Parsing the James Gunn Mess


Earlier today, The Mary Sue posted this, and since then, the Internets have been—as they are wont to become—all abuzz.

(What the link above goes to, if you’re not the clicking sort, is a post about the results of a “Superheroes You Most Want to Have Sex With” poll, complete with some super fucked up commentary from Gunn. It’s worth noting that this is the second such poll Gunn has run. The first was posted without notes; unlike the second, which you can find only via google cache, it’s still up on Gunn’s site.)

Let’s break this down.

Gunn’s notes are fucked up and miogynist and homophobic.

They’re also over the top to an extent that can read as a parody of nonsense like this in comics media (not gonna name names, but we all know who we’re talking about here, right?). I’ve heard from a source I trust—someone who’s much more familiar with Gunn as a professional and person than I am, and who’s generally loathe to give quarter to assholes—that the post was likely meant to be satire, which I’m willing to believe.

Let’s run with that hypothetical for a minute. Let’s pretend Gunn’s intentions here were in fact to highlight and lampoon the rampant misogyny and objectification in comics media, where lists like this pop up with astonishing regularity (if usually marginally more work-safe official commentary).

If Gunn’s list is satire, it’s bad satire, because it skews incredibly close to material that’s not only already out there, but that comes from official media and in some cases industry professionals. There’s a significant slice of the comics community that is that misogynist and homophobic, and says so loudly and frequently. It’s telling, I think, that so many people took what Gunn wrote at face value: this is material we’ve seen before, again and again, presented seriously. 

An over-the-top parody of misogyny falls pretty flat when you’re doing it in a context where a lot of the people in positions of relative power and visibility, as well as significant vocal blocs, are actually that misogynist.

And when you lampoon something that prevalent and that extreme, it’s awfully easy to go in with good intentions and end up with results that actually reinforce what you were trying to subvert.

In other words: I don’t know if that post was intended seriously or not, but I’m also not sure it matters all that much. When you’re speaking from a public platform, intentions only go so far—and either way, James Gunn’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.

EDITED TO ADD: I’m not Heidi MacDonald, despite what you may have read on The Mary Sue. My name is Rachel Edidin. This is my tumblr. Hi.

AND EDITED ONCE AGAIN, SEVERAL DAYS LATER, TO ADD: Gunn posted a really solid apology: he clarified his intentions but didn’t hide behind them or dodge responsibility, owned his fuckups, and was generally a grown-up in the ways I would like public figures to be grown-ups. As far as final words on the matter go, I’ll refer you to Bobby Roberts at the Mercury, who pretty well covers the bases I would’ve.


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  4. maxsfellwalker reblogged this from postcardsfromspace and added:
    James Gunn offers an apology… and sadly, and predictably, some of his fans lash out with asshattery....
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  11. invisiblemoose reblogged this from invisiblemoose and added:
    Oh and by the way, if you don’t think the apology from James Gunn was necessary, have a look at some of the comments...
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  13. amezri reblogged this from amezri and added:
    James Gunn just posted an apology on his Facebook:...This apology is much appreciated....