Tuesday, July 24, 2018

the reaming of James Gunn

We live in an era in which jokes from your long-gone former self will come back to haunt you, paraded around by a moral-panic PC lynch mob intent on sacrificing you on the altar of social justice. Director James Gunn, the talented guy behind two "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies, and no one's idea of a conservative, is the latest victim of the mob. Gunn apparently went through a phase, roughly a decade ago, during which he tweeted a barrage of off-color jokes, many having to do with pedophilia. Recently, Mike Cernovich, an alt-right personality and apparent tattle-tale, unearthed Gunn's old tweets, leading to a predictable wave of mob outrage, which in turn led to Disney's decision to fire Gunn, who has been working on "Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3." There's a campaign going on right now to have Gunn rehired; in brief, I'm very much for rehiring the man.

In a recent video, Styx took the bizarre position of affirming Gunn's freedom of speech while condemning Gunn for tweeting non-family-friendly material while working for Disney, a family-friendly company. Was Gunn, in fact, working for Disney at the time? Disney purchased Marvel in 2009, so it's arguable that Gunn's tweets from that era could have been made while he was not under the mouse's umbrella. The rest of the commentariat is assuming Gunn was a Disney prole by that point, so maybe Styx is right. That being said, I think it's rich for anyone on the right to revert to a schoolmarm's huffiness after years of preaching the doctrine of free speech in opposition to leftist prudishness (by which I mean: the PC tendency to stifle humor that might be even vaguely offensive to certain people and groups). Whatever the specifics of Gunn's case may be, he's being dumped on by both the right and the left, even as certain Marvel loyalists are lobbying to get him back in the director's chair.

Let's make this personal. I have long been a fan of off-color humor. The dirtiest and funniest joke I've ever heard has pedophilia as a sick punchline. I don't care; I laugh all the same, and I laughed at James Gunn's tweets when I read them. Now, your reaction to what I just wrote will probably fall along one of two major lines:

1. You can't separate reality from unreality, so you think that my laughter at a pedo joke makes me some sort of crypto-pedo myself, a notion that is offensive and repellent to you.

2. You can separate reality from unreality, so you understand that, while I might laugh at the filthy content of a pedo joke, this has no bearing whatsoever on my own sexual proclivities or on my sense of morality.

While we're at it, here's another thing I found hilarious: a soccer-related commercial (apparently banned) for the Manchester-based sporting-goods company Umbro with the helpful French caption, "réalisé avec trucage," i.e., "made with special effects." The commercial shows a young man tempting a small dog by holding a dog treat aloft. When the dog jumps for the treat, the young man deftly scoop-kicks the dog, who flies across the street with a comical yelp, splatting against the Plexiglas backing of a bus-stop shelter in which sits a startled lady. The dog does a cartoonish slide down the glass while the lady leaps up, horrified. Smash cut back to the young man, who does a victorious fist-pump after scoring his "goal."

Again, two likely reactions that say much about you:

1. If you're an animal lover who can't separate reality from unreality (i.e., you're unable to read this as humor and can only read it as animal cruelty), you'll be offended.

2. If you're able to separate reality from unreality, you'll enjoy the commercial for what it is: a goofy way of evoking soccer that is self-aware enough to deliberately tweak delicate sensibilities. This is what humor does: it runs across the line, flicks your nose, then runs back.

A female coworker of mine, back around 2006, was mightily offended when I showed her the above-linked commercial (to be honest, I'm surprised it's still enshrined on YouTube). She was an animal lover, and unable to see the humor inherent in the commercial. I'm not questioning her right to be offended, mind you; what I question is her grasp on reality.

People largely seem to fall into these types which, by the way, shouldn't be thought of as utterly separate categories: people can, at different points in their lives, shift back and forth between them, and folks may even incarnate a mixture of attitudes, being super-sensitive about some matters but raunchily relaxed about others. (I myself found it hard to listen to any kind of cancer-related humor right after Mom died. At times, it's still difficult for me, but as a mental and moral exercise, I force myself to realize it's only humor, and people are free to say what they like.)

As you might guess, my overall feeling is that James Gunn was reamed. So what if he was virulently anti-Trump? That simply makes him yet another Hollywood stooge—no surprises there. If you're not liberal, you need to get used to the fact that most entertainment is brought to you by liberals, like it or not. I looked over a collection of Gunn's filthy tweets from the past (don't click that link if you're too delicate), and some of what I saw made me chuckle, and other things made me go, "Bleh... who cares?" Conservatives who are getting huffy about Gunn right now are doing so mainly because the man is anti-Trump, and if they're upset because of the lurid content of his tweets, well, they can join hands across the aisle with the PMRC-loving Tipper Gore crowd on the left.

Meanwhile, I think stripping Gunn of his ability to work on his labor of love is a cruel gesture, and Gunn should be reinstated pronto. And while we wait and hope for Gunn to return to the helm, people need to respect freedom of speech and prepare to be offended; that's part of what free speech is all about.


Charles said...

Hey, man, I just wanted you to know that I always found you offensive and repellent, even before I knew you were a pedo and abuser of small animals. That was just the icing on the cake.

Kevin Kim said...

Thank you.

And, yes: the icing on a sexy, sexy, little cake.

John Mac said...

What goes around comes around. Gunn was all about saying Roseanne Barr should be fired for her comments. It's the damn slippery slope thing I suppose...

John Mac said...

This is pretty much what I meant to say...


King Baeksu said...

The left were all for free speech when they were fighting "The Man," but once they became The Man themselves they quickly jettisoned any commitment to that principle. The reason is clear: Leftism is contrary to reality and human nature, and in order to maintain hegemony it cannot allow dissidents and outsiders to point out that the Emperor has no clothes.

Given this, we have to ask why the right should respect the free-speech rights of their critics when the left often fail to reciprocate?

I'm a free-speech absolutist myself, but in The Current Year, the right are fighting one-handed if they allow the left continually to deplatform them without responding in kind. "Losing beautifully" is hardly an inspiring battle cry.

The deeper problem, however, is that free speech and multiculturalism are essentially incompatible. When anyone can claim offense or to be a victim of "hate speech," open dialogue and the free flow of ideas become impossible. The left are largely to blame for the present impasse the West faces, since they have rejected many of the ideals of Western Civilization in favor of power and securing hegemony.

The solution is to revert to free-speech absolutism, and if any groups can't handle it, they can return to the lands of their ancestors and forebears. If, for example, Muslims in the West can't tolerate critiques of their religion or cultural norms, then perhaps they aren't suited to life in the West.

One doubts, however, that the left will ever be able to compromise in this way, because they are essentially anti-Western themselves and have no deeper commitment to respecting and safeguarding the principles of the West.

For this reason, I expect the cultures wars in the West to get much worse. Indeed, they could soon turn very hot. What happened to James Gunn is only the beginning. The left started this war. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Kevin Kim said...


Treacher's view seems to be a mix of yours and mine: like me, he says he wouldn't have fired Gunn. Like you, he also has no sympathy for the man.

I also got the impression, from Treacher's article, that Gunn's tweets were from before Gunn became part of Disney.


I hope you're wrong, but people on both sides are talking more and more about "civil war," so yeah, maybe it's coming. How sad.