Rachel Abramowitz, an entertainment commentator for the LA Times, is of two minds regarding Mel Gibson. On the one hand, Gibson seems like a really nice guy. He helps other Hollywood types get over their addictions—most recently Britney Spears, but also Robert Downey Jr. and Courtney Love. And he very generous to charities, giving out huge sums to UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center and Healing the Children without seeking any publicity for it. And even in Abramowitz’s experience, he has been “always friendly and unpretentious, a macho goofball.”
Until “The Passion of the Christ,” few in showbiz had a problem with Mel, the person. He wasn’t a nightmare on two legs, and he worked happily and closely with gays and Jews. It’s just when he vocalized what was putatively in his heart — when he went ideological — that his public perception problems began. …
I saw him in 2004 during the media meltdown of “The Passion of the Christ.” Huddled in a swank hotel room, Gibson had aged considerably and appeared harried and even paranoid, which is a strange quality for a gazillionaire mega-star. “I’ve been subjected to religious persecution, persecution as an artist, persecution as an American, persecution as a man,” he told me, which was a little hard to take, given that he didn’t have a concentration camp number on his wrist or hadn’t just spent five years in a labor camp in Siberia.
Still, he was remarkably warm and seemed genuinely surprised when I told him how much “The Passion of the Christ” upset me. As a Jew, it made me feel like I had a target on my back. “I’m sorry if it’s caused you to feel that way, because you’re a friend of mine and I love you,” he said sincerely. “It completely tears my heart out when I see you like that.”
So Abramowitz finds Gibson a “nightmare on two legs” because he made a movie of his version of the crucifixion — a version that is fits squarely with the Gospel account and mainstream historical Christianity. The persecution Gibson endured for this “crime” can’t even be termed ‘persecution’; since that word is reserved for victims of real suffering such as the Holocaust survivors. And it doesn’t help to say that you are sorry that you caused such pain. What matters is that you offended Jewish sensibilities.
Even for strongly identified Jews, to say that The Passion of Christ made her feel like she had a target on her back is a bit over the top. But we are so used to reading such individuals in the mainstream media that we hardly notice it when Abramowitz makes such a comment. And lest we forget, Charles Krauthammer termed The Passion of Christ a “blood libel” against Jews. And Leon Wieseltier of the New Republic wrote: “In its representation of its Jewish characters, The Passion of the Christ is without any doubt an anti-Semitic movie, and anybody who says otherwise knows nothing, or chooses to know nothing, about the visual history of anti-Semitism, in art and in film. What is so shocking about Gibson’s Jews is how unreconstructed they are in their stereotypical appearances and actions. These are not merely anti-Semitic images; these are classically anti-Semitic images.”
Abramowitz recounts the campaign to shun Gibson because of Passion as well as his comments on Jews after being arrested for DUI. Leading the campaign isAri Emanuel, described as a Hollywood “super agent” who called for“professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him, even if it means a sacrifice to their bottom line.”
Emanuel appears to have made good on his threat: According to Abramowitz, Gibson’s agent was forced to go with another talent agency.
Incidentally, Emanuel has many relatives in Israel, and his brother, CongressmanRahm Emanuel is a citizen of Israel and a Jewish patriot as well as a major force in the Democratic Party. His father was a member of Irgun, the Zionist terrorist group closely associated with the ethnonationalist Jabotinsky wing of Zionism, while his mother was a civil rights activist in the US.
Emanuel’s background thus epitomizes a very common Jewish stance: Deeply committed to an ethnonationalist vision of Israel and actively opposed to it anywhere else, especially on the part of whites.
The interesting thing is that despite the lingering hostility toward him, Gibson will soon be starring in his first film since 2002. (Passion, which he directed, came out in 2004, and his comments about Jews during his DUI arrest occurred in 2006.) The film is The Edge of Darkness, to be directed by Martin Campbell who most recently directed the James Bond film Casino Royale. The screenwriter is William Monahan who won an Oscar for writing The Departed, a film on Irish mobsters in Boston. And the movie is being bankrolled by independent financier Graham King.
What do these three have in common? Well, for one thing, they aren’t Jewish —and that may be the most important thing they have in common given the hostility toward Gibson that still simmers in Hollywood. Could it be that non-Jews are finally carving out an empire of their own in Tinsel Town? Certainly hiring Gibson is not the sort of thing that ingratiates one to the Hollywood power elite. But these guys don’t seem to be intimidated. Perhaps Gibson is assuming the persona of his Braveheart performance as William Wallace and his example is rubbing off on others. An omen of things to come?