Remember that time Mel Gibson said that “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world”? Because I do. And you know, a lot of people do. Yes, even though he uttered that infamous anti-Semitic statement during a DUI arrest back in July 2006 (for which he was sentenced to probation and alcohol treatment for the incident), and it was over 10 years ago, that doesn’t mean it’s OK–or that suddenly, he gets a pass because he made some well-known films.
But that’s not the only reason why Gibson is a controversial figure. He was also charged with a misdemeanor for spousal battery of Oksana Grigorieva, his former girlfriend. For this incident, Gibson was sentenced to three years of probation and domestic violence counseling, as well as two days of community service. Violence of any kind, but especially violence against women, is not something to gloss over. And even if we don’t know exactly what happened between the two, the tapes that surfaced of Gibson’s racist, slut-shaming tirades against Grigorieva are chilling (Gawker made a compilation of every offensive thing he has said, but be warned—it contains really graphic, offensive language.)
Yet somehow, despite all of this, Gibson was able to make a Hollywood comeback–and even had his new film that he directed, “Hacksaw Ridge,” nominated for six Academy Awards. So last night, there he was in the front row, with the camera frequently on his smiling face. While it’s easy to ask that we separate the man from the art, it’s never really that simple. Making art a right, but being accepted willingly into a community is a privilege. Yes, awards for art should be based on the merit of the piece, but is it OK to ignore someone’s character entirely?
And yes, it is important to forgive someone for their misdeeds, especially if they profess regret over their actions, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. It’s like allowing your kid to punch their young sibling without some kind of punishment–of course you forgive your child, but that doesn’t mean they get an extra cookie (aka Oscar nominations) after dinner either. Gibson previously told Variety that he wasn’t sure why people aren’t “over” his comments already, calling it “unfair”–ignoring the fact that ownership is a real thing:
“Ten years have gone by, I’m feeling good. I’m sober, all of that kind of stuff, and for me it’s a dim thing in the past. But others bring it up, which kind of I find annoying, because I don’t understand why after 10 years it’s any kind of issue. Surely if I was really what they say I was, some kind of hater, there’d be evidence of actions somewhere. There never has been.”
He’s also never “discriminated” against anyone:
“I’ve never discriminated against anyone or done anything that sort of supports that reputation. And for one episode in the back of a police car on eight double tequilas to sort of dictate all the work, life’s work and beliefs and everything else that I have and maintain for my life is really unfair.”
I’m not the only one who feels a bit uncomfortable with Gibson’s unsavory opinions and destructive history, however. Many went to Twitter to air their frustrations over the double standard:
If a woman had a drunken, abusive episode like Mel Gibson had that time, would she be at the Oscars today? Asking for a friend.
— Lexi Alexander (@Lexialex) February 27, 2017
Mel Gibson is still terrible and I will not forget it #Oscars
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) February 27, 2017
The host of the Oscars, Jimmy Kimmel, clearly didn’t forget Gibson’s tumultuous past actions, using his comedy as a way to comment on the situation. For instance, Kimmel said before introducing actor Vince Vaughn on stage:
“Our next presenter is one of the stars of Hacksaw Ridge, which is nominated for Best Picture. It is the story of the conscientious objector who decides to work with Mel Gibson anyway. He is so money and after all these years he still doesn’t know it.”
He also said:
“There’s only one Braveheart in this room and he’s not going to unite us either, okay? Mel, you look great — I think the Scientology is working. I really do.”
I can’t say I’m entirely surprised Hollywood forgave Gibson, considering the lack of female directors, the pay gap between men and women, and the fact that dozens of male abusers’ careers never seem to falter despite atrocities (hello Woody Allen, Casey Affleck, and Roman Polanski, to name a few). Or you know, that it took over 60 women to accuse Bill Cosby of rape for anyone, Hollywood especially, to take it seriously. This lack of surprise doesn’t mean it’s right though, and doesn’t mean we should just accept the crappy precedent that’s been set either.
Prior to this, Gibson was last nominated for an Academy Award was in 1996 when he won Best Director and Best Picture for “Braveheart.”