The following is an opinion piece about how Hollywood celebrates heroes, and sometimes celebrate those who aren’t quite heroes. If this isn’t your thing, might we suggest reading more about the new star of Mayans MC.
Everybody who are still at least somebody in Hollywood will get together this Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre to pat themselves on the back and hand each other golden trophies.
There was a day I used to be quite excited about the Oscars, but that was when I felt the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences truly celebrated innovation in the film industry, instead of spotlighting movies that are nothing more than somewhat narcissistic approaches to what Hollywood has become.
If I sound jaded, all I have to do is point to some recent best picture winners like Birdman and this Sunday’s likely winner La La Land. And I’m a big fan of Michael Keaton and musicals – just not in projects that feel more like masturbation than actual films.
My negativity is ramped up even more this year because the Oscars reminded the world that it has a very, very short memory. And I’m not just talking about the lack of true diversity in the nominations (which remains a major problem).
No, I’m talking about just one man: Mel Gibson. After more than a decade of him doing whatever it is that he does when no one is looking, the Oscars have gone from ignoring Gibson to giving him his first Oscar nomination since winning two of them in 1996 for Braveheart.
Don’t get me wrong, Hacksaw Ridge could indeed be a great film. I don’t know. I haven’t watched it, nor do I intend to. The last thing I want to do as a devout fan of movies is give this man any attention.
To simply deploy cliches like “let bygones be bygones,” because I am not convinced at all that the Mel Gibson of today is any different from the Mel Gibson who was stopped by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy James Mee on the night of July 28, 2006.
Because this incident seems to be forgotten, I’ll share it once again … or actually, let me have Peter Biskind share it from his 2011 Vanity Fair story about that night. I apologize in advance for the language, but this is a time where I don’t feel comfortable censoring it.
One hot Los Angles night in July 2006, Gibson – who has a history of drinking problems – was stopped for going 80-plus in a 45 mph zone on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. An open bottle of tequila was found in the car, his blood-alcohol level exceeded the legal limit.
When arresting officer James Mee gave him not a script to read – an indulgence that is not uncommon in those parts – but a citation instead, Gibson said out of nowhere, “Fucking Jews … the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” And then he added, “Are you a Jew?”
Mee was, in fact, Jewish. But why does that matter? I’m Jewish, too, but I don’t head down to the synagogue, toss on a yarmulke, and discuss how we’re going to destroy the life of Mel Gibson. We have much more important things to talk about, like debating which arrangement of “Shalom Rav” should we recite.
For many years, Gibson has admitted to having an alcohol problem – and I do feel sympathy for his plight, and the struggle he and so many others have with alcoholism. At the same time, however, I don’t accept alcohol as an excuse for doing bad things.
Gibson is a man of faith, and is someone who practically ran his own church in Hollywood. Some years ago, I interviewed a young actor who was just starting out in Hollywood, who idolized Gibson.
To the point that he and his mom traveled up to his church and sat through the service, just to have a chance to be near the actor and director.
When it was time to leave, they headed out to the primitive parking lot, where the rain had turned the dirt into mud. The car that belonged to the young teenager’s family was stuck, and some of the other parishioners had come over to help push the car out.
At one point, the actor looked over at the guy next to him pushing the car, and it was none other than Gibson himself. It’s a story I’m sure he repeated many times … until 2006.
I share that because I’m not here to say Gibson is just all bad. He’s not. I’m sure there are many good things about him that get under-reported. But they get under-reported not because anyone has it out for Gibson, but because it gets overshadowed by every time he opens his mouth.
It’s not like his incident with Mee was an isolated incident. Gibson knew quite well how his foot taste, since it was in his mouth so much. And if it weren’t Jews, it was the LGBT community – like the controversy he was embroiled in at the time he was picking up his Oscars for Braveheart.
And before you start to talk about how 2006 is ancient history, we can’t forget about the reported racist rant he went on during a domestic dispute in 2010, where Gibson used language I simply refuse to share again.
Hollywood forgets, however, because Hollywood likes money. I don’t blame Hollywood – it is showbusiness after all. But there are even limits to that.
For me, Mel Gibson is one of those limits. While I will do my journalistic duty and cover Gibson’s time in the spotlight this weekend – whether he wins or loses – it doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it, or agree with him earning those accolades in the first place.
All I ask is before we give him the key to Hollywood – you know, like hand over major DC Comics film franchises to him – we look Mel Gibson in the eyes to figure out if there is indeed a different person there. One who is not filled with hate, one who is not going to hurt people, one who can demonstrate what redemption is truly like.
I’m happy to see that Mel Gibson in action. But you’ll have to let me know when he finally arrives.
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