What the Mel?

OK, everyone’s disseminating Mel Gibson’s hateful, hurtful, insane ranting over the last couple of days and I have to say, I don’t understand what happened to him. Is there anything that can explain this? This is a man who has been a terrific talent, both in acting and directing, carrying off films from Mad Max to Lethal Weapon to Braveheart to The Passion of the Christ.

There have been times he’s shown nothing short of a God-given brilliance. In specific, The Passion of the Christ and Braveheart are stunning works of beauty and art that floor me to this day. Committing to watching either one will cost you in time and tears. Even Apocalypto had its moments of brilliance.

Then he goes batsh*t insane and drinks himself into a drunk driving arrest where he goes on a crazy rant about anything hurtful he can say to anyone near him — which of course went public and showed a really dark, disturbing side of a man once thought to be genuinely humble and kind. While I didn’t give him a pass, I didn’t condemn him as harshly as others simply because well, I’ve been rip-roaring drunk. If you recorded me on one of the several occasions where I was drunk after getting dumped, you’d think I was the world’s worst misogynist since Mick Jagger.

Soon after the rant, Gibson declares himself freed of his drinking demons and he divorces his wife of decades, with no explanation other than he’s gotten another woman pregnant. Well, OK, I can kind of see where A + B = C on that one.

But now this. That recording everyone’s heard about or listened to directly, containing words and language that are stunning to hear from a seemingly well-educated man in 2010 who’s worked with people of different ethnicities many times in his career. He sounds like a crazy redneck arguing with his girlfriend in 1963.

I want to be 100% clear that I’m not defending Gibson in any way. The man is out of control, in need of an intervention and possibly medical help. He’s acting less lucid than a crank addict at this point.

I’m not advocating his career to be restored, his movies to be hits anymore or his life to be magically delicious once again. I’m just struggling to understand something that makes no sense, like Hollywood defending a known child rapist like Roman Polanski.

And what hurts in a really sad way is that this will give those critical of his work an opportunity to dismiss it not just now, but forever. People won’t even want to watch Braveheart anymore, because they’ll look at William Wallace and see Crazy Mel. It’s like watching the Naked Gun movies and seeing O.J. Simpson on screen; all you can think is, OMG, that guy got away with double homicide.

They’ll feel that their baseless criticisms of Passion of the Christ are now well-founded, and that was without a doubt one of the most moving works of faith that I’ve ever seen, if not the title holder.

To sidetrack, if you offer criticisms of Passion and have not seen it, then words fail me.

As a work of faith it takes your breath away; as a work of art, it clearly shows the divisive power of politics and in a lot of eerie ways shows the way things have always worked politically through time. The council that condemns Jesus (as it’s also written in the Gospels) is torn about what to do with him. The film takes great pains to show that there is no unanimity on whether or how to punish him for what he’s said and done – going so far as to show members of the council storming out in protest over what is about to happen. Further, the film goes on to show how painfully powerful the mob mentality really is. If you strip out the faith aspect, you still have a core to the film that asks how courageous you could be if the world was punishing and executing someone for nothing more than saying the wrong thing and you’d likely be attacked if you defended them?

I know that many people presupposed anti-Semitism, but it’s not there. Though of course I’ve read people’s arguments about the inherent misogyny of Star Wars, so what do I know? (Other than the fact that if you’re looking for something in everything, you’ll likely find it with enough creative thinking.)

Of course, to return to the point, Gibson’s descent into madness offers his critics the chance to point at him and say, “See? We knew we were right.” I know that’s a petty thing to bring up, but it is a part of the equation. Now, not only will being Mel Gibson be something you don’t want to be in public, being a fan of his work through the years will lead to thoughts that you support what he apparently says outside the artistic realm. (Though of course, no one accuses Polanski fans of being supporters of child rape, so maybe I’m wrong.)

But it still leaves me at a loss. Mel Gibson is a guy whom I admired to no end artistically. Before these last few years, I even thought I could respect him as a person. As a fellow human being, it pains me to see anyone spiral out of control like this. Further, it begs the question, where are his friends? Is anyone trying to talk sense into him? Is there something deeper and more radically wrong with him, that a heavy dose of lithium is needed?

The only thing left, I guess, is to hope and pray that whatever light there used to be in his soul returns. It’s sad, and more than a little pathetic, to see someone so talented reduce himself to something so base.

P.S. I do understand that for the pun I used for the title of this blog, I should be knee-capped in a dark alley while on my way to market. Sue me. I couldn’t help myself.