Every time Mel Gibson, publicly condemned anti-Semite, racist, and domestic abuser, somehow finds his way back into a mainstream movie, we pose the same question: Why?
And yet, here he is again, this time as Mark Wahlberg's charismatic, manly man father in Daddy's Home 2, which hits theaters November 10.
For my own sanity, I have not seen Daddy's Home 2. But from the trailer, I gather that it's supposed to be a charming, Christmas-themed sequel to a film about the wild shenanigans inherent to the step-dad/dad relationship, this time with grandparents! (Incidentally, this is amazingly similar to the plot of A Bad Moms Christmas.)
Except said trailer also features Mel Gibson leering at a group of young women on an escalator, mocking John Lithgow's character (Will Ferrell's dad) for showing emotion towards his son and grandchildren, and generally acting like he's the popped-collar-pea-coat-wearing version of Bad Grandpa. Insane adventures and mishaps surely ensue, and by the end of the movie, I would venture that all differences are set aside in the name of Christmas and family. In other words, it's another attempt by Hollywood to rehabilitate Mel Gibson's image.
When Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Gibson, was nominated for six Academy Awards last year — including Best Picture and Best Director, direct accolades for Gibson himself — it became clear that 11 years after he went on a drunken anti-Semitic rant, and only seven after he admitted to slapping his now ex-girlfriend and mother of his child, Oksana Grigorieva, "that one time" (she later filed for a restraining order), the Hollywood establishment was gearing up to forgive him.
In fact, that campaign started in 2014, when Robert Downey Jr., who credits Gibson with giving his career a second chance after multiple drug arrests and a stint in prison, gave an interview to Deadline calling on the public to forgive his friend. A couple of months earlier, also in Deadline, journalist Allison Hope Weiner wrote a defense of Gibson claiming a decade in acting purgatory was enough to expunge his sins.
It was wrong then. But now, in light of all the talk of cleaning house in the aftermath of the ever-growing mountain of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Brett Ratner, etc, etc, it's unforgivable.
Gibson is a man who has been caught making racist, homophobic, sexist, and anti-Semitic statements on multiple occasions. (Gawker, RIP, had an astounding list that's still worth checking out.) He plead "no contest" to misdemeanor battery of his ex-girlfriend — whom he also said deserved to be raped — and faced no jail time.
He is an active agent in a system perpetuating a culture of toxic masculinity in Hollywood. (Maybe it's no coincidence that Mark Wahlberg, star of Daddy's Home and the sequel, also executive produced the show most emblematic of this culture, Entourage.) He's not a victim, cast out of the Hollywood elite and left out in the cold despite his heart of gold, and white-toothed grin. He's a menace. Why are we letting him become "Bad Grandpa Mel"? Why do we keep giving him chance after chance?
Some will argue that Gibson's creative abilities are enough to warrant his absolution. "He makes good movies," they'll say, "let him make them." Listen, as a person who has watched The Patriot an embarrassing number of times, I can confidently say that's not enough. It's the same excuse dusted off and reused every time anyone brings up Woody Allen or Roman Polanski. At some point, the art can't stand on its own. It's not worth glorifying the men who hide behind their work while harming others.
I won't go on, because we've all heard this before, here, here, and also here. I look forward to the day these stories are no longer needed, but sadly, I fear that day is farther off than it should be. As we've seen over, and over again, Hollywood is far better at outrage than it is at actually taking action against powerful men.
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