WHO GUARDS THE GUARDIANS? Look to the Excellent Example of Dave Bautista. But perhaps look away from much of the ‘reporting’ online and fan community..
James Gunn is, at time of writing, still un-hired as Director of Guardians of the Galaxy 3. By extension, that means the script cannot be his, either? Whic, logically, would mean his signature notes of character and wit and warmth would be missing, thereby robbing a trilogy of its heart and soul. Dave Bautista (Drax in the Guardians series) took a measured, legal, pastoral tone in his objections to this.
But IS there a third way here that the fans and blogging community are missing? Is all necessarily lost? Are we, as a film loving community, in danger of myopia and thereby losing a chance for the KIND of learning we SAY the Guardians series personifies?..
Ok so. NEVER before have I seen a fan community and blog-o-sphere swept away in such moral outrage. I get it. The firing of James Gunn, with minimal to no notice? Is unjust, prima facie, given that he was allowed to work on not just one but TWO films in a series, AFTER being allowed to acknowledge and apologise for ‘those’ tweets. Doubly so, when one considers that the catalyst for this seems to have been one over-eager right wing blogger that took a dislike to Gunn and therefore made it a mission to open old wounds.
Dave Bautista is a model of how to respond to this sort of thing. He has avoided hysteria or prima donna self importance. A sequence of tweets made it clear that he wished to show his loyalty to Gunn as friend / creative mentor and that making a third film without Gunn struck at the very heart of what defined the series’ appeal in the first place (redemption). That shows Dave as both model citizen and artist and a shrewd business-person with first rate commercial and legal awareness.
Many actors can learn from that. The carefully crafted and drafted letter from the cast, with Dave, presumably at its lead (?) is textbook stuff and students in law school should be shown it in legal method classes. It states a concern, an objection, a valid expression of creative and professional community. But it avoids premature value judgement and does NOT taint the issues at hand. I love it. Also very brave to cite ‘prayer’ without making that the premise or conclusion (Chris Pratt is active in Church communities and engendering political awareness: his input is clear, too).
Less promising, by contrast? The blogging / journalism / youtube/social media community. The relentless crusade for Gunn like he is a political prisoner in need of rescue with Amnesty International. Equally the extreme right making it about politics. No. No. NO! Gunn sent a series of tweets, which he composed, presumably? Which he did, soberly (as in NOT under influence of drugs /alcohol?). They treated paedophilia as a matter to be joked about. Not the perception of paedophilia (cf: Channel 4 in the UK and the tasteless, controversial yet strangely pertinent media satire BRASSEYE). Childrens’ innocence is NOT a joke. EVER!
Did Gunn intend any distress? No. Is he malicious: no, just WATCH his Guardians films and their core message of hope and family. He has not hurt anyone. But the tweets were awful, no question. And their resurfacing happened mid way through the Disney /Fox merger at a HIGHLY sensitive time: politically /economically. It is not a McCarthyite witch-hunt so much as a studio, panicking, and covering its ass/arse.
They cannot backtrack now or risk looking even weaker. Disney is by its nature a ‘family’ brand and if seen, when challenged, as they have been, to ignore duties of care to the family brand? They’d be compromising their security at a commercial level and arguably, morally, too. Contrary to popular perception: commerce and pastoral care are not mutually exclusive, though the balance /intersection sometimes creates casualties, as in this unfortunate situation.
So, whilst I have tried hinting at this before: I will re-state. It IS possible to KEEP Gunn out of GUARDIANS 3. WITHOUT ruining him or the series. He should NOT be unjustly punished for things on which he has already apologised. And neither should a franchise and its personnel be jeopardised.
1: Disney within rights to stand by their (possibly precipitous but not necessarily ‘wrong’) decision.
2: Make it clear, as a studio, that they VALUE Gunn and his contribution and WANT him back in but equally that they HAD to take SOME action, given the circumstances. In any event, Guardians will give way soon to X-Men /Fantastic 4 et al as the Fox merger progresses and the next cinematic phases are activated?
3: With that in mind: offer Gunn a societal project WITH Disney, HELPING that happen? In a spirit of reconciliation / pastoral care. Have Gunn and Disney collaborate on a safe Internet use policy..something? It’s about consolidation, rather than back-tracking or over-qualification. Show some mutual, constructive CARE for each other in moving forwards. The man suffers mental health problems by his own admission (remember his heartfelt letter to fans last year after Guardians 2 was a hit?). Take that into account and USE it. This need NOT be about hurting each other..
4: Yes. have Gunn sit out Guardians 3, with option on a return for part 4 or another project. Remember that a franchise can benefit from occasional change in personnel and lick of paint, as indeed, can the writers/ directors. And there ARE other people with things to bring to this series. Gunn invented this iteration but the comic book lore predates his input and will outlive it, too?
5: PUBLIC show of solidarity needed with cast /crew. ESPECIALLY Bautista. His Drax is NOT replaceable! Indeed I’d go so far as saying that Dave is MORE valuable than Gunn, even and his measured example to fans NEEDS some award / recognition.
In short: a third way. Disney is a business and must function as such. Gunn is a creative human being and his cast /crew cannot be ignored. It IS possible to accommodate BOTH sides, here?
Meantime? The blog-sphere and film journalism /social media should learn more from Bautista and co and their measured language. I was particularly enraged by certain articles, in reputable names, that tried to drag Robert Downey Junior in to this. There is NO comparison. None. Downey had a disease of addiction; he paid, dearly: career, actual liberty, almost with his life. Thank God: his talent and resolve won out and we got a decade of Iron Man and other great work. He is one of the greatest actors since Laurence Olivier. He has atoned for whatever he did and avoided nauseating ‘mea culpa’ tours of duty on talk-show circuits (in fact he laughs it off or shuts it down). His talent and charitable / pastoral work speak for themselves. And at a more pragmatic, even cynical /commercial level? It’s simply a case of Downey = BILLION DOLLAR ASSET. Without him? No Tony Stark, no Iron Man and NO Marvel Cinematic Universe and yes, by extension, no Guardians of the Galaxy. Irreplaceable. Incomparable. And a GENUINE life example from which we CAN learn, in a manner that we simply cannot from Gunn’s setback.
The saga continues, anyway. We will report on any developments..Hoping for a just and moral/legal/commercially viable resolution, for ALL concerned. Because that IS possible. Just watch GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY if you lack belief in that KIND of accommodation and hope..(or just watch it anyway, coz it’s FUN?!)