For a town that values the public apology, it seems odd that Hollywood allowed Mel Gibson back into the fray without one.
I believe that people can change. I have to. If they couldn’t, we wouldn’t have former white-supremacists and reformed criminals. Someone’s whole life should not be defined by a bad thing they did in the past. They should face it, yes, be punished for it if need be, but there has to be room for change. Otherwise, what’s the point?
The key, however, to this acceptance of change is contrition. Mel Gibson is a great example of this. It was announced that the famously antisemitic Gibson will star as a wealthy patriarch of a Jewish family in a film called “Rothchild”—which, don’t worry, isn’t at all related to the famous, wealthy, Jewish family the Rothschilds, wink wink, nudge nudge.
This is, of course, years after he was going to take on the famous Jewish story of Judah Maccabee. That film, luckily, was consigned to the bin. David Sims for The Atlantic writes that according to the screenwriter for that film, “Gibson was publicly hateful of Jews and used several anti-Semitic epithets in their time working together,” which Gibson, of course, denies.
I believe that Gibson could, in fact, have changed. It’s possible that he has worked through his racist remarks, antisemitic outbursts and violence towards his ex-wife. He could have done the work—on the down low, in private—of making up to various people for his actions. He has not, however, as a very public figure, made any kind of statements or apologies to the public. At least none that didn’t blame his actions on the booze.
So, I don’t buy it. Although, Hollywood does, it seems. He’s back on his way up, where he feels he should be, and that’s that. But what kind of message does that send? That you can be a dick, never apologise, go off the grid for a bit, and then come back without issue? That’s not how it should work. Society is shifting and this needs to shift too.
Where’s my apology, Mel, as a Jewish person? Where’s your apology to the black community? Where’s your apology for your actions against women? What about your donations to battered women’s shelters, or historically black colleges, or Jewish hospitals? Where’s your contrition, Mel?
Acting is all about manufacturing real empathy for fictional people. It’s hard to take seriously an actor who can’t manage real empathy for real people.
As the changed person, you have to make amends and apologise in order for people to accept that you’ve changed. And you, as the changed person, have to accept that some people may not forgive you—and you can’t force them. Doing the work and bettering yourself is one thing, a big step, but you need to let people know that you realise that your prior behaviour was wrong. Otherwise, you’re not really doing anything.
All the men outed in the ongoing #MeToo revolution opined—along with fans of the famous ones—that their lives were “ruined”. “What can these men do,” they cried, mealy-mouthed, “that feminists would accept in order to show that they’ve changed?!”
Well, proffer a real apology, for one. Show some genuine contrition for your actions, accept that they were poor, whether the intent was there or not. Accept that what you did hurt someone. Don’t apologise because “someone was offended” or that you were “taken out of context”. Apologise that you hurt someone, that you take on board that your actions, no matter their intent, can have unintended consequences. Otherwise, you don’t really care, do you? You just want the illusion of caring.
I know Hollywood is all about selling illusions, but we’re aware that they’re illusions. You can’t go on pretending in real life. Mel Gibson has been in some great films. I genuinely enjoy his performances as an actor. The problem is, acting is all about manufacturing real empathy for fictional people, but it’s hard to take seriously an actor who can’t manage real empathy for real people.
So, until then, sod off.