Time to Forgive Mel Gibson?
Yesterday, journalist Allison Hope Weiner (writing for Deadline.com) asked an interesting question: Why won’t Hollywood forgive Mel Gibson?
Most of us remember Gibson’s rants during his split with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva in 2010, as they were heavily publicized. He sounded demented, and there was no plea from Gibson for the media to back off that was ever publicized — something I found a bit odd at the time, but dismissed considering the state of the media, as sometimes a Hollywood star’s denials are given but not publicized widely, depending on what other stories happen to be going on at the same time that might crowd out the denial(s).
And those weren’t the first of Gibson’s problems, as he made widely publicized anti-Semitic remarks once stopped by a Jewish policeman after driving while intoxicated back in 2006. Again, Gibson’s pleas for forgiveness were not widely covered, which in retrospect is very odd.
Consider, please, that Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears or any number of other Hollywood types have asked for forgiveness. This is something many celebrities do as a matter of course, often in as insincere of a manner as can be possibly imagined. And most of the time, the media is all over it.
Not necessarily the case back in 2006. But again, I dismissed the thought as irrelevant.
But to Ms. Weiner’s mind, that thought was and is very relevant. Which is why she’s made her plea to Hollywood that they should just forgive Mel Gibson and be done with it.
Ms. Weiner’s plea with regards to Mel Gibson is significant for more than one reason. She’d been harshly critical of him back in 2006 and again in 2010, and even now isn’t shy about saying so. His actions were reprehensible, she said so, and she hasn’t changed her mind about those actions.
What has changed, she says, is how she views Gibson’s actions now that she can put them into better context. Gibson is someone who’s helped many other actors, including Robert Downey, Jr., when they’ve been down and out, which is the sign of someone who cares. But he’s never wanted publicity for that, or most of his charitable pursuits, or most of the good things he’s done outside of the public eye, because as a moral person who believes in the Higher Power, you’re not supposed to do these things for any reason aside from wanting to glorify God/dess.
And it makes Ms. Weiner wonder about other Hollywood celebrities who’ve been vilified by the media for comments that seem off the wall or even flat-out wrong, too, such as Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise: Could it be that we are not getting the full picture about these people?
As Ms. Weiner says:
It might sound naïve after 20 years writing about celebrities, but my friendship with Gibson made me reconsider other celebrities whose public images became tarnished by the media’s rush to judge and marginalize the rich and famous. Whether it’s Gibson, Tom Cruise or Alec Baldwin, the descent from media darling to pariah can happen quickly after they do something dumb. I was part of that pack of journalists paid to pounce, so I know. I consider myself intelligent, someone who makes up her own mind, but just like readers do, I have accepted some reports at face value. The press said that based on Gibson’s statements, he was a homophobe, a misogynist, a bully, an ant-Semite, so he must be. What he was, I discovered, was an alcoholic whose first outburst was captured after he fell off the wagon. What the later release of audiotapes showed was a man with a frightening temper, capable of saying whatever will most offend the target of his anger.
Later, Ms. Weiner discusses what Gibson has done quietly and outside of the public eye to try to redeem himself from such things:
In his second apology on the anti-Semitic statements, Gibson promised to reach out to Jewish leaders. Gibson followed up by meeting with a wide variety of them. He gave me their names when I asked, but Gibson asked me not to publish them because he didn’t want them dragged into public controversy or worse, think he was using them. The meetings were not some photo op to him, he told me, but rather his desire to understand Judaism and personally apologize for the unkind things he said. He has learned much about the Jewish religion, befriending a number of Rabbis and attending his share of Shabbat dinners, Passover Seders and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur dinners. I believe that effort, along with our conversations, helped him understand why Jewish people reacted as they did to The Passion Of The Christ and why there was Jewish support for the Second Vatican Council. Gibson has quietly donated millions to charitable Jewish causes, in keeping with one of the highest forms of Tzedakah in the Jewish faith, giving when the recipient doesn’t know your identity.
In other words, Ms. Weiner is saying that Gibson basically has hurt himself in Hollywood because he’s not been the typical self-serving actor/director Hollywood generally sees. And because Gibson’s sense of responsibility is strong, but very quiet, Hollywood continues to feel good about its collective self because it continues to ostracize Gibson — one of the highest-grossing actors the world has ever seen, and one of its best directors and producers, too.
Her essay is an intriguing portrait of a difficult, yet vivid man. A sinner among sinners, perhaps, if you use the terminology of Christianity as seems appropriate during this time of Lent. Far from an altar boy, but much less than an unrepentant anti-Semite, Mel Gibson is a human being, with all the quirks and talents of any other human being.
But because Hollywood insists you must be perfect all the time — “fake it ’til you make it” — and Gibson is demonstrably not perfect, it’s OK to vilify him?
After reading Ms. Weiner’s essay, I came away with three thoughts:
- We are all human beings who make mistakes, sometimes bad ones.
- Most of us would not want those mistakes to be broadcast to millions upon millions of people due to the basis of some sort of international celebrity status.
- Why isn’t forgiveness viewed as essential any longer in contemporary American society?
Because make no mistake about it: if forgiveness was important in the United States, Mel Gibson would’ve been forgiven — or at least forgotten — long ago. And while Gibson didn’t publicly ask for forgiveness, he certainly did so privately.
And really, isn’t that more than enough?
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