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James Gunn, Offensive Humor, and Forgiveness

November 30, 2012

To catch you up, James Gunn, director of the upcoming Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy, said some horrendous, sexist, homophobic, and utterly offensive things on his blog two years ago. The internet found out, and many people were understandably upset, myself among them. yesterday, Gunn released an apology to GLAAD and his Facebook, and it’s one of the better apologies I’ve read from folks who screw up like this:

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog that was meant to be satirical and funny.  In rereading it over the past day I don’t think it’s funny.  The attempted humor in the blog does not represent my actual feelings.  However, I can see where statements were poorly worded and offensive to many.  I’m sorry and regret making them at all.

People who are familiar with me as evidenced by my Facebook page and other mediums know that I’m an outspoken proponent for the rights of the gay and lesbian community,  women and anyone who feels disenfranchised, and it kills me that some other outsider like myself, despite his or her gender or sexuality, might feel hurt or attacked by something I said.  We’re all in the same camp, and I want to do my best to make this world a better place for all of us.  I’m learning all the time. I promise to be more careful with my words in the future.  And I will do my best to be funnier as well. Much love to all.

So it should be over, right? He tried to be funny, realized he wasn’t and came across as an asshole instead. He apologized, learned from the experience, and we’re all ready to move forward, right?

Apparently not. There still seems to be a debate going on. While people like me are satisfied and back to thinking Gunn is a good person, other people are still pissed. Some folks are convinced that he’s a misogynist, while others are pissed that he caved, and that he did nothing wrong in the first place.

Let’s first address the idea that he did nothing wrong, and to do that we need to talk about offensive humor.My dad has a favorite joke, and it goes like this:

Q: What do you call a black guy who flies an airplane?
A: A pilot, you racist.

Like the Aristocrats, this is how offensive humor works. In the Aristocrats, the joke is that you get offended. But in order for that to BE the joke, you need the punchline. Otherwise, it’s just you being an asshole spouting off the nastiest things you can think of. With the punchline, with a wink and a nod to the audience, with the proper context, the joke is no longer “Sluts and gays, guys, amiright?” The joke becomes, “Aha, I made you reveal something about yourself.” No longer are women and gays the butt of the joke. You are.

Gunn forgot the punchline. It came across as making fun of women and gays in the most deplorable way possible, rather than make fun of the nerdy subculture that actually DOES hate women and gays.

Here’s the thing, people-who-think-feminists-are-humorless-shrews: you can make rape jokes. You can make gay jokes, you can make jokes about different ethnic groups, abortion, dead babies, and every other horrible thing you can think of. That’s cool. What’s not cool is when rape victims, gays, women, blacks, etc. become the butt of those jokes, and are made to feel like shit. The right way to approach these topics is to make fun of the absurdity of our culture and those people in it who have a problem with gays, who think rape is hilarious, who think promiscuous women are subhuman.

So yeah, James Gunn did something wrong with his offensive humor. He hurt people he cares about, he didn’t mean to and, like an adult, he apologized for it. There’s nothing wrong with apologizing, folks. He saw the viewpoint of those who were offended, realized he made a mistake in his delivery, and apologized. Just like when you accidentally run over someone’s toes with your shopping cart in the cereal aisle, you say sorry. You didn’t mean any harm, you just weren’t paying attention. You don’t put the blame on the other person for having their foot in the way of your wheel.

Now, to those who are still mad at Gunn for his comments, I’m curious to know what it will take for him to get in your good graces again.

I love the viewpoint of Ill Doctrine, and would remind everyone that there is a huge difference between what you said and who you are. I don’t know who Gunn is as a person, I’m not familiar with his work, but I also need to remind myself not to make the leap of logic from saying something misogynist to being a misogynist. I took him to task for what he said. I can’t pretend to know who he is.

It’s important to note Gunn apologized for what he said, not for causing offense. We need to forgive him and move on. If you’re that concerned he’s a genuine misogynist/homophobe, take some time to get to know him from his work, his actions, other things he’s said and not apologized for. We’ve all said crap we didn’t mean, words that have caused harm without meaning to. We define the strength of our character by our willingness to fix our mistakes and grow as a person. Give him another chance.

As for you and me, James? We’re cool. I’m eager to see what you’ve got in store for Guardians of the Galaxy. Best of luck.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael permalink
    November 30, 2012 3:17 pm

    I don’t know if feminists are being willfully ignorant about this or just going on with this “it wasn’t a joke!!” talking point in the hopes that if they keep saying it over and over and over and over and over, that it will stick. Newsflash: It isn’t sticking.

    The Cracked Magazine sight does what Gunn did on a regular basis. It’s “talking shit” about comics. Taken to an extreme in order to mock people who do talk shit like that. Mostly teenage fanboys and the MAIN FUCKING DEMOGRAPHIC OF COMICDOM. Get it now? There’s this show that also does that on a regular basis. It’s called South Park. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Just because Gunn only puts in some self depreciating counterbalance in every single comment on the 50 superheroes doesn’t make this any less true. Cracked also does this sort of thing without putting in the counterbalance where the “shit talker” becomes the target. But then he’s under no obligation to do that to begin with. Where is the ls the law that says anyone’s brand of comedy has to fall inside the boundaries of explicitly drawn lines? Oh, right. There is no such law.

    Gunn did not owe anyone or any group an apology. If anything he should have doubled down and told all the hysterical “suffragettes” who live in the echo chamber of blogger and tumblr, who preach to the choir so often that they’re actually starting to believe their own BS, to fuck off. People like you, Mary Sue and various others not only misrepresented Gunn’s post, they out and out lied about it. As they often have to do in order to make their non existent points. There was no “rape the lesbians and turns them all with Tonys magic cock!!!” anywhere to be found in his post and you and all the others fucking know it. What he ACTUALLY POSTED was “if they had sex”. If. They. Had. Sex.

    So I guess in your world, just positing the suggestion “hey, what if a lesbian and a straight guy had sex?” that means you’re promoting angry rapey rape lesbian turning rape. This reminds me of Molly McIsaacs article about harassment and cosplay when she compared having some douche take a picture of her ass without her explicit permission to being raped. I wasn’t buying her bullshit then and I’m not buying your bullshit now.

    But guess what? Neither is the rest of the comics community. Your practiced outrage and faux indignation is falling on fewer and fewer ears that are fucking tired of listening to it. Gunn’s apology is no victory for the hysterical suffragettes who live in the echo chamber of tumblr and blogger. On the contrary, if anything it just went to show how truly marginalized and alone they actually are. Creators, male and FEMALE, bloggers, male and FEMALE, all of which could be said to be very feminist sensitive, came out of the woodwork to support Gunn and barring that, marginalizing the “outrage” by saying “shhh…it’s okay, pick your battles, calm down”. Even Gail Simone implied that people were overreacting. This was no victory for the hard-line fangirlygirls. This was a devastating defeat for those, like you, who continue to misrepresent and out and out lie about shit and character assassinate in order to make your point. More and more women are turning against you. Just look at the women who rallied to Lobdell, Harris and Manning and defended them against people like you.

    I mean, haven’t you noticed that there has been more sexism and sexist comments lately in comic world rather than less? That’s because there is a growing backlash against jackasses like you who continue on with this angry shouting. You and others like you aren’t interested in having any sort of dialogue. On the contrary, you want to shut down any dialogue. Just scream and scream and scream “white privilege, misogyny” over and over and you think you’re going to change the world. Ultimately though, you only end up looking like assholes. Worse…lying assholes. Fuck your forgiveness. It’s as meaningless as Gunn’s apology.

    • November 30, 2012 3:58 pm

      Wow. Dude. I’m not sure who you’re trying to argue with, but it’s certainly not me.

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