Movie news for the last few weeks have pivoted from the James Gunn firing, to Venom saying “turd”, and back to James Gunn’s firing. Now that the decision seems to be cemented in Mickey’s ledgerbook, it’s time for Disney Studios and fans of the series to decide how to go forward.
Broken Fandom: From a Fan, For Fans
My love for both Guardians of the Galaxy and, in particular, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is well-documented. I cried a little bit at the sequel for admittedly personal connections that other viewers probably didn’t have, but it is still an affecting film and one of Marvel’s best. I have come to adore James Gunn’s direction of the series, and seeing him go reminds me of the last three seasons of The West Wing where Aaron Sorkin said, “too-da-loo” as the series’ writer. It hurts more than maybe it should. Now I’m left with a bit of a moral dilemma: Do I support another sequel that lacks what might be the key ingredient, or do I stand with Marvel Studios, not for their decision, but for their continued creation of something fun and otherworldly?
As a pseudo-journalist (I write stuff, does that count?), I will more than likely see Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 in theaters when it comes out. Not only will I want to write on what is turned out in reference to recent events, but I feel called to. What happened here to James Gunn is important to our perception of how the film industry operates. Many have compared and shot down comparisons to Roseanne Barr’s dismissal after a recent Twitter tirade, and the similarities AND differences in each scenario are beginning to define the lines artists shouldn’t cross. At least, in the eyes of major studios with CEOs rumored to have presidential aspirations. The third Guardians film matters, not only because of what the actual product will look like without its original director, but also for its reception from fans. If those who loved the first two films decide that enough is enough, at least in Gunn’s case, then that might ripple through Hollywood. Societal forgiveness is a weird thing to gauge, and if the same fans who have come to absolve Gunn of old tweets made in poor taste choose not to forgive Disney, there’s a chance that box office drops might change some minds from on high.
I forgive James Gunn, and I don’t think his situation is very comparable to Roseanne’s. At the same time, while I strongly disagree with Disney’s decision, they are standing by a new set of standards. Brutal as it may be, I have to try and hope that this practice will remove more toxic forces than reformed artists. I don’t like it and it’s not how I operate, but I have to hope I’m wrong.
For fans, I can only recommend looking within. It’s not an easy choice and the options aren’t black and white. This is a pretty tepid suggestion, I admit. If I wasn’t so embattled, myself, I’d hop on my Paul Revere-esque horse and shine some bright internet light, calling us all together to fight cinematic tyranny. Hey, that could even be a movie! What this kind of situation does best is remind us of all of the power we wield. We do not have to be passive and let every movie get slapped with capes and superpowers. We can choose to reject films because of their moral dilemmas behind the scenes. We can push the price of a large drink at the movie theater down to something reasonable, like 4 bucks instead of 6.* Any audience, but an audience of fans in particular, can decide to not be passive in their approval of studios and their standards. It just starts with you, your money, and that kind old lady at the ticket booth.
Continue to check back here later on for an analysis of what this means for Disney, and what choices they have going forward.
*This last one is impossible. Joe got caught up in the moment.
Joe Brueggemeyer hosts and edits The Marquee podcast with Logan, and has an unhealthy obsession with baking.