Outrage Culture and the fate of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

By Staff Writer Seth Tamarkin.

In a significant blow to outrage culture, Disney has decided to rehire director James Gunn to finish directing his Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy for Marvel Studios and their parent company Disney.

What is outrage culture you may ask? Well, buckle up for a bumpy ride through the world of social media. Outrage culture is the phenomenon where people on social media, typically liberals and activists, forcefully call out perceived bigotry and discrimination. Others, such as John Oliver in a recent segment of his show Last Week Tonight, refer to outrage culture simply as public shaming.

Often, this results in real-world consequences for the actions of the people who are being called out.

The most prevalent examples include the numerous racists that get filmed screaming the n-word at bystanders. After their outburst is exposed on twitter, outrage culture almost always leaks the person’s name, address, and occupation, hoping to get them fired or in some sort of trouble.

While that may seem noble in theory, alt-right trolls, people who-purposefully sow discord online, have noticed the eerie flaws in outrage culture and are using it to their own benefit.

One major flaw in outrage culture is activists’ willingness to immediately believe what they hear as fact without looking at context.

Another problem is that outrage culture immediately demands retribution, usually by leaking private individuals’ personal information in the hope that the perceived bigot will be fired from their job.

On social media like twitter and Facebook, everything is sped up, including due process.

So, while he isn’t a private individual, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2 director and comedian James Gunn learned firsthand what happens when the tactics of outrage culture fall into the wrong hands. Years before he was directing movies that made billions of dollars at the box office, Gunn wrote films for Troma Entertainment, famous for self-aware schlock like The Toxic Avenger.

When it came to tasteless comedy, Troma ranks up there with South Park and the Howard Stern Show, so it wasn’t surprising that many of Gunn’s early tweets featured obscenely tasteless comedy.

Tweets ranging from “Watching Trapped in the Closet, R. Kelly’s second-best video after the one where he urinates on a child” and “laughter is the best medicine, that’s why I laugh at people with AIDS” are among the many that Gunn tweeted.

Now, taking a comedian’s jokes and declaring it as their honest sentiment is never fair, no matter how unfunny they are. Alt-right rolls understood this, but they also understood that outrage culture would gladly attack first and ask questions later.

Thus, last year, a group of alt-right rolls dug up Gunn’s old tweets and demanded that he be fired from Marvel Studios for his digressions.

Whereas outrage culture is at least in good-faith, the alt-right has found a way to manufacture outrage in bad-faith as well. Soon, Disney announced they had fired James Gunn from Guardians Vol. 3 and severed ties with him.

Luckily for him, fellow comedians, Disney stars, Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman, and legions upon legions of fans fought back. Over the course of the year they have tirelessly worked to get James Gunn reinstated, including a petition that garnered over 400,000 signatures and the Guardians cast all declaring support for him.

Finally, after nearly a year, Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn announced last week that James Gunn had been rehired as the director for the film. Ultimately though, what led to his rehire was the way he conducted himself. Reportedly, Horn was impressed with Gunn taking personal responsibility.

After the controversy broke out, Gunn said, “I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo … In the past, I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies.”

In addition, Horn noticed Gunn was still getting work, including an offer to direct a movie from DC, Marvel Comics’s historic rival. Finally, numerous meetings between Horn and Gunn showcased to Horn just how sorry Gunn was.

After Gunn finishes directing duties for the DC film Suicide Squad, he’ll be returning to his mantle and finishing his Guardians of the Galaxy series.

While this story wrapped up with a happy ending, outrage culture remains just as furious as ever, so the chances of another bad-faith attack is sure to happen sooner rather than later.


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