Before we begin, let’s talk a little bit about Jack Black. Jack Black is one half of the greatest band in the world, Tenacious D. Their debut album featured a song titled “Fuck Her Gently.” The NSFW video is here for you viewing.
Quite some time later, Jack Black would have a guest spot on the Nick Jr. program Yo Gabba Gabba.
There was no controversy. No one raised a stink about the same man who co-wrote such a vulgar song appearing on a kids’ show. He also starred in Tropic Thunder as a drug-addicted actor and provided the voice for the title character in two Kung Fu Panda movies. No one seems to care about the wildly different aspects to Jack Black’s art.
In 1996, James Gunn co-wrote and directed Tromeo & Juliet. It looks a little something like this.
He later went on to write two Scooby-Doo movies. Those are movies for kids. No one cared. He later made Super, a dark and violent movie about a “real-life superhero.” Even after such a violent movie, Disney and Marvel tapped him to write and direct their Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Yesterday, James Gunn found himself mired in controversy. Thanks to the blood-in-the-water nature of tumblr, the comics blogging community got wind of an old blog post he made on his site in February of last year. James Gunn had done the unthinkable. Even worse, he almost got away with it.
James Gunn said some really dirty things about fictional characters.
In a blog post about a poll he conducted on what superheroes his readers would most like to have sex with, Gunn provided commentary that nearly two years later has been dubbed misogynistic, sexist and homophobic. The story was picked up by The Hollywood Reporter and there’s a petition on Change.org calling for Marvel Studios to remove him from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie with over 4,000 names on it. The man made jokes about people that aren’t real. The whistle blowers just now found out and they want his head on a spike.
What is it about this community that breeds this kind of controversy? Why is there a segment of this community more than I’ve noticed in any other that lives and dies based on some sort of conflict, so much that it’s okay to publicly call a man a misogynist and a homophobe because you don’t like his jokes? How is that responsible reporting on any conceivable level? That kind of thing can (not always) have some serious consequences. Why do we time and time again see the call to arms against someone who had the balls to make a joke or express an opinion? Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s for you. We are not the target audience for everything.
If soccer moms are okay with Jack Black on Yo Gabba Gabba, leave James Gunn alone. You don’t have to like the joke. You can even be offended. That’s totally your right. But just maybe that wasn’t a joke for you. People tend to change their language based upon their audience. Not everyone talks the same way in front of their grandmother as they would in a bar. I don’t talk about how ridiculous I think creationism is around my religious in-laws. Maybe James Gunn thought that that sort of commentary would be good content for the regular readers on his site. It’s not the kind of thing he’d write for a Smurfs movie if he was hired to write a script. Why isn’t it okay for him to make those jokes for an audience that isn’t you, comics bloggers, so much that he should lose his job?
Is it because now we are his audience? He’s been given the precious keys to geekdom and now we’re entitled to in some way approve everything he does because we’re geeks? He’s making stuff for us now, so all of his stuff must be for us, especially if he’s written about Nightwing and Batwoman before. Is that it? It must be, right? Because I have a pretty good feeling that if he were getting ready to direct Slither 2, this never would have come up. You did this, comics bloggers and commenters. Really, some of the stuff you’ve been saying makes it look like you’re just as mad that it took you this long to notice as you are that he said it at all.
Granted, there’s some really raw stuff in his post. I’m not even saying that I thought it was all that funny, but I chuckled a couple of times. I don’t think that makes me a bad person. Here’s an excerpt from a tumblr post that posits that satire (and I don’t even know that I’d call it “satire,” exactly) can only work if it’s acceptable talk in front of random strangers in a subway car.
I have a friend, and she’s got a little sister. I love this girl, very much, and she’s smart, and she’s tough, and she can handle herself. But the thought of her alone on that subway car, as someone reads James Gunn’s words to her, makes me physically sick. The thought of her having to listen as someone says what he said about Spider-Woman, to her face, that makes me so angry I can’t even handle it.
Because I don’t want her to live in a world where it’s acceptable to say that about any woman.
The better analogy would be if he was hosting a kid’s birthday party at his house and went into these bits in front of all the little guests. That’s inappropriate content for that audience. The other critical flaw with this scenario is that just like that offensive teddy bear in that meme from a couple weeks ago, Spider-Woman isn’t real. It’s okay to make jokes about Snow White banging all seven of the dwarves. She won’t mind because she’s not a real person. No one gets hurt until someone on the internet doesn’t get the joke and decides that guy needs to be fired because he’s a sexist lowlife slut shamer (whatever the hell that is).
You make me sad sometimes, comics community. This retroactive outrage is the latest in a long line of flash in the pan controversies. Why can’t you just relax? Yes, it was on the internet, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it. And really (and I can’t stress this enough), it’s okay that you didn’t like it. No one is saying that you have to or that you don’t have the right to be offended. Just try to put things in context and take them in the spirit they were intended. For example, I don’t watch most of the included channels in my DirecTV package. If I were to somehow find the receiver stuck on the Outdoor Network watching a show about bow hunting, I would not enjoy that experience. That is clearly not a show for me. Even so, I don’t think my course of action would be to try to have the host fired and the channel pulled from the satellite. Just to be safe, I’m changing the batteries on the remotes this weekend.
This guy made a joke. He didn’t assault a transgender middle schooler while yelling out slurs. That would be terrible. In fact, that would be a hate crime. Telling a joke isn’t a crime, so stop acting like it is, comic people. You’re bumming me and a lot of other people out. There are some genuinely awful things happening in the world that would make for a much better use of this kind of energy. Women and LGBT people are facing some very real challenges. I just found out this morning that gay men can’t donate blood. That’s way more messed-up than cracking wise about Gambit and Wonder Woman.