I've blogged on this topic before, but in light of recent events, it bears repeating. It is probably a topic I will come back to often, as it is one of the most important reminders that we can give regarding how we live our lives in the modern age.
As an avid comic and pop culture fan, I've been following the news from San Diego Comic Con. In sorting through the news articles, one of them gave me pause.
James Gunn exits Guardians of the Galaxy 3 after offensive tweets resurface.
For those of you who don't know who I am talking about, James Gunn is an offbeat director that Marvel Studios had hired to helm their Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, to much surprise and success. James Gunn, at the time, was considered a surprising choice as he previously been associated with work on schlock films for Troma and offbeat cult films like Super and Slither. And given his association with those type of films, concerns about his type of humor were raised. Gunn apologized, and the issue seemed to disappear. And the movie about a little heard of group of superheroes by an offbeat director went on to be a smashing success. Its sequel did pretty well itself. Gunn was fast-tracked to helm Vol. 3, announced before the second film was even in wide release. The films were a success largely due to the uniqueness of Gunn's writing, direction, and soundtrack choices. Put simply, they were fun.
The news from Friday reveals that Gunn was let go due to offensive jokes from several years ago (at least six years plus) in Gunn's Twitter feed, which were brought to the attention of the Walt Disney Company. "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 statement.
Make no mistake, the tweets are horribly offensive. I would not search them out unless you have an appreciation for the blackest humor on pedophilia, AIDS, the Holocaust and rape. They are attempts to be provocative in the way that only an immature teenage boy would find funny.
It is also important to note that they are attempts at humor, no matter how bad the taste, they are from over six years ago, and they reflect a style of humor that Gunn no longer uses and an outlook on life that he never possessed. They are things he has already apologized for and sought to grow from.
And while we can argue as to whether these type of jokes are ever really acceptable, we must recognize that this type of humor has existed for ages. That one purpose of humor is to voice the thing that should never be said.
These tweets were sought out and targeted by alt-right conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich and his followers, a key figure in the Gamergate and Pizzagate controversies. (I also would not recommend digging too deeply into Cernovich on the web unless you want to be sufficiently nauseated). Cernovich targeted Gunn because he believed Gunn was part of a Hollywood pedophilia ring and his tweets were used as evidence of that fact. Cernovich ostensibly truly targeted Gunn because Gunn was an outspoken liberal and modern ally to the #MeToo and LGBTQ movements. This is not the first person Cernovich has gotten fired, nor is the last person Cernovich will be targeting.
I mention all of this to remind everyone. It doesn't matter if Gunn believes the statements or not, if Gunn stands by them, if they were attempts at humor, if they are raised as part of a smear campaign, or not. Gunn is being fired because they exist. And they exist in a medium where it is nearly impossible to completely erase them. Even if he had deleted them in the past, someone could have still had a screen shot, someone still could have re-tweeted and kept a screen shot of that, they could be archived on the Internet Archive, etc. There are a million ways that these tweets could keep popping up for years to come. After all, given the date range, these tweets are in the Library of Congress. Think about that for a while.
And now this current "outrage" will follow Gunn to any new project he may attempt. New companies or financial backers are going to have to deal with these tweet, their existence and the controversy created around them in determining whether it is worth hiring or supporting Gunn. Who knows how his career will fare or how long it will take before this scandal is a tempest in a teapot. Before his apology can be accepted.
This should be a stark warning to everyone. BE CAREFUL what you post on social media. BE CAREFUL what you put out there into the world. And be EXTRA careful who you give access to it.
That joke you think is funny to post now could end your career down the road. The strongly held belief you have now may be something that you cringe at in the future and could likewise mean the end of a career or relationship. That act you thought would be funny to video and share today may be something that is actionable in the future.
While these services help us keep a record of our lives, memories that popup in our feed, we forget they are also keeping an evidentiary record of our statements, actions, and beliefs. And we are seeing more and more that it can and will be used against us.
Be safe out there.