Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Is Mel Gibson A Wimp?

I don't have much of an opinion of Mel Gibson's Passion. That movie might be misunderstood masterpiece or filthy piece of anti-Semitic propaganda, but until I see it for myself, I can only guess.

However, I do have an opinion on Mel Gibson doing this film. From everything I have read, his motives were deeply personal. He went into this project knowing that he couldn't expect hundreds of millions at the box-office, Academy Awards or even the consolation in the form of snobbish critics. Instead of that, the controversy and risk of being branded anti-Semite were were much likelier prospect. But Gibson nevertheless went with this project, showing the courage you rarely see among anyone living in Tinseltown these days.

Generally speaking, whoever put artistic integrity over commercial, political or "PC" considerations, is a hero of mine. Mel Gibson might be poor actor, his directorial skills might be on Ed Wood levels, and this movie might indeed be 21st Century's equivalent of Jew Süs, but at least Passion seems more honest, more genuine and more respect-worthy than 95 % of celluloid excrement coming from Hollywood.

Again, I must stress that the "respect-worthy" doesn't apply to the ideas expressed in the film. If the film is indeed as anti-Semitic as detractors claim, I would do a hatchet job on it while writing review.

However, it seems that Mel Gibson would cease to be hero of mine. Under intense pressure, he caved in and announced that he would alter Passion by adding "sympathetic Jewish characters".

At first I thought this was a joke, much like that story about Lucas adding Asian and Native American characters to Attack of the Clones (following criticism over racist stereotyping in portrayal of Jar Jar Binks). But it wasn't.

So, Mel Gibson obviously thought that the risk of becoming Hollywood's best-known anti-Semite (and, subsequently, Hollywood's best-known pariah) is too much. All those who crucified his film (after being conspicuously silent during Gibson's chauvinist portrayals of English in Braveheart and Patriot) have won.

I, on the other hand, think that this is "lose-lose" situation for everyone.

First of all, Mel Gibson proved to be a wimp. He sacrificed his artistic integrity and improved his future career prospects in Hollywood. However, it is too late for him to brush away stigma of anti-Semitism from himself; the mere fact that he had to make alterations is enough for brand him for good.

Those whose vigilance led to alterations also have few reasons to celebrate. If let to its own devices, Passion would, in most likelihood, be remembered as curiosity, watched only by couple of art-crowd, snobs and insignificant fraction of Mel Gibson's die-hard fans. It is very unlikely that the movie, whether in its present or altered form, would be shown in Croatian cinemas, for example (nor would I be able to rent it in video stores). But this affair only gave ammunition to all those anti-Semites who accuse Jews of having "too much influence in Hollywood".


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