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.”
“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.