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This was the way.

Jon Favreau, whether he knew it or not at the time, gave birth to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the MCU. Favreau directed Iron Man in 2008, starring Robert Downey, Jr. as the titular character. It’s become canon that expectations, let alone hopes, were modest. Both were exceeded, and more than a decade later the movies that followed this original narrative thread became many of the most successful feature films of all time.

Because Disney can’t abide competition, they bought Marvel Entertainment. So now they own Star Wars and Marvel and everything else worth owning, and we love it. If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you are acquainted with this phenomenon: You come home from vacation with zero dollars in your pocket, completely cleaned out, and a post-orgasmic smile on your face because it was SO worth it.

Such is Disney.

My own personal encounter with Disney came some years ago when my wife was directing musical theater productions at our local middle school. If you ever want to question the existence of God, you should do musicals with 6th and 7th graders. Think back – remember what you were like when you were 12 or 13? Yeah.

Anyway, she would direct these musicals and I would usually “tweak” the script as needed so that as many tweens as possible could participate. For example, I think the first dialogue I wrote for one of her productions was in The Wizard of Oz. Instead of there being only one guard at the castle in Emerald City, she had two young girls splitting the role. Which meant we needed to split the dialogue. Which meant we needed more dialogue; otherwise each student would only have, like, a line and a half. So I embellished.

The two guards stop our intrepid heroes at the gates and deny them entry into the castle.

"We're here to see the Wizard," Dorothy & Friends say.

"Impossible," says Guard #1

"Preposterous," says Guard #2.

Number 1: "Unthinkable."

Number 2, with perfect deadpan: "And wildly inappropriate."

Guard #1 says, "Even I've never seen the wizard and I work here."

Guard #2: "He's my uncle, twice removed."

Flustered, #1 says, "Stop it, he is not!"

Dorothy says, "Well if you've never seen him, how do you know he exists?"

This stumps Guard #1, who says, "Well...because...because. because, because, because becauuuuse - haven't you been listening to the song?"

Yes, I wrote comedy for middle-schoolers. 

***

Then, some years later, my wife decided to do Mulan, which is 100% Disney property. The rights to the script were outrageously expensive by prior standards, first of all. And the contract was – I can’t think of a better word – belligerent when it came to any revision, in any form, for any reason, of any of their intellectual property, upon pain of destitution, followed swiftly by slow death and inescapable disgrace cast upon one's descendants.

Disney lawyers do not mess around. I know when something is kind of half-assed we call it a “Mickey Mouse operation,” but not around Disney lawyers. They will go all Monsters, Inc. on your ass.

So I kept my pen to myself, mostly, and looked over my shoulder for a few months.

***

I’m thinking about all this because I read that Disney has sh*tcanned Gina Carano, one of the lead actors in The Mandalorian, a series on Disney+ created by Jon Favreau that has done more to unite warring factions of Star Wars fans than anything since Carrie Fisher rocked a solid gold bikini in Return of the Jedi. Gina Carano plays Cara Dune on the series, a former Rebel soldier who becomes sort of a recurring sidekick to the lead character in his adventures across the galaxy.

Fans of Deadpool will also remember Carano from the 2016 movie, where she played Angel, sort of a recurring sidekick to the lead villain, Ajax (“don’t call me Francis”).

An MMA fighter and stunt woman, Gina’s a badass. I’ve always liked her. I never dated a woman (back when I was allowed) that could kick my ass, and I probably wouldn’t like it in real life, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching it on TV.

So apparently Gina is a conservative, I don't know. I don’t follow social media. But apparently she is one of THOSE Republicans, the ones who believed in The Steal (and that it should be Stopped) and are kinda-sorta racist I guess? It’s embarrassing. And it's all Donald Trump's fault. Before him, racists knew it wasn’t cool to be that way, so they were real quiet about it. Now they are just out and about, being racist all over the place, and it’s just really inconvenient for all the rest of us.

I don’t want to care that Gina is racist, but now that I know it I have to care, and that sucks.

Gina was fired for making comments on social media equating being a Republican in 2021 in the United States with being a Jew in Nazi Germany. I assume someone, somewhere, knows how this makes any sense; I do not. And I’m not inclined to spend much energy trying to unravel it. Instead, now there’s another actor whose work I enjoyed who has acquired a stink that cannot be ignored. Some would call this “cancel culture” I guess. I guess her point in the original post (which I have NOT seen) is that she is being vilified for being – what? – in a minority class, someone who is different but equal? I don’t know.

My daughter sent me this news in a text where she crowed because of the irony of Disney firing someone for being anti-Semitic, considering Walt himself was legendary for many things, anti-Semitism among them. I’ve heard the rumors, we all have, so I did some research. The most recent, seemingly objective reports from independent sources, including The Jerusalem Post, all agree that he was not overtly anti-Semitic. If I were doing a book report, I think the takeaway theme would be, He wasn’t any more anti-Semitic than any other successful people, especially in Hollywood, at the time.

He did co-found an organization, the Motion Picture Alliance, that – while it wasn’t anti-Jewish itself – included people who were far more outspoken in their biases than Walt was. So if you’re one of those people who believe silence implies consent….

You can draw your own conclusions.

All I know is, if I had to limit my entertainment options to those people who didn’t offend anyone, or only to entertainers who were good, nice, altruistic people, I could save a lot of money; and I’d have a lot more time on my hands. It’s discouraging to have to deal with people’s motivations. I just want to laugh. I just want to cheer. I’m not asking these people to babysit my kids or legislate my healthcare. I just want to be entertained. Dance, fool! Dance for my enjoyment!

But no, I take anti-Semitism seriously. So now she is fired, and I’m going to miss her character on the series. If she wasn’t fired, I think I would look at her differently. I wouldn’t stop watching the show because I love it. But it would hamper my enjoyment. It would just be out there.

And I don’t blame Disney. I don’t blame Trump. I don’t blame Ted Cruz. I don’t blame Josh Hawley. I don’t blame Sean Hannity.

I blame Gina Carano.

***

In Walt Disney’s era, the Golden Age some would say, you could say what you wanted in smoky back rooms. There was no evidence, and so people’s foibles and failings became the stuff of legend. Maybe it was true, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was all subject to interpretation. Maybe something was taken out of context. But we didn’t have to confront it head-on. Today there is no such ambiguity. Everyone has a high-powered movie camera attached to the internet IN THEIR POCKET. You can still be taken out of context, but there’s no denying what happened, or what was said.

So it’s Gina’s fault. She determined it was more important to vent her frustration, I guess, than to consider how it might be perceived. She thought about herself before others. And, in the epitome of irony, screwed herself.

That’s really at the root of our problems these days, isn’t it? Is it so hard to be even the least bit selfless? Shouldn’t there be a small subset of rules we can all agree on before we start advocating for our own particular spin? I like the Hippocratic Oath that physicians take: First, do no harm. Can we all agree on that? If something we say or do is going to hurt someone else, stop. Don’t do it. At least consider the ramifications of your words or your actions.

Elected Republican officials consider the ramifications of their words and actions. They made the conscious decision – again and again, even today – to support a demagogue as a means of retaining power and influence. They chose power over what’s right. They didn’t abide by the Hippocratic Oath.

But poor Gina Carano, really on the cusp of what would have almost certainly been the single most important leap forward in her career, didn’t think. She felt passionately about something that had nothing to do with work, and she just had to blurt it out.

I feel bad for her; I do. Not because she feels how she feels, ironically. But because she wasn’t thoughtful. All she had to do was think about others, and she would have – albeit accidentally – helped herself. It’s a hard lesson.

I hope she gets to learn from it. I’d like to see her kick ass again sometime.

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