Mel’s Manners

Filed under:Sad — posted by Anwyn on August 1, 2006 @ 9:49 pm

Time to talk about Mel Gibson. Let’s start with the background: I have never seen The Passion of the Christ. Movies, in theater or on DVD, are far fewer and farther between for me these days than formerly, and I tend to steer away from anything I know is going to be a) grotesquely violent or b) emotionally draining. But I was puzzled by the swirling of “anti-Semitic, anti-Semitic” when the movie was released. How could a movie with Jesus Christ as the protagonist fail to portray the Jewish leadership (“elders,” “chief priests,” “rulers”) as responsible for arresting him, baiting him into committing blasphemy right in front of them, handing him over to the Romans to be executed by the state for a religious crime, and then inciting the crowds to howl for his blood? Of course that’s not going to portray those ancient Jews in a very good light. They weren’t in a very good light. It seems to me that to be truly anti-Semitic, the film would have had to have held responsible for the death of Jesus all Jews surrounding the crucifixion. Even not having seen it, I’m betting it didn’t do that.

That said, I have always regarded Mel Gibson as a stand-up guy who has managed to stay free of the highest-profile Hollywood traps–notably, multiple short marriages–and who makes pretty good movies when he’s before the camera rather than behind it (I hated Braveheart. Go rent Rob Roy.) Which is why it was disheartening as hell to read of him flying into the bottle, flying up the road, and then flying off about Jews to the arresting officers. The issue that’s boiling now is: Which is the real Mel? (Via Patterico.)

I don’t subscribe to the view that alcohol will turn your character around. It breaks down your inhibitions. Sometimes you will do things you wouldn’t do when sober because you wouldn’t want to. Sometimes you will do things you wouldn’t do when sober because you really want to but can’t or shouldn’t, for good reason. This is what civility and politeness exist for. We don’t go around judging each other on a daily basis by what’s in our hearts, for the very good reason that the only thing we can know of what’s in other people’s hearts is what they say and do, and what they say and do is supposed to be under the control of a brain that knows how to do business with other human beings. If Gibson had a bigoted or hateful track record, I think it’s safe to say he would not have gotten as far as he has in his business. Michael Medved makes a similar observation, among others far more illuminating than mine. If he were rude, mean, beat people up or threw telephones, that kind of thing would have come out. Ask Russell Crowe. That he feels that way in at least a portion of his heart is evident, and that’s awful. But that he keeps it under wraps is what’s required for polite society. I haven’t grown up with an anti-Jewish father, and if you want to take apart the psychological issues existing between a man and his father, you’re welcome to it. Gibson will suffer for his drunken rampage, both personally and professionally. Whatever help he needs, I hope he gets it.

Here’s the part that really interests me: today’s apology, his second since the mess began. Allahpundit is annoyed by parts of it, as am I, but Allah, what choice does Mel have? Today’s hate-crimes harpers and thought police demand nothing less than abject begging on the knees to be allowed to be trained to the proper sensitivity by the arbiters of the wronged group. That Jews and Israelis have been deeply wronged by Gibson’s outburst, there is absolutely no doubt. That he made a manful apology is also a fact, but if he wants ever again to be the box office draw he has been, he must now take the subsequent steps demanded by “tolerance.” If he wants to be remembered as the star of Mad Max and Lethal Weapon rather than as a drunken, rage-filled bigot, this is what he must do.

If anybody in Hollywood needed a multimillion-dollar box office draw over a barrel, they’ve got him.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace