Mike Fleming

I am endlessly fascinated by the number of artists who damage their careers with dumb, self-important expressions of thought on Twitter, Facebook and other viral outlets. You don’t have to be Jack Kevorkian to see that the misguided need to service ego with viral expression is becoming a fantastic way to attempt career suicide. This week alone, we’ve seen Two And A Half Men’s Angus T. Jones flat-line his professional future like he was drinking tiger blood, after condemning as “filth” the show that pays him over $8 million a year. He did this in a taped testimonial for something called the Forerunner Christian Church.

Then, writer-director James Gunn found himself hoping Marvel won’t fire him from its next big superhero franchise Guardians Of The Galaxy because obscure bloggers dredged up a two-year old Tumblr blog post Gunn wrote in jest. In it, he described in detail which superheroes he would most like to bed, mixing in homophobic references for good measure. Finally, British actor Jason Flemyng, most often seen in films directed by Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn, got into a playful conversation with some website guys with a camera-phone. As he cagily parried a question on whether Vaughn might direct the next Star Wars and hire him as an actor, Flemyng might have validated all the speculation. Or did he?

Celebrities have been strung up forever for saying dumb things in interviews while out promoting projects, but I find myself shaking my head when they fashion the noose themselves in web postings delivered when they have nothing to gain. Maybe it’s because I push words around for a living and maybe it’s because I’m lazy, but if I wasn’t being paid to write, I wouldn’t scribble a grocery list. For the life of me, I just don’t get the obsession with Twitter, Facebook and these other viral forms that celebs use to validate and sometimes snare themselves. I was taught long ago that it is fine to write stuff while your emotions are high and when you are riled up, but you should never publish until you’ve stepped away and taken the opportunity to consider all the angles, the potential for shrapnel, and consider the people your words might offend or alienate. I did find it interesting to observe this week’s blowback from celebs who didn’t do that.

In the case of Two And A Half Men‘s Jones, I know the wounds were self-inflicted, but I just feel sorry for this kid. Over and over, we see the difficulty child stars have in acclimating to adulthood, when the priority of their formative years is memorizing dialogue. Jones, perhaps hoping to see if there is more to life than simply being a teenage cash machine, tried to find purpose in religion. Unfortunately, that brought him to the doorstep of the Forerunner Christian Church and one Christopher Hudson. What church would take a vulnerable young man trying to figure things out, tape his career suicide attempt and then, in a Judas-like move, disseminate it to media? Obviously, a church that puts publicity over the best interests of its flock. I am glad that as beleaguered as Chuck Lorre might be after enduring Charlie Sheen’s unprecedented viral meltdown, he had the grace to cut this kid a break. Note to Angus: there are churches all over Hollywood that do not have cameras in the confessional. Find one.

Luckily for Lorre, Jones’ co-star Ashton Kutcher has gotten viral stupidity out of his system. He stopped sending rapid-fire tweets after revealing a dazzling lack of good judgment. For instance: in 2011 he declared pro football’s opening day “without a doubt the greatest day of the year,” apparently not realizing most people were hanging their heads because that day also marked the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Lower Manhattan and D.C. That wasn’t enough to slow his roll, but Kutcher hung up his Twitter obsession after ranting about the firing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. “How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste,” Kutcher tweeted, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Joe Pa was sacked because he and other college leaders were told that former defensive line coach Jerry Sandusky had buggered a boy in the football locker room shower, and they never bothered to call the cops. It already had created an unprecedented scandal in collegiate athletics. Kutcher certainly isn’t the first or last celeb to file in a rush, and then regret the words when they’ve had a moment to think about them. And if Sheen could find another series job despite his alarming viral rants, then maybe career suicide is the wrong word to describe what is going on here. But why jeopardize your career when it isn’t necessary?

Gunn’s Twitter controversy is by comparison a tempest in a teapot, but it is a cautionary tale that a dumbass web post sticks like napalm. Gunn, with credits that range from Tromeo And Juliet to Scooby-Doo to the excellent Dawn Of The Dead remake, was in full zombie brain mode when he took to Tumblr to wax on about the most bang-able superheroes. Early this week, I saw this item as it was being disseminated by obscure geek sites. Unlike Brett Ratner’s fresh, dopey comments that cost him the Oscarcast producer job, Gunn’s blog was written two years ago, and a full year before he was hired by Marvel for Guardians Of The Galaxy. To me, that exceeded the statute of limitations for stupidity. I left it alone when I knew Marvel wasn’t going to sack him. Then, Gunn’s self-inflicted gunshot wound found its way into a London newspaper and other outlets, drawing the inevitable condemnations from advocacy groups. As is all too common nowadays, Gunn is now in full apology mode but so far has hung on to his dream job.

Now, debating the sexual attributes of pretend comic book characters is dumb, but men have been debating such dumb things since William Shatner’s Captain Kirk bedded, among other intergalactic lovelies, a green-skinned temptress on the original 1960s Star Trek. Such chatter usually takes place among friends perched on barstools. Why would a notable filmmaker put it into a public forum, and inject things that can be hurtful and construed as homophobic or racist?

The Flemyng-Star Wars thing is more funny than serious because the issue of Vaughn has come down to an evasive answer and body language from an actor who’s known for being playful. The Vaughn rumor has been around since Disney bought the keys to George Lucas’ tired Star Wars vehicle and pledged to resuscitate it.

As much as I’ve heard the Vaughn rumor, I’ve also heard Jon Favreau is panting after this job, and even that David Fincher, who apparently worked for Lucas’s ILM in a menial job as a teen, might be game for one of these new films. Unfortunately, we are getting nothing out of Lucas Land on what they call speculation. I broke a story recently that Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg will write future Star Wars installments, most likely the second and third installments of the new trilogy, I’d heard. Lucas, through Disney, denied every speck of this, but I ran it anyway. They won’t comment or clarify these things because they want to announce it themselves on their own Twitter or website or whatever they’ve got.

Why does everybody want to be a journalist? I thought it was a dying racket.