In case you missed the print edition, here’s my most recent column. It’s pretty brilliant, though not quite as brilliant as the time I was doing Jager shots with Elton John and he improv-ed a version of Candle in the Wind that was all about me.
It seems to me you live your life like a Dexter in the wind. Never knowing what to turn to when the sitcom ends.
Now that was brilliant. This is good too.
In the wake of Mel Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitic tirade, I plan to do my part to not see his movies (which I suppose I have been doing for awhile, but without any ideology governing the decision). But must I also change my view of the impossibly kick ass Braveheart? Can I rewatch it if I already own it?
Can I request a moment of silence for the Scottish people? Imagine waking up one day to discover that the man who made the movie that became the pulsating heart of your national psyche is an alcoholic anti-Semitic fruitjob who, we have to conclude in retrospect, was interested less in the freedom-seeking nobility of the Scottish soul than he was in a kind of vulgar, pan-Caucasian hooligan primitivism.
It’s sort of like at the end of Sixth Sense , when we discovered that Bruce Willis was dead, we had to go back and reconsider the whole movie (or we would have had to do that if Gibson-enabler M. Night Shyamalan hadn’t done it for us with one of the most gratuitous flashback-reconsideration montages in film history).
When I saw Lethal Weapon back when we all thought Mel Gibson was a typical celebrity with a messiah complex, Gibson’s character, Martin Riggs, was just a slightly demented but basically loveable film cop. He wasn’t gonna let technicalities and pencil-necked bureaucrats get in the way of getting the bad guy, but he believed in the idea of justice, and he had a wise black man around to balance his vengeance-seeking with compassion. Post-"the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,"and "sugar tits," however, I’m starting to think that there was something unpleasant about Sgt. Riggs’ perpetual quest to endanger his loved ones so that he could then seek bloody revenge against the villains who took the bait.
Similarly, I used to think that The Passion of the Christ was just a generic pre-Vatican II, Opus Dei, quasi-fascist, whips-and-chains presentation of gladiatorial Christianity that relied heavily but not exclusively on ancient anti-Semitic themes and imagery. Now, though, I’m forced to think that it was really much more worrisome than that. And that Gibson was probably drunk while making the movie. And gay.
Mad Max + Lethal Weapon + Bird on a Wire + Maverick + Braveheart + playing footsie with Holocaust deniers + Ransom + Conspiracy Theory + Payback + The Patriot + Signs + Jesus + Apocalypto = …well, box office gold, apparently. More interestingly, it gives the spokespeople for the Gibson Anti-Defamation League–Hugh Hewitt, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Medved–another opportunity to engage in the perverse rhetorical gymnastics that signify their unconscious allegiance to the same authoritarian tendencies that have proven such a reliable profit generator for Gibson for so long. And it gives the Gibsonites something to get defensive about, which is a useful reminder of how eager they are to get defensive about everything and anything because, after all, Gibson himself has come out and apologized extravagantly and promised to do a whistle-stop truth and reconciliation tour of every one of the 8,000 self-proclaimed leaders of the American Jewish community who’s felt it necessary to hold a press conference in response to Gibson’s inebriated, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, self-destructive work of performance art.
I don’t want to sound too glib about Gibson–well, I want to sound a little bit too glib–but one can understand this kind of thing in different ways. Maybe it’s a sign that anti-Semitism is on the rise in America, or maybe it’s a sign that the soul-ugly people, who seemed to be feeling good enough a few years ago to keep their ugly thoughts under control in public, are losing their shit. I think it’s the latter. I think that the right-wing demagogues can sense that the dope they’ve been peddling has helped put this country in a bad, bad way, and I think they feel anxious and are lashing out. So, yeah, Mel needs to apologize, but I take this incident as weakness, not strength.
So the answer is yes, you can watch Braveheart so long as you promise not to feel good about it until such time as the 71 sages of the Sanhedrin gather in the Hall of Hewn Stones and pronounce Gibson forgiven for his offenses against the Jewish people. Alternatively, you can watch all of his movies guilt-free this November when Abe Foxman, Steven Spielberg and the rabbis who are exploiting Madonna’s search for meaning in the universe to sell lots of red string bracelets release Gibson Jewified , a DVD box set of all of Gibson’s movies with new endings tacked on where a grizzled old Gibson stands in an Israeli military cemetery, looking out over a field of Star of David tombstones, and wonders out loud whether his three decades spent raising money for Israel and for Holocaust awareness has repaid his debt to the Jews.