Why does Mel Gibson continue to have so many chances?
There was something almost painfully inevitable about it. This week the trades reported that the next John wick original series The continental, which will premiere on Starz, will feature none other than Mel Gibson. Yeah. This Mel Gibson. The guy who called Winona Ryder a “dodger in the oven”, the man who claimed in a drunken rant that “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world”, the obnoxious little jerk who said to his ex-partner and mother of a child of his children that “if you get raped by a pack of n ******, it will be your fault”. You know, that racist. He is back. Again. What did you say about canceling the crop?
Gibson never really left after the audio of his misogynist, anti-Semitic screed against a cop went viral. He was quickly sent on tour with an apology and a lot of noise was made about how Gibson was working “behind the scenes” to right his big mistakes. Big celebrities like Jodie Foster stood up for her (she then cast it in a movie, The Beaver, which underperformed commercially.) Gibson was back on top, but he just couldn’t stop being a dry rag. And so the cycle of apologies started all over again. It wasn’t who he really was, we were told. Don’t we all say things we don’t mean when we’re drunk? Of course, Gibson would have continued to use the term “oven-baked dodger” to describe the Jews, often opposite, and screenwriter Joe Eszter claimed that he kept uttering such insults while claiming that the Torah did reference to the sacrifice of Christian babies. But it’s water under the bridge, right? Simple echoes on the radar. That didn’t stop Gibson from securing several Oscar nominations in 2017. It hasn’t stopped him from working steadily since then.
Every time an announcement is made about a new project to play or to be directed by Gibson, we engage in another round of fury and bewilderment. How the hell does this keep happening? Surely even all bad faith opponents who complain about the evils of the cancellation culture can see that it may not be the best idea to keep giving money to a racist, misogynist and anti-Semite. reputed? These are not just rumors either. We have documentation! F ** ktons of that! None of this is secret and no one has really tried to hide it.
I wonder what kind of fans Gibson attracts (you know, other than deniers). Do they consider his nastiness as a sort of provocation, a daring act in the face of the “Communist Police”? Is he a “bad boy” to them, a thug who has enough charm to distract from insults? Is it easier to pretend that reality doesn’t exist because Gibson now seems to be mainly playing assholes and villains? The sad truth is, a lot of people just don’t care.
I really don’t think it’s anything more complicated than that. People don’t care that Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite. Rather, to be more precise, the people who make all the decisions in the industry don’t care. They can show how so forgiving they are or know the ‘real’ Gibson or appreciate the job rather than the man, but the end result is the same: a complete lack of empathy and a willingness to perpetuate bigotry by empowering. bullies. Lots of viewers and critics don’t care either. They can justify their apathy by saying that the problem just isn’t their problem, or they just want to consume the movies without having to think about the disgusting stuff next to it. Besides, isn’t the industry full of people who have said or done things as bad as Gibson? Roman Polanski still makes films and wins awards. Woody Allen has a whole army of defenders despite around 30 years of allegations made by his daughter being common knowledge. Bryan Singer is not in jail. This is how Hollywood works, isn’t it? Separate the art from the artist and then deal with the allegations later.
Harvey Weinstein is currently in prison. He is serving a 22-year sentence after being convicted of rape, and he will soon be retried in Los Angeles on separate charges of assault and rape. The fall of the famous producer was seen as a symbol of a paradigm shift not only in the film industry but in society in general. We will no longer tolerate the open secrecy of abuse. Change is coming. Except no. At least not as much as we desperately needed. Weinstein faced repercussions and that was it for Hollywood. What else should they do? I am convinced that far too many people have decided that Weinstein’s punishment was sufficient proof that they had solved the problem. Not only that, but it has become the new benchmark for abuse. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen abusive male celebrities being argued with the contemptuous insistence that what they did “wasn’t as bad as Weinstein”, so it’s okay. one way or another. Unless you’re a serial predator with three decades or more of violence under your belt, that’s fine. You can’t be that mean, can you?
This rule is obviously variable (hello Bryan Singer) but I think it helps explain some of Gibson’s defenses, even though his abuse took place many years before #MeToo took place. There is always a way that the most heinous misdeeds and cruelty can be euphemized as “not so bad”. For an industry that deals with telling our stories, the entertainment world is shockingly indifferent to emotion. Such things are only a nuisance for the real business of making money and keeping your friends in the upper echelons of power. Mel Gibson is perhaps the most grotesque example of this, but he’s just a symptom of the deeper rot at the heart of this problem. That doesn’t make its ubiquity any easier to manage, of course. The most at risk and the most marginalized are still forced to play the supporting role behind the money-making bully.
A friend of mine joked that the only way to really undo Mel Gibson would be to literally kill someone. Alas, they forgot the old joke: in Hollywood, if you kill someone, you don’t go to jail. You just paid a fine.
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