James Gunn has always been the kind of filmmaker who loves to engage with fans on social media.
Many creators actively avoid talking to their fans online, but Gunn seems to get a kick out of keeping his online audience involved in his various projects, and he’s more than happy to take a chunk of time to answer questions about his work.
This week, as has been documented more extensively in video form, Gunn took to Twitter to reveal a shocking truth: Baby Groot is not actually the same character as Original Recipe Groot. It turns out that the Groot of “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2” is in fact the son of the character from the first game.
First Groot is dead. Baby Groot is his son.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) February 27, 2018
This does make a certain amount of sense, considering that Gunn has always insisted that this new Groot doesn’t have the same memories as the original character, and it does help to avoid stripping away Groot’s sacrifice in the first movie.
At the same time, though, this isn’t clearly explained within the narrative of either movie. This is purely extra information for those who are willing to tolerate Twitter as a supplementary storytelling medium for blockbuster movies, and this makes the whole revelation feel a little flat.
After all, if this was supposed to be communicated in “Guardians Vol 2”, then Gunn didn’t do a very good job of getting this message to come across. Something as poignant and important as this, especially in a movie that is essentially all about absent or otherwise crummy father figures, really ought to be communicated within the film, rather than spurted out on Twitter after the fact.
This feels a lot like JK Rowling’s retroactive announcement that Dumbledore is gay in “Harry Potter”, a little tidbit of information that’s been drawing a lot of criticism lately considering that, for some bizarre reason, the upcoming “Crimes of Grindelwald” movie is not going to be exploring the character’s romantic past.
This feels like tokenism of the worst kind; banished not just to subtext, but to an online appendix that doesn’t in any way impact the main story.
The concept of Death of the Author, namely, that a text should stand on its own without being explored in the context of a creator’s wider body of work, is often challenging in the modern era when social media gives us a fantastic insight into the mind of our favorite writers.
That said, if an important element of the story doesn’t appear in the main text (the word “text” here meaning any artistic creation), but is instead relegated to a Twitter addendum, then the creator isn’t doing their job properly.
We shouldn’t have to follow James Gunn on Twitter in order to fully understand everything in a Marvel movie. Considering that merely keeping up to date with all these movies feels like homework at times, the studio shouldn’t be forcing us to take on extra-curricular social media work in order to figure out what the heck is going on.