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(Any views expressed in this article are my own.)
In the past week, the world has gone into meltdown, literally and figuratively. As temperatures soar around the globe, the internet has been aflame with a bitter battle over the firing of James Gunn from Guardians Of The Galaxy 3 by Disney, for tweets made years before he was hired by them.
For everyone who supports Disney's stance there is one who vehemently defends Gunn, there has been a strong showing of support from his stars and friends in Hollywood and fans a like. Indeed for many, it would seem the very notion of humor, the right to atone for mistakes and who has the right to judge seems to be at stake.
Through this, Disney have remained stoic, other than their initial statement, there has been no word from Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige or anyone else associated with the company itself.
This may well be with good reason, as their statement stated:
“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.”
Disney of course is entitled to sever their relationship with Gunn and it may well be the above is true...however there is a problem.
Disney has used controversial artists before.
Disney are still selling a movie they made relatively recently called Alice Through The Looking Glass, which features Sacha Baron Cohen in a lead role.
Cohen rose to fame as somewhat of a shock comedian, ambushing unsuspecting politicians and public figures in shocking fashion, as Ali G, he famously asked Sir Rhodes Boyson if Maths should be taught in measures suitable for drug deals.
In 2006, he made a movie that you may remember called Borat which featured the below scene…
Borat Tells A Story...
This is a joke…a sick, dark humor joke about a child raping his sister and the family thinking this is funny. The character also displays outward anti-semitic and racist views and attempts to kidnap a woman.
This is on screen and played for laughs as opposed to a tweet, yet Cohen was also hired by Disney in FULL knowledge of this movie and its content, just as Gunn was. To be clear, there is no question that these are Cohen’s own views… he is clearly making a joke, one he is well aware many will find in bad taste, yet he makes it without fear.
Cohen is a maverick, as Gunn considered himself to be back then, yet he is also a family man and someone who has “grown” from a shock comedian to a genuine talent, as did Gunn.
To the point he could be hired by Disney to appear in their sequel Alice Through The Looking Glass.
Cohen is currently doing a similar TV show where he, as a new character and causing ripples in the world of US politics…yet no one has gone after him in the same way that they have with Roseanne or Gunn…the only difference is they wrote tweets.
If Gunn's tweets were inconsistent with Disney values, arguably this joke was too? Yet Alice Through The Looking Glass remains on sale.
This in itself is a difficult situation for Disney to justify, yet add to this several other celebrities who have made similar “bad” taste jokes in the past who went on to have “clean” careers.
If you support Gunn’s firing, ask yourself if you would now allow your kids to watch an Eddie Murphy film after watching the below scene, which advocates taking advantage of vulnerable women, or indeed any other in this routine that includes material that would now be considered racist and homophobic.
Eddie finds a wife.
This was 30 years ago and is part of a stand up routine. Again, there was never any question of these being Murphy's real views and he has indeed married and had children and is now best known to a generation as Doctor Doolittle or as the voice Donkey in Shrek and Mushu in Disney's Mulan.
Disney still sells copies of Mulan, despite the jokes being told in both Delirious and Raw being arguably, incompatible with their views.
Indeed, for those of you supporting Disney's stance, will any of the above movies leave your home/children's viewing now?
Will they leave Disney’s sales ledger? If not, then you cannot advocate for Gunn’s firing as anything other than politically motivated.
Indeed Bobcat Goldthwait, who has voiced characters for Disney movies and attractions has flat out told them to remove his voice, as he too has done some sketchy jokes in the past, and even suggested other places, even within the same movie he was in they might wish to look.
Let's face it, if Gunn's tweets are not compatible then neither are any of these other artists whose work they are still making money from. In all the above cases the artist concerned has outgrown that oeuvre of controversial material and become rounded entertainers.
Of course, there is another aspect to this story, that Roseanne was fired from her show for a racist tweet. The difference IS clear if people choose to see it, dark, poor taste jokes are one thing, however to personally name a living, real person of color and compare them to an ape is clearly not a joke and coming from a different place.
For those of you who support Disney, more power to you...I trust none of the above movies or artists will be on your screens in future, because make no mistake...we may not see Gunn's talent on the screen again...
And that WOULD be a tragedy!