James Gunn, Tucker Carlson, and the Value of Contrition

Both men have said horrible things in the past, but only one of them has apologized.
James Gunn
James Gunn at 2016 San Diego Comic Con(Gage SkidmoreCC BY-SA 2.0)

I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 with my kids last night. It was their first viewing, and not surprisingly, they loved it. Which makes me very happy that James Gunn is returning for Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3 — if only because it means the possibility of more cinematic awesomeness like Volume 2’s Mary Poppins reference.

Yes, you read that right. Eight months after firing him following an alt-right hit-job that surfaced some disgusting jokes he’d made years ago, Disney has re-hired James Gunn to complete his Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy. However, Volume 3 won’t come out until after Gunn has finished the Suicide Squad sequel, which he’s writing and directing for Warner Bros.

(As others have pointed out on Twitter, I love the fact that right-wing trolls like Mike Cernovich have not only failed to ruin Gunn’s career, but they’ve effectively doubled the amount of work he’ll be doing.)

Which brings me to this internet stupidity du jour: some folks are apparently mad because those celebrating Gunn’s rehiring aren’t being similarly supportive of Tucker Carlson, who became embroiled in his own bit of controversy following the recent release of recordings of him using racist and misogynistic language and joking about child rape and underage marriage.

It’s true that both Gunn and Carlson have said terrible things, and that they’ve both been called out for unsavory behavior from years ago. But there’s one critical difference between the two. Gunn has publicly apologized for his comments and committed himself to acting in a more mature and respectful manner. Carlson, on the other hand, has doubled down and grown even more defiant after being confronted by his disgusting speech.

Carlson’s received criticism for calling Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys” and calling women “extremely primitive,” to mention just a few examples. But instead of expressing contrition for such obviously disgusting statements — as you’d expect from any half-way decent human being — Carlson instead calls himself a victim of “the great American outrage machine” and complains about being bullied.

Critics of Gunn’s rehiring seem to willingly overlook his past apologies, and instead, remain incredulous that people are willing to let their kids watch movies made by someone who cracked incredibly crass, offensive jokes years ago. However, I’m incredulous at those who think that someone who not only said ugly, hate-filled things years ago, but continues to espouse them (while stubbornly refusing to display any regret for their foolish words) should be considered a trusted and respected media figure.

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