Hey, Internet? Can We Maybe Not Be In Such a Rush to Crucify James Gunn? (UPDATED!)

UPDATED: Gunn has responded, clarified and effectively apologized on his Facebook page.

ORIGINAL POST: I’m the first one to say/admit that “it was just a joke!” is more often than not a cheap dodge to get out of being called on saying something racist/sexist/etc; but the thing is… yes, there are times when I think that people go a little overboard being offended by dark/sleazy/sophmoric humor, often involving things being taken out of context – particularly in cases where the joke is at least in-part supposed to be on the teller (re: “look at what a pathetic sleaze I am for thinking these things.”)

For my money, that seems to be what’s happening to writer/director James Gunn right now. (NSFW)


The situation is that a blog post relating to a “50 superheroes you’d like to have sex with” poll he did a year ago has gone viral now (presumably because he’s a known quantity now as writer of “Lollipop Chainsaw” and prospective director of “Guardians of The Galaxy”) and is currently getting him flamed from all corners of the Internet. Of particular issue, highlighted by The Mary Sue (who are good people, for the record) is an entry about Batwoman, which reads as follows:

“This lesbian character was voted for almost exclusively by men. I don’t know exactly what that means.  But I’m hoping for a Marvel-DC crossover so that Tony Stark can “turn” her.  She could also have sex with Nightwing and probably still be technically considered a lesbian.”

Okay. Dark, yes. And the “turn” thing is no laughing matter. But when you read the whole thing (google archive link, original has been taken down, probably to try and firewall this blowup before it loses him the “Guardians” gig – which would really suck) IMO it’s pretty clear that this is meant, at least partially, as Gunn taking the piss out of the sexualization of comics in general and out of himself as well – the “homophobic” Nightwing reference, for example, is a callback to his earlier entry on a fangirl-servicey buttshot of the character: “Okay, uh, yeah, I can see where you would want some of that shit.”

The commentary (particularly on the entries for male heroes) is pretty-much a note-for-note transcription of the kind of skeexy “what would it be like…?” fanboy conversations happening behind the counter of thousands of comic shops every day. I mean, here’s the Kitty Pryde:

“@KittyPryde actually wrote me on Twitter after posting the nominees for heroes you most want to have sex with. I wrote her back, but neglected to mention that I wanted to anally do her.  I won’t even mind if Lockheed is in the room, staring at me with a creepy look the whole time. Well, okay, I’ll mind a little. But it will be worth it.”

See, to me, the combination of sophmoric fratboy fantasizing with minute fanboy details (is Lockheed even still around?) reads like pretty clear “ha ha but whoa do I have problems…” humor. This sort of thing isn’t generally conveyed well in text (the whole thing is only really “passably” funny to me, honestly) but I can’t look at the whole thing in the context of entries like X-23:

“Another debut, and a pretty good choice. Except, uh, isn’t she supposed to be fifteen years old? And after you fictionally fuck her fictional police are going to arrest you and put you in fictional jail for being a very real pedophile.”

Or Elektra:

Another new debut. If you’re turned on by characters whose costume always seems to be blowing in extremely harsh winds when everyone around her seems perfectly still, then Elektra is your woman.  Maybe she’s like carrying one of those little mini-fans, only a mini-fan who will give you a really terrific, Ninja-trained blow job.”

…and not conclude that the “point” here is less being “actually” creepy/sexist toward women/gays in general and more have an exaggerated larf at the expense of heavily-sexualized comic imagery.

The thing is, I very much support the cause of rooting of genuinely hateful people hiding behind “comedy”… in this case, I simply think they’ve got the wrong guy. Or maybe I’m totally off base, which is always possible. Maybe Gunn is a bad guy, a bigot, etc and it just somehow managed to never manifest in his numerous screenplays, films etc. up to this point. I honestly don’t think that’s the case, given the tonal context of the actual piece and the much larger context of the rest of his career… but I’ve been wrong before. The truth will out.

  P.S. re: the “fans I do not want” thing – anyone who wants to jump into the comments and try and claim this topic for the “evil PC feminazis wanna silence every1!!!!!” bullshit be forewarned: I can ban people from this blog for abusive behavior and I won’t hesitate to do so. My issue here is not that people don’t have the right to be offended by the blog in question, they do. I simply think it’s jumping the gun to tear down a filmmaker who has shown zero concrete evidence of deserving such otherwise – it’s possible to have a grownup discussion about that, or at least it ought to be.

Please Don’t Let This Happen

Short version: HitFix’s Drew McWeeny says that Warner Bros. is inching towards making a move that could kneecap their still-shaky “Justice League” project before it even gets off the ground. Long version? Read on…

I find myself the odd man out when it comes to the production of “The Man of Steel.” The general thread that runs through a lot of the film-geek press regarding the production is that it’s in constant peril of being “ruined” by the presence of Zack Snyder as director, and that we are to take comfort in the presence of producer/story-approver Christopher Nolan. But me? I’m in the opposite boat. Thus far, the sole reason my expectations are positive for the film (given the many continued demonstrations that Warner Bros. simply does not have a single fucking clue what to do with their own DC Universe properties) is Zack Snyder. I’m counting on him – not just to deliver an action movie that reminds the world that Superman is awesome, but to protect the film (and the Justice League/DCU films that are supposed to spin out of it) from Nolan’s influence.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Nolan. He’s a good filmmaker, in full view a better and more interesting one overall than Snyder is. But everyone has their limits and place, and Nolan’s governing aesthetic – businesslike, asexual, ultraliteralist – may have been good for two out of three Batman movies, but it’d be toxic for Superman and really just about any similar character other than Batman. For me, “Nolanesque” realism is the cinematic extension of the “grim n’ gritty” motif that drove the genre (indeed, the entire comic-book industry) off a cliff in the 90s; and part of the reason I so celebrate the success of “The Avengers” is that it’s undeniable success (the same year as the third Nolan Batman film failed to fully stick the landing, even!) might hopefully go a long way into purging the superhero-movie “scene” of the Nolan/Dark-Knight “vibe.”

Again, there’s at least 2 (2 1/2 if you want to be charitable) films worth of great art in question here, I don’t deny that – I simply hope we do with “The Nolanverse” what we do with other great art: put it behind glass, stick it in a museum and admire it on the weekends while meanwhile, on the outside, things continue to evolve. Which is why I’m now struck with nothing short of dread to read this rumor from the typically very reliable McWeeny; which suggests that Warners is not only not mothballing the Nolanverse (which, by the way, is exactly what Nolan himself wanted them to do)… they might be gearing up to let it kill the “Justice League” movie in the crib…

According to McWeeny’s sources, Warners wants Joseph Gordon Levitt to be Batman in “Justice League” and maybe turn up for a walk-on in “Man of Steel.” – that is to say, they want “Justice League” to be tied-in to Nolan’s Batman films, which concluded this summer with the heavy implication that Levitt’s Officer Mary Sue John Blake would become the new Batman.

I… I just can’t fathom the level of sheer wrongheadedness that would inform a decision like this. It’s been long expected that WB would be borrowing the Marvel model of using “MOS” to plant the seeds of a larger DC Universe, but it seemed like a safe bet that they everyone involved understood that the Nolan Batman characters had no place in a larger, more comic-like world and that nobody wanted to see a “Justice League” movie whose Batman wasn’t the “real” Batman.

That last part is especially key. Warner Bros? You have to know this: The pre-“Avengers” ‘fanservice’ stuff worked because each successive tease gave ‘fanboys’ further indication that things were not only lining up but lining up properly. The people you’re thinking of playing these kind of continuity games (which, again, the Nolan Batman movies you’d be doing this with were designed to avoid) to try and excite are also people who are likely to write “Justice League” off before they see one scrap of film because of something like this.

Fans aren’t just fans of the costumes and the names, they’re fans of the characters – the “big idea” behind team-ups like this isn’t just to see two guys wearing a Superman costume and a Batman costume hanging out, it’s to see what happens when Bruce Wayne meets Clark Kent, costumed or otherwise. I mean, not to nerd-out about it or anything… but part of the reason that the Superman/Batman thing is seen as such a big deal is that they represent opposing ideals of the same goal; the vigilante vs the do-gooder, aid vs control, protect-the-innocent vs punish-the-guilty, etc. Kal-El and Bruce Wayne have stuff to talk/argue about. Blake, on the other hand, as-presented in “Dark Knight Rises” has the same basic attitude and outlook Superman does – that’s boring.

Now, it’s entirely plausible that this is all being misunderstood. Maybe they want Levitt to play an entirely new Bruce Wayne Batman and this is just a jokey reference (“Heh! That guy was in a movie where they said he might be Batman!”) and not a continuity nod. That’d be… dopey, but lightyear better than the alternative.

Warner Bros? Don’t do this. Don’t be stupid. You’ve got a bunch of good stuff to work with and a pretty solid template to steal from. You’re working with characters and properties that have endured for decades for a reason – if you’re going to show fealty, show fealty to them… not just to one adaptation that’ll be well into the “oh yeah, that was pretty cool” memory-bin by the time you get this stuff together.

Spoke Too Soon…

Well, that’s that, then.

Just over a week since the first man who accused Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash of engaging him in an “innapropriate relationship” as a teenager recanted, a second accusation has arisen with implications that more are on the way. Citing that his personal life has become a “distraction,” Clash has resigned from Sesame Workshop as of today.

Sad day for kids everywhere. Ironically, until the documentary “Being Elmo” last year, Clash was as anonymous as most other muppet performers, meaning that – since Sesame Workshop has confirmed that Elmo will continue to be part of the series under new performers – had this all happened a year or two ago it would’ve been able to do so without younger fans having to be aware of it.

These Guys Again

What if “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” made a baby? Well, previously I’d have had to say that Harry Potter would play more like early-period Chris Claremont “X-Men” than it already does… but now I guess the more apt answer would simply be “The Mortal Instruments.”

I’d managed to be largely unaware of this most-recent YA Fiction phenomenon until just now, outside of the fact that it existed and that it was considered vaugely controversial for reasons I never bothered to look up, but it’s yet another success story for a onetime fan-fiction author making the jump from re-writing existing material to writing something really, really similar to existing material. In this case, the pitch seems to have been “American teenage female Harry Potter,” which isn’t all that bad a place to start really…

Our seemignly-normal-hero-secretly-hidden-from-heroic-destiny-for-their-own-protection for this go-around is a Brooklyn high-schooler, the Secret World Just Under Our Noses is a shadow-war involving tattoo-powered magic users battling the usual urban-fantasy monsters plus The Nephilim, who somehow went from being a Biblical obscurity only theology geeks cared about to the most overused cliche in genre-fiction within the last decade. and

I’m informed that part of the “hook” is that the main characters jump on the “lets imperil our Save The World Mission by letting our hormones override every other instinct” romance-go-round pretty much right off the bat and with less… “binary” approach to who’s-pining-for-who re: sexuality, so there’s that. In particular, the first one is supposed to end with a “twist” (which apparently becomes THE central character-conflict of the series) that I frankly have no idea how they plan to translate to the screen without creating a minor freak-out among mainstream audiences; though maybe that’s what they’re counting on?