Hey Disney, Your Hypocrisy Is Showing | OPINION
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that James Gunn is out as the director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Disney, the parent company of Marvel Studios, let the director go after some tweets from his past came back to haunt him. The tweets had several jokes about pedophilia, and we get it, that’s pretty icky territory. But he was known as a provocateur and “shock” comedian, so they aren’t too surprising. And since the discovery of his tweets went viral and garnered quite a bit of controversy, Disney decided to axe the comedian and the rest is history. Fans have rallied against the decision, the stars of his movies have spoken out, and there’s even a write-in campaign to get him reinstated. But Disney asserts that they are not, under any circumstances, welcoming Gunn back into the fray.
There are plenty of things wrong with this stance, but the biggest is that Disney’s blatant hypocrisy is on full display. From the people they employ to the business deals they engage in, nothing about this firing shows that this decision has anything to do with the “studio’s values.” There are so many inconsistencies at play here it’s hard to keep count of them all. Disney very clearly felt the heat, and in a post-Roseanne Barr-getting-fired world (which they also had a hand in, as Disney is the parent company of ABC), they felt this was their best course of action.
Disney knew what they were getting into with Gunn
As Disney tries to paint itself as the shocked and concerned parent company forced to oust one of its own, it’s hard to believe any of it’s genuine. Because if we’re being honest, there is no way Disney didn’t previously know about Gunn’s tweet history. This is especially true considering Gunn’s past with apologizing for outlandish humor. In 2012, he had to apologize for a post on his website that had sexist and homophobic language. Mere months later, he was hired to direct the first Guardians of the Galaxy flick. There was already a precedent set that Gunn had a penchant for posting offensive things, but Disney ignored that and still hired him. What made his tweets, surfaced several years after he tweeted them, so horrible now that they had to fire him? Nothing in particular other than a desire to forgo the outrage and discourse about the issue.
This also comes back to Roseanne Barr’s firing and ABC/Disney’s inconsistencies with that particular figure. See, long before the Roseanne revival had been picked up, Barr was known for writing problematic things on social media, including a post where she was dressed as Hitler, swastika and all, and taking human-shaped cookies out of an oven. Yes, really. Yet another case where it’s the attention that instigates a ruling, not the actual actions.
How does John Lasseter still have a job if Gunn doesn’t?
There are some obvious skeletons in Disney’s closet — and movies (more on that later) — and then there are some more glaring hypocrisies. Gunn was fired for joking about pedophilia. Well, why wasn’t John Lasseter, an executive producer for Walt Disney Animation Studios, fired outright after allegations that he was sexually harassing employees came to light? He even confessed to “missteps” and took a leave of absence from the company!
But, he returned. He wasn’t not fired for behavior he even admits was inappropriate. Instead, he chose to leave the company at the end of 2018 and is staying on (*ahem* getting paid) in a consulting role until then. Disney didn’t fire the Pixar co-creator, they welcomed him back after his hiatus from the company and are keeping him comfortable and employed through the rest of the year. But they fired Gunn for tweets, and no proof or accusations that there was ever anything else to them than gross, bad humor.
The Johnny Depp Problem
After news broke that Gunn was ousted at Disney, many fans took to Twitter to wonder why the f&^% Depp was still employed by the company. After his ex-wife, Amber Heard accused him of domestic abuse, a video leaked showing him on an allegedly drunken rampage, and all of his continued strange behavior, the company has opted to stick by the actor. The CEO Bog Iger said in 2016 that he was “not worried” about the allegations. He’s even currently embroiled in a lawsuit concerning a crew member he may have punched on a movie set. So, why does Disney keep employing him, you know, if they’re so ~moral~? Why do they keep making Pirates of the Caribbean movies long, long after they should have stopped? The sixth flick is currently in development.
Disney very clearly doesn’t care what Gunn said. Nor do they care about any possible anti-woman behavior on Johnny Depp’s part. They care about outrage politics from those who can cause issues for them. And it’s clouded their vision when it comes to who they should and shouldn’t support, leading to inconsistent and hypocritical words and actions.
It’s all one giant PR move, not a genuine reflection of their morals
Gunn was targeted by a member of the “alt-right,” Mike Cernovich, who is a rape apologist and accused sexual harasser. He clearly isn’t truly outraged by Gunn’s tweets from the past. But by targeting him on the internet and gaining support, he was able to rustle up enough anger from people that Disney had to do something about it. Disney didn’t fire him because they thought it was the “moral” choice, they did it because they felt the heat and got out of the kitchen.
In their statement Disney said that Gunn’s tweets were “indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values.” But the issue remains that there are several people under their employ — from actors to execs — that not only have talked the talk but have walked the walk when it comes to behaviors inconsistent with the studio’s values.
Disney also has a controversial past
The company definitely hasn’t been on the up-and-up throughout history, and their legacy isn’t exactly one they’re upfront about. It’s basically common knowledge that Walt Disney himself was wildly racist and anti-Semitic. Plenty of the most beloved Disney classics have racist, sexist, and undertones (in some cases, overtones) that, in today’s culture, seem to be in incredibly poor taste.
The company grew and changed, pulling away from insensitive imagery and embracing more progressive values. And Gunn did the same. His co-workers, friends, and acquaintances all attest to the maturity he’s exuded since those tweets. They all back up Gunn’s claim that he said some dumb stuff to make people laugh and grew out of offensive, shocking comedy. At least Gunn is apologizing for the negativity he spewed in the past. Walt Disney Pictures doesn’t seem ready to do the same.
Disney has power and responsiblity to get this right
The Disney and 20th Century Fox merger has assured that the company has control over basically everything we watch. Which means they have the power to employ and fire the people responsible for the media we consume. They have more power, and therefore more responsibility than ever to get it right: To hire the right people, and fire them for the right reasons. They need to think things through instead of jumping the Gunn (wink, wink). In a world where James Gunn and Roseanne Barr are fired over tweets, there needs to be across-the-board accountability and Disney has the opportunity to set the bar. But they have to do it right.
What better time than now for them to look over the people they employ and the values they actually want to put forth? How they conduct business and who they do it with needs to be a focus. Their behavior towards Gunn shows an inconsistent and hypocritical view on how they handle controversy, not ethics. Let’s hope that going forward they can find out the line between spontaneous action and conscious, thoughtful decision-making in light of controversies such as these.