Archive | Controversy

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OSCAR CONTROVERSY: “Alone Yet Not Alone” Removed From Oscar Contention

Posted on 30 January 2014 by William Gatevackes

BrucebroughtonWhen the nominees were announced for Best Original Song for this year’s Oscars, you might have noticed a small chuckle raising from the stunned, puzzled audience when one of the nominees was announced. That nominee was for the song “Alone Yet Not Alone” from the film, Alone Yet Not Alone. People began to wonder why a song from a film they never heard of would be in contention for the same award as songs done by the like of Pharell, Idina Menzel and U2 from films such as Despicable Me 2Frozen and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

Some people did more than wonder. A public relations firm working for a snubbed rival hired a private investigator to see if the film itself was eligible to be nominated because it was not advertised in the Los Angeles area as per the Academy’s requirements.

The Academy decided the newspaper ads ran by the Encino theater that showed the film once a day for a week was sufficient advertisement. However, people who wanted to get the song removed from consideration would get their wish. It was discovered that the song’s nominated writer, Bruce Broughton, seen above, had e-mailed members of the music branch in order to make them aware of his submission. The Academy found this to be in violation from it’s standards and practices, and the song has now been disqualified from Oscar contention.

In a time where many trade journals are filled with “For Your Consideration” ads leading up to the nominations, this might seem at best a double standard. But what made Broughton’s campaigning a step over the line is that he was a former governor and current executive committee member of the music branch of the Academy. This takes his plea from a composer asking his peers for consideration to a man in a position of power asking the people who he works for for a favor. That apparently is an Oscar no-no.

“No matter how well-intentioned the communication, using one’s position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one’s own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy president.

“I’m devastated,” Broughton said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “I indulged in the simplest grassroots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention. I got taken down by competition that had months of promotion and advertising behind them. I simply asked people to find the song and consider it.”

If Broughton can take some cold comfort for this, it that none of the accused competition will be able to reap the benefits from “Alone Yet Not Alone” being removed from contention. The Academy has decided to not replace the song with any of the other 70 songs eligible for nomination, and will just go with the four remaining nominees.

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UPDATE: Stephen Amell Addresses JUSTICE LEAGUE News Stories

Posted on 23 January 2014 by William Gatevackes

stephenamell2Big day on updates to yesterday’s stories, isn’t it?

We have another update to that Justice League story we ran yesterday. Stephen Amell took to his personal Facebook page to rant about how the media twisted his words around to create a story out of nothing:

Something I need to get off of my chest.

When I do press, I try and be open, honest and thoughtful. That being said… I find it incredibly discouraging to see a headline like the ones I’ve been seeing this morning. Headlines that aren’t just a stretch, they’re totally fabricated. At no point, have I had “studio level” discussions about any feature films at Warner Bros.

In this particular instance, when I read articles that take a pretty straightforward answer and slap a title on it that has little to no correlation to what I’ve actually said, it makes it seem as though I’m disrespecting my current position. Which is bullshit. And why would I do that? I mean… I’m not the smartest dude in the world. (After all… I picked a career in acting.) But would I really just casually subvert a process cloaked in secrecy? A process – by the way – being run by the company who currently employs me. C’MON!

We’re making a kick ass show. We will continue to make a kick ass show. And I will continue to interact and provide interesting content for our fans. Because I love our fans. If every once and a while, some dickweed wants to pull a headline out of thin air to generate page views, then that’s the price we pay.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I subscribe to Amell’s Facebook page and I think for the most part, he’s a straight-shooter. I like Arrow and think he does an excellent job on the show. So I have no hidden animosity towards him. But I have to call shenanigans here.

Let me explain. I’ll start off by reprinting the pertinent quote in question, taken word for word from the Fandango site yesterday when I wrote the article:

I have had discussions, but I think the gestation process for this project is a lot slower than most people think. I mean, they haven’t even shot the next one. They haven’t even shot a frame of the movie before the movie everyone thinks is the Justice League movie!

That part of his quote is conspicuously absent from the story on the site as of right now. There is no reason given for why the text was altered or that part of the quote was removed. But the point is that that quote actually was part of that article yesterday, as reported by many, many, many other sources. Having it removed does not mean it was never there in the first place.

Furthermore, that was a direct quote attributed to Amell. It wasn’t a reworking of what he said, it was what he said. And he’s right. He didn’t specifically say that he had “studio-level” discussions. But he did say that he did have discussions. So that part, at the very least, wasn’t fabricated (unless the entire quote was). And it might be a stretch to say that he had these discussion with the studio, but not much of one. That is the context of the quote. I mean, who else WOULD he have discussions about bringing Oliver Queen to the big screen with?

And notice that Amell makes a point of attacking the “headlines,” not the original quote. Granted, the third paragraph of his diatribe seems to go with the idea that his original quote ceased to exist when Fandango removed it, but he never explicitly says that the original quote was a fabrication, just that he didn’t say he had studio level talks, which wasn’t what his original quote said anyway.

And what part of the original article was making it look like he was disrespecting his current position? The part of the quote that remains where he says that the important thing is his TV show?

In other words, I think Amell is dancing a fine line here, trying to show outrage without ever truly saying that he was misquoted. In my opinion, just judging by his overreaction  to his original quote, I think that these talks really did happen. Maybe that original quote was supposed to have been off the record and that Fandango ran with it anyway. That would be a breach of journalistic ethics, but not as big of one if the fabricated the quote out of thin air for page views. And if they did that, Fandango should have ran a retraction and an apology for it, and the writer, Scott Huver, would have been canned. As far as I can tell, that hasn’t happened. But I think, and this is purely speculation and opinion on my part, that Amell said these things, got called in the “principal’s” office (if you will), got read the riot act (up to and including having his job threatened), and is trying to do damage control.

I could be wrong. But that is what my gut is telling me.

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Scorsese’s WOLF OF WALL STREET Getting Trimmed To Avoid NC-17 Rating

Posted on 29 November 2013 by Rich Drees

WolfOfWallStreet

Rumors have been swirling for the last several months that Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film The Wolf Of Wall Street had enough material in it that it was definitely in danger of receiving an NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings board. And those rumors have been confirmed in a Hollywood Reporter piece that states that the MPAA has only awarded the darkly comic drama about hard-partying, drug-addicted stockbroker in the 1990s an R rating after the director agreed to “trim certain nudity and sex scenes.”

According to their sources, Paramount, the studio releasing the film, and the ratings board had several back and forth exchanges “in terms of what was needed to secure an R rating.”

What is troubling, is that this sounds like it directly contravenes how the ratings board claims to work. Previously, the board has always stated that it poses no actual guidelines as to what content would constitute a certain ratings, instead alleging that they decide such things on a case-by-case basis so as to not hinder filmmakers from making the film that they wish to make. And when it comes to for a director to try and recut their films for a different rating, the board is supposed to not give any advice as to what to cut.

If indeed the ratings board is giving Scorsese guidance in the form of specifics as to what to trim from his film in order to secure an R rating, then they are in violation of their own alleged procedures for ratings. This doesn’t surprise me though, as Paramount is one of the studios that fund the MPAA and the group does has a long history of being more protective of their sugar daddy studios than of any indie sudio film being submitted for a rating.

The MPAA does not comment publicly on the ratings process for particular films, so we will need either Scorsese or an insider to divulge further details as to exactly how these “exchanges” shaped the film.

The Wolf Of Wall Street, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey, is set to open Christmas Day.

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Let’s Not Get Too Worked Up Over That IT’S A WONDERUL LIFE Sequel Just Yet

Posted on 21 November 2013 by Rich Drees

wonderfullife

Earlier this week, there came news about a sequel to the Frank Capra classic It’s A Wonderful Life being in development, and predictably and understandably that lead to a lot of complaints and criticisms of the idea burning up bandwidth. It turns out that all that angst may have been premature as Variety is reporting that Paramount Pictures, who own the distribution and sequel rights to It’s A Wonderful Life, have not been contacted by the producers of the new project to secure permission yet.

The trade quoted a studio spokesperson as saying -

No project relating to It’s a Wonderful Life can proceed without a license from Paramount. To date, these individuals have not obtained any of the necessary rights, and we would take all appropriate steps to protect those rights.

But producers Allen J. Schwalb and Bob Farnsworth don’t see things quite the same way. As Farnsworth told Variety -

We have spent a lot of time, money and research that leads us to believe that we are clear on any infractions of the copyright. If anyone feels that have a legal claim, we will be happy to talk with them. I believe that whatever resolution needs to be made will be made amicably, in the positive spirit of the project.

This is shaping up to be yet another chapter in the long, messy history of the copyright surrounding the film. Based on a 1939 short story, “The Greatest Gift,” It’s a Wonderful Life was released in 1946. However, a clerical error in failing to renew the film’s copyright allowed the film to slip partially into the public domain. As Republic Picture, the film’s owner at the time, still retained rights to the original short story, television stations airing the film still had to pay royalties on that. But in the 1990s, Republic argued successfully in court that since the film was based on that short story that they owned the rights to, it was technically a derivative work and fully covered by their ownership of said story. The court agreed and the film was brought back out of the public domain. Paramount subsequently acquired Republic, and with it, the rights to the film.

Given that the 1990s court case concerning the film’s rights has been seen as pretty definitive and has gone unchallenged for two decades, it should be interesting to see what claim the producers think they have to proceed with their plans.

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Weinstein Gets MPAA To Reverse PHILOMENA R Rating

Posted on 15 November 2013 by Rich Drees

Philomena

Harvey Weinstein has a victory against the Motion Picture Association of America’s movie ratings board, successfully getting them to reverse their R rating of the upcoming drama Philomena and re-rate the film with a PG-13.

Last week, Weinstein revealed that he was fighting the R rating that the film about an elderly Irish woman (Dame Judi Dench) looking for the child whom she gave up for adoption five decades earlier received for its two uses of the word “fuck.” One of the very few firm rules that the MPAA has for in terms of how they rate films is that one f-bomb means at least an automatic PG-13, more than one is an automatic R. It was this rule that Weinstein ran afoul of the MPAA in 2010 over their R rating for The King’s Speech, which had one scene which featured a string of the epithet although the rest of the film was considered fairly benign. In an interview with CBS This Morning last week, the studio honcho noted that in the UK, the film was rated with a far less restrictive rating that would allow all general audiences.

Steve Coogan, who costars in the film and also served as a producer, joined Weinstein Company lawyer Bert Fields on Tuesday to present their case for lowering the rating. He told the LA Times that he and Fields showed how the ratings board had given an PG-13 rating to other films that featured far greater and more casual use of profanities in films like The Social Network and Jobs and that the use of the two f-bombs in Philomena is important from the standpoint of characterization.

When my character uses profanity in Philomena it reflects badly on his character. It’s not a glorification of the profanity, as it is in the other films. Ours are used very notably for a reason. They are uttered by my character to demonstrate his short temper and somewhat volatile nature — his anger. That stands in stark contrast to Judi Dench’s character, who has grace and dignity.

It is nice to see the MPAA reverse their ratings decision, as they don’t seem to do it too often. Weinstein did not have this luck when he challenged their rating for The King’s Speech back in 2011 and after the film won the Academy Award for Best Picture he released an edited version that was given a PG-13 rating.

Philomena is set to open in limited release on November 22.

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Cinemark To Break Its Ban On NC-17 Films For BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

Posted on 30 October 2013 by Rich Drees

Blue Is The Warmest Color

Cinemark will break its long-standing corporate taboo against screening NC-17 rated films at one location when their Century 12, Evanston, Illinois location will show the Palme d’Or-winning Blue Is the Warmest Color.

The news comes just a week after New York City’s IFC Center announced that it would not be enforcing the highly restrictive rating and would allow “high school patrons” admittance to see the film. The film caused a bit of a stir at Cannes this year over its frank story of a lesbian relationship, including several scenes of reportedly intense and graphic scenes of lesbian lovemaking.

The presentation of the film, which the theater chain’s corporate office is calling a “one-theater test,” comes at the behest of Century 12 manager, Wally Bobkiewicz, who explained that “This is in part in response to our concerns from residents that [we] weren’t showing enough art movies.”

A corporate spokesperson elaborated in a statement to the Evanston Patch (via the Hollywood Reporter) “It just happens to be the right movie at the right time.”

It is certainly too early to tell if this will ultimately be extended to more of Cinemark’s 300 other locations, but I am certainly hoping that it will. As of now, no major theater chain will screen an NC-17 film, relegating them to art house theaters that primarily reside in the bigger cities. As one of the largest chains in the country, if Cinemark were to do away with their ban, I have no doubt that the other chains would soon follow suit. While there are some who ignorantly feel that a rating that is restrictive due to adult themes and content automatically equates to pornography, having actual access to these films for moviegoers outside of big cities will go along way to helping dispell that myth. And with wider distribution, NC-17 films will become more economically viable which will encourage studios to allow filmmakers wider latitude

BlueQuad

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KICK-ASS 2′s Mysterious Disappearing Guns

Posted on 29 July 2013 by Rich Drees

KickAss2HitGirl

Is there something fishy going on with Kick Ass 2?

This weekend, the Hollywood Reporter noticed that Universal Pictures had quietly replaced an image of Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moertz) from the upcoming Kick Ass 2 with a slightly altered version that digitally removed guns that were hanging on the wall in the background. The original picture (See below for a comparison) had been available earlier in the month.

kick_ass_guns_edit

This discovery comes on the heels of comments made by the film’s co-star Jim Carey over the level of gun violence in the movie, which was shot before last December’s horrific school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut that left 26 elementary school students and teachers dead.

Universal did not respond to the Hollywood Reporter’s request for a comment, leaving us to speculate as to the reason for the altered image. Was the change made in response to Carey’s concerns by a studio hoping to downplay the incident? Possibly. But I have to wonder if the impetus for the change came from another source – the Motion Picture Association of America. As you probably know, the MPAA has control over the movie ratings system and the trailers that studios release to promote their films. But in addition to that they also have authority over all advertising materials for films from the signatory studios, of which Universal is one. I would posit that perhaps the MPAA whispered a word or two into Universal’s ear suggesting the alteration.

This is not the first time that promotional material has been altered to tone down a potentially violent image. A trailer for Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull had a shot where Indy (Harrison Ford) and Mac (Ray Winstone) are surrounded by Soviet soldiers yet their weapons are non-existent in the trailer and yet are on full view in the actual film.

CrystalSkullChanges

Something similar happened in the trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1, where blood on Uma Thurman’s yellow track suit was digitally darkened to brown to look more like dirt than the bright red stains that are visible in the film.

KillBillBloodStains

Kick-Ass 2 opens August 16.

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Is THE MAN OF STEEL’s Jimmy Olsen…Jenny Olsen!?!

Posted on 22 January 2013 by William Gatevackes

j2

There was a bit of an Internet kerfuffle over the fact that the brunette Lois Lane will be played by the redhead Amy Adams in The Man of Steel. Well, brace yourselves, another kerfuffle is coming because it appears that the redhead Jimmy Olsen will not only be a brunette, but also…a woman! Batten down the hatches, prepare for the Internet outrage.

rebecca bullerThe whole ball got rolling this morning when Digital Spy noticed something in the cast listing on the IMDB page for the film. While the film features notable minor characters from the comic book Superman mythos such as Pete Ross, Kenny Braverman, and Steve Lombard, there was no Jimmy Olsen. There was, however,buried deep in the cast list, a Jenny Olsen, played by a brown-eyed, brunette actress named Rebecca Buller (that’s her to the left).

To say that Jimmy Olsen is a popular part of the Superman mythos would be an understatement. He is one of Superman’s longest-running supporting characters (officially debuting in 1941), and was popular enough to not only get his own series, Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, but also to have it run for 163 issue over almost 20 years.  So, the idea of a Superman film without Jimmy Olsen would be almost unheard of. So, this Jenny Olsen HAS to be the female version of Jimmy right?

jenny olsen in trailerThe website uses the trailer to further sell the idea that Jenny has been switched in for Jimmy. There is a scene in the trailer, screencapped for you at the right, where Perry White is fleeing a destroyed Daily Planet. As you can see, he is holding on to a female employee who looks remarkably like Buller. Is that an I.D. lanyard around her neck…or is it a strap for a camera? And who else would Perry take such an interest in making sure that they are safe than Jimmy…er…Jenny Olsen?

Of course, this is all conjecture based on a single IMDB listing, and IMDB isn’t exactly the most accurate website around. Numerous news sites have tried to reach Warner Brothers for a comment, but as of yet they have not spoke on the matter.  But until they do, fans will proclaim their outrage on message boards and comment pages around the Internet.

jimmy_olsen_turtlemanMany casual fans of Superman might ask, “What’s the big deal? Why should this bother them so much?” And, speaking as a rather involved Superman fan, the film presentation of Jimmy/Jenny Olsen shouldn’t bother us too much. What makes the comic book incarnation of Jimmy Olsen so great, and this will be a gross simplification of the character’s 72 -year history, is that he gets himself into trouble that only Superman can get him out of. That quality will never translate over into a 2-hour Superman film where Jimmy is only a supporting character. This characterization at best will only be briefly touched upon, as we saw in Richard Donner’s first Superman film. Add to that the fact that Jenny Olsen is so far down on the IMDB cast list that she is likely to be an extremely minor character to begin with, so even if she was still Jimmy, it wouldn’t be close to the comic book Jimmy anyway.

However, while every cinematic appearance of Jimmy Olsen ends up being a essentially just a nod to the character’s comic book origins, it was at least a nod. This is at least the fourth break from comic book continuity that The Man of Steel has shown us, and the one that seems most arbitrary and hardest to explain away.

Jimmy_Olsen_Cvr1Yes, the redhead Amy Adams is playing the typically brunette Lois Lane and the African-American Laurence Fishburne is playing the typically Caucasian Perry White, but both are great actors with sterling resumes–complete with award nominations–and will bring a lot to the part (but, seriously, Amy, you couldn’t pick up a bottle of Lady Clairol for just this film?). The same really can’t be said for Buller, whose only other credit on her remarkably sparse IMDB page is one episode of The Playboy Club.

And while Pa Kent’s recommendation to Clark that he should have left the school bus full of kids die is extremely out of character, the quote very well could have been taken out of context or simply been Pa thinking aloud. There’s no mistaking the break from the original characterization that is Jenny Olsen. Making the character a female changes whatever dynamic existed between the character and Superman. Instead of the goofy little brother, you have a little sister. Think about how your relationship with your male friends differs from your female friends and you’ll get the idea. Granted, as I mentioned above, the character might not be in the film long enough where this dynamic comes into play, but if it does, it will not be the dynamic comic book fans expect or want to see.

And the change is completely arbitrary. If you wanted a goofy female character to work at the Daily Planet, you could have named her Jenny Coulson, Jenny Dogin, or Jenny Hogan. It would work just as well for the filmmakers and Jimmy Olsen fans would be a lot less ticked off.

Yes, this on the surface seems like much ado about nothing. But in the larger sense it is indicative of the problems Warner Brothers has adapting its DC Comics properties to the big screen. The Marvel films all have changes from the original source material, but no change is arbitrary, no change completely contradicts what makes the original text so popular, and more often than not the changes are an improvement. Changing Jimmy Olsen to a woman just for the sake of making the character a woman is an example that Warner Brothers really doesn’t have the same respect and understanding about its comic book properties that Marvel does. And until they can overcome this mental block in this area, they are never going to have the success that Marvel has.

 

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ESCAPE FROM TOMMOROW: The Film Disney Probably Doesn’t Want You To See

Posted on 21 January 2013 by Rich Drees

EscapeFromTomorrowThere are many films that screen at the Sundance that rarely get seen outside of the confines of the annual film festival. Usually, these are films that don’t seem to make an impact on critics or the numerous studio and distributor execs looking for product that they think they can sell. But this year, there is one film that is generating the type of buzz that would normally have those execs in a bidding frenzy that you probably won’t ever get a chance to see – director Randy Moore’s drama Escape From Tomorrow.

At first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything that would prohibit a distributor from releasing a film about a man’s slow descent into despair and madness after being told he is being fired from his job while on the last day of his family’s vacation. That is until you realize that the entire film was shot surreptitiously at Florida’s Walt Disney World and California’s Disneyland theme parks without permission. As such, there is much of the famous (and copyrighted) Disney iconography seen throughout the film. The studio’s costumed characters can be glimpsed walking through the background. Scenes take place on the Snow White, Winnie The Pooh and Haunted Mansion rides. So many things Disney’s phalanx of lawyers would have to give permission for these trademarked and copyrighted images to appear in a commercial release of the film. And I’m guessing that the reported scene showing the Disney princess as high-end prostitutes with Asian businessmen as clients probably won’t help convince them to sign off on the film.

So how did he manage to make the film right under the noses of park security? Well, it was apparently pretty simple. With virtually everyone at the parks owning their own video cameras and looking to document their experience there, no one really took note when Moore and just a few cast and crew members took out a Cannon 5D DSLR and started shooting. Audio was sometimes recorded on cell phones or on digital recorders taped to the actors. Scripts and production paperwork were kept on iPhones. Moore, his cast and a cameraman rode certain rides multiple times in order to capture the footage they needed without any ride operators ever raising an eyebrow.

And amazingly, the final product doesn’t look like a found footage film as one may expect but instead is a polished production, if this short clip that has been released is any indication –

But despite all the legal hurdles, I doubt that this film will stay viewed by just the audiences who saw it the past weekend for long. Disney could buy the film and distribute it themselves, though it sounds like some of the material in it could be too strong for any of their distribution arms. Alternately, another distributor could pick up the film and try to negotiate with Disney for the usage of all the trademarked imagery in the film. That would leave Disney with two options – The first would be to be a good sport about things and let the film be released or be the bad guy and clamp down on it.

But it is possible that Moore could try and release the film for free online. It has happened before in films that had copyrighted material in them without permission. Animator Nina Paley’s magnificent Sita Sings The Blues used some 1920s jazz tunes that were still under copyright. When it proved to be too expensive and too much of a hassle to untie the legal red tape surrounding the songs underlying rights, she released the film online for free download.

Underground filmmaker Damon Packard managed to do something similar to what Moore has done with his own horror film, Reflections Of Evil. Purportedly shot in part at Universal Studios theme park without permission, the movie is available for viewing free on the Fandor streaming site.

In a worst case scenario, the film will eventually find its way out into the wilds of the internet. It has happened before with the Roger Corman-produced Fantastic Four film and Todd Haynes‘s suppressed Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. Even the documentary charting the troubled production of the Disney animated feature The Emperor’s New Groove, The Sweatbox has managed to find its way online for savvy fans to track down and watch. Given time, it will probably happen again.

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Director James Gunn’s Controversial Comments Lead To Calls For His Removal From The Film

Posted on 29 November 2012 by William Gatevackes

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn found out this week that things you post on the Internet last forever, and even if you try to kill them, your words can take on a life of their own.

A post Gunn made on his website back in February of 2011 has garnered him a fair bit of controversy with female members of comic book fan and professional community. When the controversy hit, Gunn removed the post from his site, but, the Internet being what it is, it still lives on in a cached form.

The post consists of the results of his second annual polling of his fans for the 50 superheroes, male and/or female, they’d most like to have sex with.

Personally, I have never been one to sexually fantasize about comic book characters. Yes, this might strike you as being hard to believe but I can’t get into that sort of thing because A) they aren’t real and B) they are usually drawn in such an exaggerated way that makes them seem even less realistic. But, hey, if other fans are into this sort of thing, more power to them.

So, if Gunn just stopped at running the list, it might have not received any attention. They’d even let slide the fact that he took pride in finding the most sexually charged images for the 35 female entries on the list.

But, unfortunately for Gunn, he had make comments on the entries to the list. And his comments start vulgar and get worse from there. Here is a sample, starting with the winner of the poll, Wonder Woman (WARNING: The language is crude and vulgar):

It gets worse from there. Men aren’t spared either. Here’s Gambit:

Zatanna (for the full effect, flip the words of the last sentence):

Invisible Woman:

Kitty Pryde:

Batwoman:

And, finally, Batgirl:

These are the most egregious entries on the list. Thankfully, Gunn appears to lose interest in including these pithy sayings after entry #25 or else there could have been a lot more.

As to why a blog entry that is almost two years old would get so much attention  comes down to two things. One, Gunn was just handed his highest profile assignment to date with Guardians of the Galaxy, a film many in the comic book fandom are eagerly anticipating and want to see done right. And, two, sexual politics are a hot-button topic in the comic book community after a tale of sexual harassment of a cosplayer at October’s NYCC  and two comic creators speaking out publicly about “fake geek girls,” attractive women who dress up as popular geek-centric characters just for attention and without any knowledge, affection or affinity for the characters or the worlds they live in. These examples are used to as an indicator of the misogyny of males in geek culture. Gunn’s post, though old, is simply another log to the still raging fire.

While Internet reaction might not have been immediate, it has been strong. Susana Polo of the The Mary Sue, a blog that looks at the world of comic from a female perspective, had this to say:

Lets be clear: there’s nothing wrong about running a poll for the most sex-able superhero on your site, especially one where you embrace the fact that Batman and Gambit come in within the top five. There isn’t anything wrong, in that context, of choosing art that sexualizes the characters in it. There isn’t even anything wrong with talking explicitly about sex in your commentary on the poll results. What’s wrong is the sheer amount of slut-shaming (on only the female characters) and anti-gay language that Gunn directs towards the majority of the male characters. These are not opinions befitting somebody who’s been given the task of bringing a major part of the Marvel Universe to the big screen (a set of characters, I might add, that includes a lesbian superhero couple, not that they’ll be appearing in Guardians).

The screenshot at the top of this post is the entirety of what he has to say about Batwoman, which is both a reference to the idea that lesbians just need a good (read: streotypically masculine) man to have sex with them and they’ll be “cured” of their homosexuality, a delusion at the heart of an innumerable number of rapes; and a dig at Nightwing, one of the few male characters in comics who has actually gotten away with being drawn for the female gaze. Apparently, having been depicted as a female sex fantasy occasionally (and still with nowhere near the frequency that any given female character is drawn for the male gaze) instead of a male power fantasy literally makes him a woman.

Rachel Edidin, who has worked in the industry as an editor at Dark Horse Comics among other companies, contributed this:

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.

Heidi MacDonald, one of the leading names in comic book journalism and a woman who has worked as an editor at DC/Vertigo and Disney took a more cynical view:

I guess I’m jaded because what Gunn wrote is no worse than what 90% of guys have thought at some point, and probably 90% of the people who have directed superhero movies that we all loved in the past have made similar jokes. I mean, I’m not exactly sure that Sam Raimi wanted to do Kitty Pride in the butt, but I’m sure somewhere, at some time, he had a picture of the Invisible Woman taped inside his notebook. Maybe even right this very minute.

Which isn’t to say that Gunn doesn’t need to come out and say mea culpa and Gamora is his favorite Guardian and he supports Malala Yousafzai. It’s a good consciousness raising exercise, and a heckuva introduction to his future fan base. I just feel that the outrage energy is better directed at getting more opportunities for women and less at stopping men from having inappropriate sexy thoughts about imaginary women, because that will never, ever stop. Sorry.

Now, the story has gone beyond the realm of comic book fandom. The Hollywood Reporter has quoted Fred Sainz, vice president of communications and marketing for the Human Rights Campaign, who condemns Gunn’s words:

James Gunn’s blog post is offensive not just to LGBT people and women; but rather to anyone with even the slightest sense of decencyHis tawdry post is not reflective of the character that someone charged with directing a film aimed at youth should exhibit. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Gunn has nothing better to do with his time than churn out graphic and homophobic dribble about imaginary superheroes.

Of course, if it was just this one post, it would still be fairly damning for Gunn. But the very next post, which was, of course, taken down by Gunn and can only be viewed in cached form, Gunn applies similar attitudes and language in listing the 15 super-heroines he personally would like to have sex with. And his most recent post, from July of this year, Gunn gloats over giving a female employee from the music department of the studio for his latest film,  Movie 43, a hard time after she tells him that the studio cannot use a the title Gunn submitted for a song he wrote for the soundtrack because it would be too offensive. The title? “That Gay Fucking Cat.” Classy. That post is still active on Gunn’s site…for now.

While most of Gunn’s critics are calling on him to explain his words and point of view (which, since his immediate reaction was to remove the offending blog posts and pretend they never happened, is unlikely to take place unless he is forced to do it), some female comic fans are calling for stronger action. There is currently a petition on change.org asking Marvel Studios to replace Gunn on Guardians of the Galaxy and replace him with a director who has more respect for women. The petition already has 4,917 signatures as of this writing.

As of this writing, there has been no comment from Gunn or Marvel Studios in regards to controversy. But, since the casting process is beginning on the film even as we speak, neither party can afford to have such a controversy go unanswered. I would personally be interested in seeing how Marvel reacts to this situation, as it is the first public dust-up the relatively new studio has had to deal with.

UPDATE:

Shortly before 10pm EST, James Gunn posted this to his Facebook account:

 

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