Seasons change. Time passes by. Hollywood darlings ousted for being racist, anti-Semitic, and abusive to their girlfriends eventually make their comeback.
If you haven’t noticed yet, Mel Gibson, the Oscar-winning actor and director who was mostly blackballed in Hollywood after a series of horrifying anti-Semitic tirades, racist and abusive rants, and seeming admissions of domestic violence, is back. Sure, scandal-scarred actors make huge comebacks all the time—like Robert Downey Jr. or Rob Lowe (which, um, how?!)—but it doesn’t make the return of someone whose career was so publicly, brutally, and rightfully torpedoed any less ridiculous.
It's great timing to have Gibson making his way back into the heart of Hollywood at a moment when as a man who is just as bigoted and sexist is about to become president. And Hollywood, along with much of the media, has embraced him eagerly. His WWII movie Hacksaw Ridge was just nominated for a Golden Globe and won the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Action Movie. He was included in The Hollywood Reporter’s directors roundtable, and has been making the late night talk show circuit. (He also talked to Fusion's own Jorge Ramos.)
Any attempt to address his past transgressions has been met by Gibson with a mix of amnesia, oversimplification, and references to a single “nervous breakdown.” I mean, I sure as hell would not want to revisit that part of my life if I were him, and would love for mental health and substance abuse to play a bigger role in this conversation, but it seems unrealistic and yet somehow just like a successful white man to just carry on, completely ignoring the elephant in the room, and assuming that eventually everyone else will too. And they are!
His supporters claim that people “forgot he’s a great filmmaker,” relying on the all-too-common misconception that talent trumps human decency. Plus, there are tons of very talented filmmakers who work hard and somehow manage to not disparage multiple different groups. We don't need to give Mel Gibson room to flourish.
But crazier things have happened, I guess. Back in 2006, Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel penned an indignant letter calling for the movie industry to eject Gibson, claiming that “standing up against bigotry and racism is more important than money.” More specifically, he wrote:
At a time of escalating tensions in the world, the entertainment industry cannot idly stand by and allow Mel Gibson to get away with such tragically inflammatory statements…
People in the entertainment community, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him, even if it means a sacrifice to their bottom line.
Last month, Ari Emanuel met with Donald Trump—probably a smart move, but a far cry from his total and utter rejection of past bigotry. Everyone, it seems, is falling in line. I can’t wait for the inevitable “How To Get Mel Gibson’s Beard” articles.