Monday, August 07, 2006

Gibson, rapists & Communists...

I don't think I've allowed my political stances to play much of a part in my blog postings, but the recent Mel Gibson affair does raise some questions.

Without defending in any way Mel Gibson’s horrific and genuinely disgusting anti-Semitic remarks (I can only hope for the state of his own soul that the sober Gibson truly is as ashamed of his tirade as he says he is), I do have a couple of questions.

1) For those calling for him to basically be tossed out of the Hollywood community, how many of them voted for Roman Polanski to win an Oscar for The Pianist, and how many of them have no problem with John Landis or Victor Salva continuing to make movies? Surely molesting/raping minors and being responsible for the negligent deaths of an adult and two children is a worse moral offense than even the most appalling verbal tirade and/or deeply held racist beliefs.

2) I realize to an extent this is apples and oranges, but if it’s OK to argue that Gibson should be cast out of the community—in other words, kept/discouraged from making movies—for believing, as he obviously does at some (hopefully unconscious) level, that Jews are evil or whatever, what is the big problem with the film community shunning Communists back in the ‘50s? Being a Communist back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, the heyday of Stalin and Mao, was certainly at least as morally disgusting as being anti-Semitic, isn’t it?

If the general critique of the Blacklist is that one should never be ‘persecuted’ (in this case, lose his job) for his political beliefs, shouldn’t Gibson fall under that protective umbrella as well? At least Gibson has apologized (hopefully sincerely) for his sins. How many of the Hollywood Ten or their ilk (since the vast majority were in fact card-carrying Communists, let’s not get sidetracked into discussions of those who were innocent) have ever presented themselves as anything other than heroes and martyrs whiling dodging entirely the moral dimensions of their beliefs? Meanwhile, Elia Kazan and the like are still hated by many in the filmmaking community.

By the way, I'm sure that Gibson will continue to make movies, and that his career will basically continue on based on his box office popularity (meaning that the public does indeed, in the end, have the final word).


At 9:54 AM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

I don't want to appear to excuse Gibson's inexcusable behavior, but I have a feeling a lot of this is payback for the Passon.

Not the content of it, but the fact that Hollywood said it would never make any money, and then went out and made a huge amount.

Hollywood tends to be vindictive about that sort of thing. Gibson's behavior was repellent, but as you point out, many have done far worse and been welcomed back to the fold with open arms.

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

I can't really argue with that, and I think Gibson is being so beat up on because he's a politically safe target, in that he's what Hollywood would consider a conservative.

I'm sure many would consider my question about the blacklist tendacious (although still worthy of an answer, I think), but that still leaves the fact that you have more defenders of Polanski than of Gibson right now.

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Henry Brennan said...

That's exactly true, Ken. The entire concept of being tossed out of the "Hollywood Community" for comments made (and apologized for) while one is inebriated is ridiculous. I have always disagreed with Gibson and his comments were quite disgusting. However, actual crimes justify interferring with a person's livlihood (rape, etc.) - not opinions. No one is forcing anyone to pay to see a Mel Gibson film. As an entity, the "Hollywood Community" hasn't a leg to stand on when it comes to judging people based on ideas.

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Marty McKee said...

While not defending Victor Salva's actions, I would argue that he did his time. He was convicted of a crime (crimes?), sentenced to prison, and has paid his debt to society. Maybe he's a scumbag, maybe he's emotionally troubled, I don't know the man. But I think a guy who serves his time deserves a second chance. Landis...not so much. Maybe that's my own little hypocrisy, because Landis had his day in court and was acquitted. He clearly was guilty though (as were O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson and Robert Blake), according to the evidence I have seen, and that's enough for me.

Also, it is not at all true that most of the Hollywood filmmakers and personalities who were blacklisted during the Red Scare were card-carrying Communists. In fact, very few were, and many lives were ruined (and some literally destroyed) merely because of false accusations or assumptions that they were Communists. Many blacklistees were curious citizens who merely attended one or two Party meetings two decades previously! Hardly any kind of threat to the American way! After reading up on the subject some years back, I have been unable to find any way to excuse the Hollywood Red Scare as anything but shameful and sad.

To your larger point, I don't think Mel Gibson's career will suffer at all. Nobody was interested in seeing APOCALPYTO anyway, and the current publicity will do him more good than bad. I hate to say it, but most Americans I know are basically bigoted, and they won't give a damn whether Gibson hates Jews or not (which he clearly does).

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

Great note, Marty; sorry for the lack of a reply, I'm just crazy busy. I'll respond ASAP. Thanks for checking in, though.

At 1:52 PM, Anonymous BT said...

Some random thoughts:

The Polanski comparison is a good one, to an extent, however (and I am too young to remember this first-hand), my guess is that many who "support" Polanski now, would not have back when the repulsiveness(is that a word?) was fresh in peoples minds. Much as many who despised Elia Kazan back in the 50's were eventually able to forgive and forget, it's probably easier to look at Polanski's body of work, and forget what he did back in the early 70's.

I can't imagine this will stay with Gibson very long, and those that hate him now will mellow over time.

I also don't think his politics enter into so much as the fact that people who claimed "Passion" was anti-Semetic now feel vindicated by Gibson's actions.

This certainly isn't the end of the world, and while I am a liberal, I have never let the political leanings of Willis, Gibson or Schwarzenegger determine whether or not I will see a movie, nor would I automatically run out to see every Clooney or Martin Sheen movie. I don't suppose Gibson's actions would change that much.

That being said, if I were Jewish, and working in Hollywood, I can't imagine I would want to work with him.

At 2:07 PM, Anonymous al said...

For those calling for him to basically be tossed out of the Hollywood community, how many of them voted for Roman Polanski to win an Oscar for The Pianist, and how many of them have no problem with John Landis or Victor Salva continuing to make movies?"

Oh, I don't know, Ken - ALL of them? 75%? 6 & 7/8ths? If Salva or Landis start harping about how awful Gibson is, they'd be disgusting hypocrites. Have they? Hey, I know - let's take any lack of comparison between Gibson and those two guys, and say it shows LA as completely supportive of murderers and pedophiles. It's like all of Hollywood is guilty, and by association no less!

Geez, no wonder Joe McCarthy is your hero. Smearing is so damn easy, and fun. (Look, I just did it to you!)

(BTW, I was being sarcastic.)


At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find myself agreeing with John Derbyshire (
on this issue:
"What about in vino veritas? Aren’t we seeing the real Mel here? Isn’t the courteous, civilized, thoughtful Mel just a mask he wears to deceive us? Well, duh, of course it is! That’s what civilization means — masking the Old Adam with good habits, good manners, nice clothes, social graces, well-constructed sentences full of soft words. The Old Adam is still there underneath, as anyone with any self-knowledge at all knows perfectly well. Fill up Christopher Hitchens with liquor, or Jonah Goldberg, or Kathryn Lopez, or Deroy Murdock, or John Derbyshire, and see what you get. Chances are, you won’t like it half as much as you like the stuff we put out when we’re sober. Chances are not negligible you might hear something offensively insulting about Jews, or Gentiles, or blacks, or whites, or Brits, or papists.

The notion that we are not fully human until we have washed ourselves pure all the way through, pure and white as the Lamb, is, to my mind, highly obnoxious. I don’t know where it came from, or why it has taken such a grip on us in this age. I think it is a Protestant doctrine — Roman Catholics have always been much more sensible about human weakness (so I’m guessing that Mel finds it as obnoxious as I do, whatever his lawyers are telling him to say to the press). It certainly has some deep roots in American culture, from the Puritans and the old Philadelphia Quaker sects."

Seriously, why are we always so shocked to find that people are... well... sinners?

At 12:14 PM, Anonymous BT said...

Well anonymous, I don't want to get too overtly political, but while what Derbyshire sounds completely reasonable, I wonder what he and his fellow writers at the Corner felt about Bill Clinton's "sins"? For the record, I'm not talking so much about the perjury, which is a criminal offense, but rather Clintons affection for women not named Hillary. My guess is that the Derb wasn't so forgiving. But since I don't read the Corner very much, I could be wrong.

At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Prankster said...

Mel's not going to get thrown out of Hollywood. People never are for things like this. However, "Apocalypto" is almost a guaranteed bomb--I'm personally really interested in seeing it, but I've got to be in a tiny minority here--and it would be a shame if people started equating its failure with this anti-semitic stuff. I do hope Mel will continue to make movies, just like Landis, Salva and Polanski.

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Prankster said...

And, y'know, I'm sorry to once again don the mantle of Shrill Liberal Contrarian here, but your statement "Being a Communist back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, the heyday of Stalin and Mao, was certainly at least as morally disgusting as being anti-Semitic, isn’t it?" No, Ken, being a supporter of Stalin or Mao was morally disgusting. Being a communist wasn't. The two things are quite different, and were even at the time. Hell, it seems to me that even Stalin and Mao weren't exactly big fans of Mao and Stalin...respectively.

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