I miss Mel Gibson. Well, I miss his work in the movies, anyway. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the action heroes he portrayed early in his career, like Mad Max and Lethal Weapon’s Martin Riggs, I’m particularly fond of his work as a director. Braveheart and Apocalypto are two of my favorite films, and The Passion of the Christ was a groundbreaking, gutsy movie on several fronts.
But as we all know, Gibson was involved in some self-destructive behavior a few years ago. In addition to substance abuse problems, he was caught on tape making sexist, anti-Semitic, and later racist remarks that pretty much derailed his career. His talent agency dropped him, he’s been thoroughly shunned by his peers, and he’s been unable to find investors for his projects. He’s largely become a ghost in Hollywood, turning up only in a couple of obscure, wince-worthy acting roles since then.
The film industry’s banishment of Mel Gibson has been so crippling that longtime friend, Robert Downey Jr., felt compelled to speak out about it at the 25th American Cinematheque Awards, back in late 2011. Downey pled with his peers to forgive Gibson of his “trespasses,” and let him back into their good graces so he can continue to contribute to their “collective art” without shame.
Little has happened in response. Mel is still on the outs, and it looks like he’s going to stay right there.
It makes you wonder exactly which offenses are forgivable to the Hollywood elite.
As Robert Downey Jr. himself has demonstrated, substance abuse is indeed forgivable. He’s had a longer history of drug and alcohol issues than just about anyone in the industry, and that’s really saying something! Yet, after every stint in jail or rehab, he was always welcomed back to Hollywood with open arms.
We’ve seen with director Roman Polanski that the act of rape is definitely forgivable. How many big names in the industry have regularly called for his legal pardon over the years? In 2010, objections from the cast and crew of The Hangover: Part II successfully prevented Mel Gibson from having a small part in the film. Yet, the cast and crew voiced no such objections to letting convicted rapist Mike Tyson appear on camera. So yeah… rape certainly isn’t a dis-qualifier in Hollywood.
Hanging out with oppressive dictators and leaders of terror states, like Sean Penn and Danny Glover like to do on occasion, certainly isn’t frowned upon. In fact, it’s outright admired by many in Hollywood.
Cheating on your spouse, being a sexist, or being a terrible parent to your kids? Definitely forgivable… and need I really provide examples of this in Hollywood?
Angry, vulgarity-laced tantrums that degrade others? Nah. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are still on top of their games in Hollywood. In the case of Alec Baldwin, even a vicious rant directed at his 11-year-old daughter didn’t sink him.
How about spewing out hateful, homophobic comments? Hollywood’s big on gay rights, after all. Well, as Alec Baldwin (again) has recently proven, they’re pretty forgiving of that as well. It’s somewhat surreal to turn on the television and listen to his peers rationalize the things he said, simply because he supports gay marriage.
Racist rants can’t possibly be forgiven, can they? Just look at Seinfeld’s Michael Richards. The racist rhetoric he threw around at a comedy club a few years back effectively ended his career. Or did it? Am I the only one who remembers that his career was dead long before that incident ever took place? And if Hollywood shuns those who throw around racial epithets, why didn’t it turn its back on Charlie Sheen back in 2008 and again in 2010 when he was caught blurting out the ‘n’ word during angry tirades? Sheen continued to hold a successful Hollywood job throughout that time, and really didn’t take any heat from his peers. Only when he physically stopped showing up to work on the set of Two And a Half Men in 2011 did his career take a hit.
Obviously then, the anti-Semitic remarks that Gibson made had to be the clincher. The line that one simply can’t cross in Hollywood must be religious bigotry. Right? Wrong. You can write an entire book on the religious bigotry that comes out of Hollywood. Usually it’s directed at Christians, but it also comes at the expense of the Jews. After all, no one turned their back on Oliver Stone after he talked about the “Jewish domination of the media” in 2010, or Seth MacFarlane after he made some off-color jokes about Jews at last year’s Oscars. Sure, MacFarlane took a little heat initially, but that’s long been forgiven and forgotten.
So why hasn’t Hollywood – a town that clearly seems ready to forgive and forget just about any offense – opened their doors back up to a proven talent and a proven commodity like Mel Gibson?
I would contend that it’s because of the one unforgivable violation in Hollywood that I failed to mention: Being an unapologetic, Christian conservative in a land full of social liberals.
Now don’t get me wrong… I think Gibson did and said some pretty bad things, and I’m certainly not making excuses for any of them. I honestly wouldn’t blame an industry for wanting to wash their hands of him. But this is Hollywood – the land of “anything goes.” They love a good comeback story more than just about anyone… Just not in the case of a Christian conservative.
If you’re a Christian conservative – especially one who had the gall to create an ultra-successful, biblical film actually based on the Bible, there is no redemption in Hollywood. If you fall from grace, they’ll make sure there won’t be a resurrection. You just don’t receive the same get-out-of-jail-free card to screw up, like the ones that liberals in Tinseltown freely grant to each other.
Conservatives have long had a hard time navigating through the thick, liberal bubble that tightly encases the entertainment industry. That bubble of intolerance has damaged a number of careers, and it’s forced a lot of talented people to keep their opinions and beliefs under wraps.
In the end, even though he’s undoubtedly a man with deep flaws, Gibson’s greatest sin might just be that he isn’t a liberal. Because if he were a liberal (and an outspoken one at that), does anyone truly believe he wouldn’t be receiving lifetime achievement awards right about now?