I normally try to avoid mass pile-ups on beleaguered celebrities. The way mob rule can take over when some PR mess temporarily consumes the life of a well known figure makes me nervous and I usually prefer to stay out of the fray. Especially since there are so many other things going on the world that are obviously way more important than the ravings of someone in the spotlight. But reading about the Mel Gibson DUI fiasco this weekend, I am officially jumping ON the bandwagon.
I cannot believe that people are buying his lame apology for the vile anti-Semitic tirade he unleashed when he was arrested on Saturday. When “The Passion of the Christ” came out, I frequently defended Gibson against charges that the film was anti-Semitic. I detested this film and thought that its depiction of the last hours of Jesus’s life did not in any way convey the real message of the Christ. Gibson’s version seemed more like a holy snuff film than an inspirational tale but I also recognized that I was not a “believer” in “The Passion” and I could see that the film struck a chord with millions of people worldwide—people who obviously saw the film in a different context than I was able to. And I just could not believe that Gibson, clearly a religious man, carried any strong negative feelings about historical or modern-day Jews, despite the fact that his father, Hutton Gibson, was a scary Holocaust-denying fundamentalist. But since when do we blame the son for the sins of the father? It bothered me that Gibson refused to repudiate his crazy dad’s claims that the Holocaust was “mostly fiction” but I got that he was in a difficult position—I’m not sure I’d want to repudiate my family members on “Entertainment Tonight” no matter what crazy things they might have said.
But now, freed from his career-conscious censoring device thanks to an open bottle of Tequila in his car, Gibson immediately starts shouting repeatedly about the “fucking Jews,” asking the arresting officer if he was a Jew, and even providing non-sequitur pearls such as “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” Um, hello? You’re being arrested for driving drunk, you asshole, where did that nostalgic nod to the Nazis’ favorite ‘International Conspiracy of World Jewry” come from? God knows his daddy would agree with Mel’s assessment that the Jews brought the miseries of the Nazi death camps on themselves. Oh wait, there weren’t any death camps, right?
Almost as creepy as his anti-Semitic comments was his insufferable movie star arrogance. Claiming that he “owned Malibu,” he threatened the arresting officer by saying, ”I’m going to fuck you. You’re going to regret ever doing this to me.” Can you imagine if a non-celebrity had been this belligerent with a cop? How about an African-American man in South Central Los Angeles? Gibson should have been incarcerated immediately. Instead, there are signs that the sheriff’s department was attempting to cover up the whole incident, I’m sure after much discussion and pressure from Gibson’s publicists.
Sure, sure, people have difficult times in their lives and many people suffer from terrible addictions that cause them to behave in very upsetting ways. I am all for the Judeo-Christian value of forgiveness. But his apology this morning was grossly insufficient and I’m sure it was only offered because he had no choice—the whole exchange was recorded and transcribed. Some people say that alcohol can turn you into a different person but no one will ever be able to convince me that Gibson’s comments about Jews were brand new thoughts that came out of nowhere. I’m not saying he should be arrested for his ugly rhetoric, it’s not against the law to be a blithering idiot, but I sure hope he gets the book thrown at him for his drunk driving. Thank God nobody was killed.
An online biography of Mel Gibson claims he “abstains from alcohol completely.” Time for an update. I do have compassion for people with the disease of alcoholism and I hope he gets the help he needs. But he does not deserve a free pass for his appalling fit at the scene of his DUI arrest. He needs to accept the consequences of this ugly glimpse into his psyche. If people want to produce and support his films, hooray for Mel. But I’m through spending a nickel on any of his vanity projects. Of course the last Mel Gibson movie I really liked was “The Year of Living Dangerously” 24 years ago so it’s not a huge sacrifice.
Part of me hates myself for piling onto this train wreck, but I can’t stop myself. One reason for that is that as I was reading the reports of the Gibson episode last night, a comment came through on my previous post about summer camp. The commenter longed for the day when all Jews are wiped off the face of the earth along with our “sick f@cking Talmud and Torah.” He made other even more upsetting statements that I can't bring myself to repeat. I immediately deleted the comment and shrugged it off as the ravings of a lunatic, but the combination of that and Gibson’s outburst really made me think about how we need to pay closer attention to this type of intolerance. If only the moderate Germans had paid more heed to the ravings of the early Nazi party, long considered a joke in Germany, who knows how history might have been different. I’m NOT suggesting that Mel Gibson is a genocidal maniac or a neo-Nazi, I know he’s not, but I am saying that we need to LISTEN to such comments and not pretend they have no meaning at all.
Gibson can follow whatever Roman Catholic splinter group he likes, God bless religious freedom in this country, but his fundamentalist views have always made me uncomfortable even when they were coming from his sober, PR-conscious self. “There is no salvation for those outside the Church,” he once told an interviewer. “I believe it. Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She's a much better person than I am. Honestly. She's like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it's just not fair if she doesn't make it, she's better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.” If his beloved God-fearing wife is going to hell because she doesn’t share Mel’s and his father’s specific beliefs, I guess we Jews should start packing for our mass descent into the fiery depths. Should we start a few more wars before we leave?