Unless you’ve been living under a rock or not paying too much attention to the internet recently (if that’s the case, I admire you), then you’re probably aware that Disney parted ways with Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn over some poor taste jokes. This all happened before Disney even hired him, and he publicly apologised for his offensive behaviour back in 2012.
But what can you do? Another week, another outrage stemming from something stupid that’s been blown out of proportion. Nowadays, jokes come with career-threatening consequences and potential jail sentences since everyone has lost their fucking minds and chooses to ignore context. This ridiculous Gunn situation is reminiscent of the recent Dankula scandal which saw a Scottish shit-poster fined £800 by a court of law all because he taught his dog how to perform a Nazi salute at the command of “Gas the Jews.” It was mostly conservatives who leapt to his defence over the joke, while liberals seemed quite content to see him go to jail. Gunn’s plight, on the other hand, was instigated by the right — the type of free speech absolutist conservatives who criticise the left for having no sense of humour whenever someone they have an issue with makes a distasteful joke or a comment they find offensive. Both sides are as hysterical as the other.
Much like the aforementioned Dankula was called a Nazi by the left because he taught his pug how to salute the Fuhrer for shits and giggles, Gunn is now considered a paedophile enabler in the minds of some right-wingers. All because he made some jokes about child abuse; like the jokes you’d find posted on Sickipedia. It’s understandable why some people find this type of humour abhorrent, of course, but nowadays we live in a world where jokes are equated to people’s real-life actions and beliefs. If that isn’t a depressing sign of our times then I don’t know what is.
The socio-political divide is so polarised at the moment that people are more than happy to make mountains out of molehills in order to create scandals that could potentially ruin people with viewpoints and opinions they disagree with. Anyone with half a brain knew that there was no racist intent behind Dankula’s video. That didn’t stop his most vehement critics from calling him a racist, though. If anyone thinks that Gunn’s jokes were declarations of an intent to sexually assault minors then Jesus fucking Christ…
Of course, like Dankulagate, this is a hit job where someone is being made an example of to show what can happen if you don’t adhere to a certain group-think. The left came for Dankula because he’s vocally outspoken against issues they care about. Now the right has come for Gunn since the director uses his online platform to criticise Donald Trump, his administration and issues they care about. One Trumpet who wasn’t pleased was Mike Cernovich, the Youtuber who took it upon himself to scour through Gunn’s Twitter feed and resurrect those old tweets that ultimately led to his firing. Cernovich’s past isn’t squeaky clean by any means, but he’s made a habit out of pushing smear campaigns that end up with people losing their jobs because their politics don’t align with his. He also wrote this article about masturbating in front of a woman to pressure her into sex.
It’s interesting that Cernovich of all people is behind this — especially now that it’s made him look like a hypocrite. In this interview with Dave Rubin (whose show is really fascinating and well-intentioned), he criticises outrage culture and the ways in which it’s led to people being fired over distasteful jokes they’ve made on social media. He even cites an example where a woman was axed from her job because she joked about AIDS in Africa. Not too dissimilar to the gutter-level humour Gunn used to be a fan of actually. Cernovich talks about this hysteria — which he’s since perpetuated — at the start of the interview if you want to hear it from his own mouth.
I have no doubt that Cernovich is sincere about his views — but when it’s liberal outrage ruining people’s careers. Then again, Cernovich supposedly believes that that Gunn’s tweets are endorsements of paedophilia. He states that jokes about this particular taboo subject matter enables the “paedophile network” and that’s where where he draws the line. At least that’s the stance he’s taking here. Or maybe this was just one big scheme to take down a popular Trump critic. And to restore some order after the Roseanne Barr scandal over her joke about African-American former presidential aide, Valerie Jarrett, which led to the cancellation of her hit sitcom.
Whether or not Gunn deserved to lose his job is another debate. You’ve probably made your mind up about it already, and if we were to highlight the company’s history of hypocrisy we’d be here all day. But Disney is entitled to fire anybody they deem unfit to work for them. The bigger issue here is the fact people would rather bury their opposition than be consistent with their own viewpoints regarding freedom of expression. This is a question we all need to ask ourselves whenever we believe our politically like-minded counterparts get a pass: what if the shoe was belonged to a foot you wouldn’t wear? The knee-jerk reaction is to find hypocrisy in the other side and rub it in their faces, as opposed to finding common ground on an issue that’s affecting everyone.
But why dismiss offensive comedy as what it is when you can weaponise it to gain a small victory in an ongoing culture war? Freedom of expression and context is only taken into account when it corresponds with those who adhere to our own worldview after all. There are certain issues that will always cause friction between those who are ideologically opposed, but if you’re going to defend one person’s right to make off-colour jokes then maybe you should leave your pitchforks at home whenever someone you disagree with does the same. Unless you want to look like a hypocrite anyway.