2018’s Biggest Entertainment Controversies, From James Gunn To WWE Crown Jewel

2018 is coming to a close and it’s been a year of many ups and downs in the world of entertainment. While the box office is breaking records and TV continues to get better and better, producing a wide array of shows for a variety of audiences, there was still plenty of controversy behind the scenes.

Whether it was the continuation of the #MeToo movement, Hollywood power players coming to regret their social media outbursts, or even an ill-advised WWE pay per view, the year was fraught with drama. Celebrities lost their jobs, movies were put on hold, and even Netflix came under fire thanks to some truly curious artistic choices. Then, of course, that was that puzzling bit of scheduling at the Warner Bros. panel at San Diego Comic-Con.

GameSpot has rounded up the biggest entertainment controversies of the year, and it’s easy to see some of them will have lasting ramifications in the years to come. Take a look at the list of controversies from 2018 below.

Make sure to check out our favorite movies and TV shows of 2018, along with our Editor’s Choice picks and the best and worst reboots of the year.`

WWE’s Saudi Arabia PPV Crown Jewel draws criticism

In 2018, WWE made a 10-year deal with Saudi Arabia, which Wrestling Observer reported was worth $450 million. The first show of this deal was The Greatest Royal Rumble, which–for anyone who saw it–was very much a propaganda piece promoting how “progressive” the country had become, despite the fact that WWE’s female talent wouldn’t be allowed to compete at the event. Then, just days after the first-ever all-women’s PPV, WWE launched its next venture in Saudi Arabia: Crown Jewel. This was all taking place in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of the Saudi government and regime, and the CIA and Turkish government came to the conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination.

It was impossible to miss this going on in the news, but even though WWE was strongly advised not to do this show, they went ahead with it anyway. In the days leading up to Crown Jewel, any time the event was mentioned on television, the audience let the company know how they feel with a chorus of boos. The fact that WWE did the show left a giant stain on the company in 2018. — Mat Elfring

The #MeToo movement continued

It was October of 2017 when the #MeToo movement went viral, with sexual misconduct allegations made against film producer Harvey Weinstein. In the aftermath, many were accused of a variety of misdeeds, ranging from harassment to assault. As the year turned to 2018, the movement kept going, with a number of notable figures being accused. Meanwhile, several states passed laws designed to protect against harassment in the workplace.

Among those accused of misconduct in 2018 were actors James Franco, Chris Hardwick, Aziz Ansari, and Jeffrey Tambor. Fuller House creator Jeff Franklin, Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, and now-former CBS Corporation CEO Les Moonves also faced allegations, among a number of others. Additionally, Kevin Spacey, who was accused by Star Trek: Discovery star Anthony Rapp of making a sexual pass at him when he was 14 years old, was charged with sexual assault in December. The case, which stems from an alleged assault in 2016, is scheduled to go before a judge in January 2019. — Chris E. Hayner

Netflix and the case of the mysteriously changing thumbnails

While Netflix is the undeniable king of streaming services, the company came under fire in October for something that hasn’t quite been explained or figured out. It all started when writer Stacia L. Brown pointed out on Twitter that the service was serving her variant poster images for several titles featuring black actors, regardless of their role in the film or TV show.

The tweets led many to question whether the streaming service was targeting its users based on race for purposes of marketing its movies. While the company had admitted in the past to creating personalized artwork based on viewing references, in a statement to Fader the company said it does not base its imagery on demographics. The statement reads, “We don’t ask members for their race, gender, or ethnicity so we cannot use this information to personalize their individual Netflix experience. The only information we use is a member’s viewing history. In terms of thumbnails, these do differ and regularly change. This is to ensure that the images we show people are useful in deciding which shows to watch.” — Chris E. Hayner

James Gunn fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

In one of the more surprising film moves this year, Disney unceremoniously fired director James Gunn from the third entry in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, which he helped make popularize. Gunn had been the primary voice in establishing Guardians as a bona fide cinematic sensation, having both written and directed both blockbuster films. But after a social media campaign resurfaced tasteless jokes he had made years prior, Disney felt it had no choice but to let him go.

The decision drew sharp lines in the sand within the fan community, which disagreed on whether the move was appropriate. Actor Dave Bautista, who plays Drax in the Guardians films, has been especially vocal in his disagreement with Gunn’s firing, even threatening not to come back if Disney didn’t use Gunn’s script. The entire Guardians cast subsequently signed a joint letter requesting his reinstatement, but Disney has stuck to its proverbial guns. The film is now said to be on hold indefinitely, but Disney is still reportedly planning on using Gunn’s script.

In a final wild twist, DC capitalized on the move and hired Gunn to write the sequel to Suicide Squad. As the DC universe’s version of a “ne’er-do-wells save the day” story, Gunn seemed like a natural fit, and he may well direct the film too. And naturally, Dave Bautista quickly expressed interest in the project. — Steve Watts

Warner Bros. books Amber Heard and Johnny Depp on back-to-back SDCC panels

In perhaps one of the worst scheduling plans of all time, the Warner Bros. presentation at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con included appearances by both Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard. While Depp was there to reveal a trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Heard was there with the rest of the Aquaman cast to promote the superhero film.

The dueling appearances came after Heard accused her former husband of physical abuse during their marriage, which Depp denied. In the end, their divorce settlement saw the actress awarded $7 million, which she donated to charity. She, meanwhile, dismissed her claims of abuse against the actor.

The move to include both in the panel was roundly criticized on social media, with EW correspondent Dana Schwartz remarking, “WB brought Johnny Depp out for the Fantastic Beasts panel (as a surprise!!!) immediately [preceding] their Aquaman panel, featuring Amber Heard. That makes me nauseous.” — Chris E. Hayner

Fired WWE superstar Enzo Amore interrupts Survivor Series PPV

In early 2018, WWE superstar Eric Arndt AKA Enzo Amore was fired after the company became aware of the sexual assault allegations against him. Many industry insiders said this was less about the allegations–which were proven to be untrue–and more about the fact he was more trouble than he’s worth backstage, and this was the last straw. From there, Arndt went his own way and released plenty of rap tracks online.

Arndt resurfaced during Survivor Series, but he wasn’t part of the show. Sitting towards the front, on camera, at the PPV. Arndt hid out when he showed up, although plenty people noticed it was him in a grey hoodie. Then during the Raw vs. Smackdown tag team champions match, Arndt threw off the hoodie, stood up, and shouted all the catchphrases he used to do in WWE. He was then tackled by security and escorted out of the building. Any hopes of him ever coming back to WWE–which were incredibly slim at that point–have now all gone out the window. You can’t teach that. — Mat Elfring

Photo by Mario Candelaria

Clayne Crawford fired from Lethal Weapon

The drama behind the scenes of Fox’s Lethal Weapon adaptation took a strange turn in 2018, becoming even more intense than the gunfights and turmoil that played out in the second season of the series. It all started back in April with reports of misconduct levelled against star Clayne Crawford. At the time, it was reported that he had been reprimanded for his behavior on set, which included acting out in anger. At that time, Crawford took to social media to apologize for two incidents on the show’s set. He also admitted to participating in studio-appointed therapy and, at the request of Warner Bros. TV, sharing a portion of his paycheck with someone involved.

A month later, it was reported that Crawford was fired from the show and that producers were looking to cast a new lead to take over in Season 3. Additionally, a pair of videos released by Variety after the firing showed a very contentious relationship between Crawford and his co-lead Damon Wayans.

In the end, actor Seann William Scott was hired to join Wayans for Season 3 as a new character, but even that wasn’t the end of the drama. First, Crawford appeared on a podcast, in which he claimed to have been blackmailed to stay quiet about the issues between himself and Wayans, among many other allegations. Then, in October, Wayans announced he would be leaving the show after production of Season 3 came to an end. In an interview with Electronic Urban Report, Wayans said the show’s schedule was too much for him. “It’s hard for me to play this loving, supportive father/husband/friend on TV, but be the guy in life that is telling everyone, ‘I can’t I have to work,'” he explained.

As for what happens now, neither Fox or Warner Bros. TV has commented on the future of the show. So it’s entirely possible this particular controversy is nowhere near over. — Chris E. Hayner

Scarlett Johansson came under fire over the summer due to her being cast as a transgender man in the movie Rub & Tug. The actress was criticized for taking a role that otherwise might have gone to a transgender actor. The move came a year after she faced criticism for appearing in the lead role of the American adaptation of Japanese franchise Ghost in the Shell. Rupert Sanders, who directed Ghost in the Shell, is also set to helm Rub & Tug.

After the backlash, Johansson announced in a statement that she was stepping down from the project. “In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project,” she said at the time. “Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.” A replacement has yet to be cast. — Chris E. Hayner

One of the biggest TV news stories in early 2018 was the return of Roseanne, which received massive ratings. With its nine-episode relaunch, it became one of the highest rated shows of the year. However, just as quickly as the show rose to prominence once again, ABC canceled it after a tweet from star and co-creator Roseanne Barr.

Many in the show’s cast were quick to speak out against the comedian, prior to the show’s cancellation. In the wake of the cancellation, ABC worked out a deal with Barr to remove her from the creative process of the show–and its profitability–relaunching the series as The Conners. It was explained in the first episode of the new show that Barr’s character Roseanne had died of a drug overdose, which was an issue touched upon in the previous season. — Chris E. Hayner