included jokes about paedophilia, rape, and molestation. Cernovich accused Gunn of being a paedophile, using it to drive a new conspiracy theory about an underground paedophile network in Hollywood.
Cernovich and fellow right-wing media personalities used similar tactics to fan the flames of "Pizzagate" during the 2016 US election, claiming high-ranking Democratic Party officials including Hilary Clinton were involved in a child-molestation ring that operated out of a Washington, DC pizzeria. They were so successful in popularising the fake theory that it convinced a man to carry an assault rifle into the restaurant and open fire.
Though Cernovich has a bigger agenda, that doesn't excuse the fact that Gunn's jokes are clearly offensive and inappropriate. In fact, this isn't the first time he's had to apologise for them, which he noted in his response to the new allegations in a series of tweets on Thursday. Gunn then issued a statement:
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.
Though Gunn is best known as the writer-director of Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel, he got his start by writing provocative and shocking humour, as he acknowledges in his statement. Marvel must have known about that when they hired him, but it makes sense that the family-friendly Disney – or rather, any big corporation – would be quick to distance itself given the nature of the jokes.
Updated 5am IST: Replaced Gunn's series of tweets with new statement.