Q: What’s In Mel’s Heart? A: Tequila!

So far the writers of blogging.la have taken the high road and avoided chiming on the Mel Gibson controversy.

I’m kidding – as far as I know, we have no mandated high road. As a matter of fact, I doubt that many other writers here will agree with me on this. (and since I bet most readers are sick of this story’s oversatuation, I’ll save most of it for after the jump).

In short, I think the public flogging of Mel Gibson, particularly the calls to ostracize him from Hollywood, needs to stop, for a few different reasons.

To begin, agent Ari Emmanuel and columnist Arianna Huffington make the allegation that because of what he said while drunk, Mel’s exposed what “is really in his heart”. I didn’t know Emmanuel and Huffington were either cardiologists or proponents of the thought police.

In fact, the arresting officer in the case, Deputy James Mee puts Gibsons anti-Semitic slurs into perspective, in spite of being both Jewish and on the receiving end:

“That stuff is booze talking,” the deputy said in an interview outside his home. “There’s two things that booze does. It amplifies your basic personality. If you are a laid-back kind of person, just an easy going kind of person, booze is going to amplify that and you’ll be just sitting around going how it’s a wonderful day.

“But, if you are high-strung person, it’s going to amplify that and all the bad things are going to come out.”

Gibson deserves a lashing no doubt, but he’s a powerful filmmaker who could very well emerge from this wreck with an important story to tell. While others seem to think that this event should keep him from producing a miniseries about the Holocaust, I think that he was planning on tackling such a story indicates a compassion and willingness to perhaps confront some of his prejudices instilled by his father, well known as a Holocaust denier. Pure speculation on my part, but if people can assume that he’s an anti-semite based on some drunken words, I can make my assessment based on his deliberate actions.

The LAists Tony Pierce believes that “Mel’s toast”, but I think a commenter on one of his posts makes a better point:

It seems that Mel has the misfortune of choosing the wrong race to be racists against. It’s also an industry which has in the past 30 years had approximately 100,000 Arab villains and zero non-animated Arab heroes.

This is in many ways neither here nor there, but shouldn’t we condemn prejudice across the board, and not make it more or less acceptable depending on who’s on the receiving end? With that in mind, can’t anyone take a step back for a moment and remember the kneejerk reactions people had towards Muslims or anyone who they thought looked or sounded Middle Eastern after 9/11? Now add a few drinks at Moonshadows and a quarter bottle of tequila to the mix.

We also have a entertainment industry that gleefully uses some artists past criminal and gang affiliations as marketing tools and continues to employ convicted child molestors. Yet of all these things, Ari Emmanuel decides to call for an industrywide boycott of Mel Gibson saying rotten things while under the influence.

My views also echo those of The Gate’s W. Andrew Powell:

I personally think that Mel’s biggest mistake was the drunk driving, something that could have actually killed someone, rather than comments he made that I’m not sure he seriously meant. His mistake is still monumental, and the comments are wrong no matter what state he was in, but I have a hard time taking them seriously in the face of so many real issues out there today that are far more threatening, and obviously, far more legitimate.

I know my view is a bit simplistic, but Gibsons drunken rant isn’t hurting anyone besides himself. And what good will “this lesson” do? Will it teach Mel to love the Jews? Will it teach anyone about tolerance? Certainly, it may make Mel think twice before falling off the wagon again.

The real lesson would be learned by engaging Gibson to explain why he made such ridiculous comments, which may, in turn, help with a national dialogue as to why many of us have our own inner prejudices.

9 thoughts on “Q: What’s In Mel’s Heart? A: Tequila!”

  1. I tend to be in the “in vino veritas” camp. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, it doesn’t change your personality. You might say things you wouldn’t say if you weren’t drunk, but you won’t think things that you wouldn’t think if you weren’t drunk. So my take is that what Mel said is what Mel thinks, but under normal circumstances, he’s too straight to say it.

  2. People can think what they want – its their actions that matter. We shouldn’t be punishing someone for what we believe they might be thinking. Frankly, its creepy. Are we now living the Minority Report?

  3. he’s only going to be punished (well, as much as anyone in hollywood actually gets punished for breaking laws) for what he did – that is driving drunk.

    he absolutely has the right to think whatever he wants about whomever he wants.

    then again, people also have a right to disagree, refuse to cast him, back his projects, invite him to awards ceremonies or dinner, or fork over money to watch him/his work again. it’s not like free speech gives you a consequence free existance for whatever you want to think or say.

    boozing up does let your walls down – if that’s how he rails (and many have railed at cops for being a-holes or whatever) at someone arresting him, I think it’s pretty revealing. I already dislike him and his new work because I believe he allows for easy negative characterizations of catholics. This is just more fuel to that fire.

    so i agree with you, david. but i disagree with what i believe is the way many people look at your distinction between thought and action. just because mel isn’t out beating up jewish people doesn’t mean he gets a pass for being a complete tool.

  4. While ‘the Mel show’ is a train wreck I never want to miss, his words are certainly “dispicable”. With that in mind, alcoholism is an addiction, a disease. And just like addiction to drugs or even sex the addict often says or does things that they deeply regret later. So the whole “lowering of inhibitions” argument doesn’t stand up all of the time. But I’m not Mel’s doctor so I have no idea what if he is an addict or just a wacko. Personally, in the heat of anger, I’ve said many things that I regret and were hurtful to people. We all have.

    As for the Hollywood boycot…c’mon! We all know that the bottom line is that this industry is all about money and sooner or later someone will work with him because of the box office numbers he can bring in.

    If the industry wants to do something, maybe they should work to bring attention to what is happening right now in Israel and Lebannon instead of pouncing on a rogue director/producer who made a ton of cash on a controversial movie and made a grave mistake: getting behind the wheel while intoxicated and putting the lives of LA and Malibu residents at risk.

  5. This is all absurd. The world is full of anti-Semites, but as far as I know, it’s not illegal to be a fucking ignorant ass. His right to drunkenly spew as much idiotic drivel as his black little heart desires is protected by the first amendment. His right to drive drunk, however, is not.

    Dude may be a dick, but that’s not punishable by law, nor is it really legally anyone’s business (unless it can be proven that his anti-Semitism has caused him to discriminate in hiring or firing practices–but since no one’s accused him of that before this, it may not be legal to go looking into it simply because he’s now spewing anti-Semite comments while loaded).

    Many people say evil, awful, horrible things when they’re wasted, and while YES, people are responsible for the shit they say and do when drunk, talking shit ain’t illegal.

    It’s just called being a jerk.

    If it were some nobody who got pulled over for drunk driving and who slurred all sorts of racist bullshit, you wouldn’t see it splashed all over the evening news.

  6. With all due respect, I say the following:

    First, what Mel said is not a crime, and I don’t know of any serious person who is suggesting that he be punished by the state for his words.

    Second, this is not a time to be simplistic. Mel *is* hurting others, in that many, many other people listen to him and respect what he says. Think of the people who have an almost blind respect for Mr. Gibson because of his “The Passion Of The Christ,” who are reading that he said “F*****g Jews… The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.”. A number of these people are going to swallow that hogwash whole, no need for a spoonful of sugar. This is not a legal crime, but morally, it is a tragedy that will fuel the ignorant bullying of thousands of school children, that will fuel the ignoble vandalism of noble houses of worship. Anti-Semitism is real and can only be countered by having people stand up and say “enough.”

    And I would say the same exact thing if Mr. Gibson had been referring to Arabs or African-Americans or Asians or Mexicans or Samoans or whomever. Making light of hate speech is dangerous business.

  7. Stu:
    All valid points, but I don’t think anyone is “making light” of hate speech. Regardless, there’s a large difference between a person conciously issuing hate speech, and a 50 year old drunk man spewing offensive comments. This isn’t an issue of free speech, its an issue of common sense – if we’re going to get upset and monitor what people say while drunk we’re taking a huge step back.

  8. I appreciate what you are saying.

    When I say “Making light” I mean that people are suggesting we blow it off. Now, if a non-celebrity had been the name in the police report, I would indeed blow it off. It happens all the time and what can you do. But this guy is a white, male, movie celebrity. The Anti-Semitic folks in this world are going to stick his quote in their pamphlets, and package it as another call to arms.

    If you need evidence, go to http://www.resist.com/ (this is a homepage for the White Aryan Resistance) and listen to the August 1st edition of the WAR Radio Show, hosted by Tom Metzger, where Mel’s remarks are featured. This wasn’t just any 50 year-old drunk man, this was a guy who is more popular than George W. Bush.

    I’m not suggesting we monitor what people say while drunk. I’m suggesting that we hold accountable those influential members of society who say things that support the seriously hurtful nature of some of its citizens. Whether drunk or not, it is illegal to yell Fire in a crowded movie house.

    I railed against Salva, I railed against Polanski. Now it is time to rail against Gibson.

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