Friday, August 20, 2021

Quote of the Day (Christopher Buckley, on the Start of the Summer When All Mel Broke Loose)

“MEL IS CONDEMNED BY THE PRESS. Mel is pulled over by a centurion for driving his chariot at great speed, and accused of having a blood-alcohol level exceeding that mandated by Tiberius. ‘Arrest me not,’ he telleth the centurion, ‘for I owneth Malibu. And thou lookest a bit Jewish unto me.’ Sayeth the centurion, ‘Tell it to the procurator.’”—American comic writer Christopher Buckley, “Shouts and Murmurs: Stations of the Mel," The New Yorker, Aug. 21, 2006

At this time 15 years ago, the film industry was still reeling from the fallout over Mel Gibson’s arrest for drunk driving in Malibu the prior month. (That's his mug shot in the accompanying photo.) 

The initial report by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department—that the actor-director had been detained “without incident”—turned out to be incorrect, with the tape leaked to celebrity Web site showing that Gibson tried to run away, then went into an anti-Semitic rant against the arresting officer.

Two years before, Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ had provoked accusations of reviving the ancient “blood libel” of Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus. His outburst during his arrest seemed to confirm all that his critics had been saying about this ambiguous, even problematic box office hit.

In the above paragraph, Christopher Buckley demonstrated his usual comic genius with his parody of the stations of the cross. If he had held his fire, he would have found even more material in the next few years, when audiotapes surfaced of Gibson telling his much younger girlfriend, Oksana Grigoriev, that she “deserved” to be beaten and that he’d “bury” her.

Four years ago, there was talk about Gibson’s “comeback,” given the Best Director Oscar nomination he received for Hacksaw Ridge, his first effort behind the camera since the disastrous 2006 film Apocalypto (which, Buckley waggishly suggested in his satire, Gibson had offered to rename Fiddler on the Roof II).

Fifteen years after his Malibu melee and PR mess, though, Gibson is unable to fully emerge from the shadow cast by his past anti-Semitic, racist, and homophobic comments, not to mention his drunken, violent behavior—a history not just viewed in a different light because of the #MeToo movement, but also by actress Winona Ryder’s claim (denied heatedly by Gibson) that he referred to her in the 1990s as an “oven-dodger” (a reference to the Holocaust).

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