Twitter users went on the offense over Thanksgiving when Terry Rossio, a screenwriter behind movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, and Disney’s animated Aladdin, used the N-word in a tweet that compared the racial slur to the term “anti-vax.”
Rossio was responding to The 100 writer Julie Benson, who encouraged her followers to donate money to organizations like UNICEF to provide polio vaccines to those in need. “I’m not saying you should buy it and then send a card to an anti-vax relative saying you’ve provided lifesaving vaccinations in their name, but actually that’s exactly what I’m saying,” read comments from another social media user that Benson shared.
Rossio spelled out the full N-word in his reply. “My heart goes out to all the parents of vaccine damaged children, who have to not only endure the sadness of their loss, but also the vitriol of ill-informed and insensitive people (such as those here),” he wrote. “Anti-Vax is equivalent to calling someone a [N-word] and makes as little sense.”
The screenwriter appeared to defend his tweet as a flood of Twitter users bombarded him. One of the most widely circulated comebacks came from writer Jeff Grubb, who wrote, “God, this is such a good point. I remember how American founders and citizens enslaved vaccine skeptics for decades. And then, even after freeing them, the government enshrined laws to marginalize vaccine deniers and to deny them wealth and opportunity. That’s just history.”
(At the time this article was published, Rossio’s tweet was still live on his feed.)
According to the Center for Disease Control, there is no link between autism and vaccines and “to date, the studies continue to show that vaccines are not associated with ASD.” A 2017 outbreak of measles and a 2018 outbreak of chickenpox helped refocus the attention on the anti-vaccination movement.
In 2016, Rossio acquired the film rights to Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines — The Truth Behind a Tragedy, a book by Vaxxed director Andrew Wakefield about his 1998 paper that asserted a link between autism and vaccines for the measles, mumps, and rubella. The study was retracted after Wakefield was accused of professional misconduct and falsifying information. His medical license was subsequently revoked.
The Walt Disney Company fired director James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 over decade-old tweets and Marvel apparently parted ways with comic book writer Chuck Wendig over his remarks on social media, but it’s unclear if any action will be taken against Rossio for using the N-word in his tweet.
According to Deadline Hollywood, Disney is exploring a reboot of Pirates of the Caribbean with Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Rossio had a hand in the previous installments, in addition to co-writing The Lone Ranger for Disney. He was also tapped to work on the screenplay for Warner Bros.’ Jonny Quest movie.
Reps for Disney, Warner Bros., and Rossio’s WME agency did not respond to EW’s request for comment.