I’ve always liked Mel Gibson and enjoyed his films, but starting back around the time of Braveheart or so, it seemed as if a dark streak evocative of personal turmoil within his own personality seemed to become more and more visible as a feature in his films.
The movie The Passion of the Christ was a film that I had awaited with great anticipation. The Stations of the Cross are my favorite Lenten Devotion. For me, one of the highlights of the liturgical year is the reading of the Passion narratives. Not only did I want to see it for my own faith and edification, but I felt that Gibson was being unfairly smeared and attacked by tin-eared critics and left-wing theologians who hadn’t even seen the film yet. I was resentful of the attacks being made on Gibson and the film by critics such as Frank Rich, Paula Fredriksen, Abe Foxman and the ADL, and Eugene Fisher.
I saw the film with one of my closest friends and his wife one night shortly after it opened. While there was much in the movie that I thought was well done and impressive, there were also some overtones in it that I found disturbing, especially in its obsessive focus on blood and on the demonic… Particularly with demonic visions with no supporting references in the scriptures. It was hard for the three of us to speak after the numbing experience of seeing the film. The silence over dinner was a bit awkward and embarrassing. I think that the film was not quite what each of us had expected. At least, speaking for myself, I’d say that his “vision” of the events of the passion story didn’t square up too well with mine.
As I wrote on the Friar’s blog, regarding my take on the film:
As for The Passion, I thought it was a fair-to-good movie that could have been a great movie, but missed the mark. I wouldn't go as far as to say that it was anti-semitic, but it went right up to the very edge. It darned near was. I thought the Jesus and Mary characters were wonderfully done, but I thought the brutality was over the top (and the Stations of the Cross happens to be my favorite devotion). Gibson seems to have a blood and brutality fetish that says more about him and his own demons than it does about Christ. It was a movie that I really wanted to like, but it left me quiet and very unsettled and troubled...
As everyone probably knows, Gibson was recently arrested for DUI in Malibu. The arresting officers reported that he had gone off on an anti-semitic rant, a rant that he has not denied and that he has apologized for profusely.
A Los Angeles Sheriff's Department report states that when Gibson was arrested early Friday morning for speeding with a .12 blood alcohol level, the 50-year-old actor lashed out at "f--ing Jews" and said that "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson had asked a sheriff's deputy, "Are you a Jew?"
After the story broke on Saturday, Gibson issued a statement apologizing for his behavior and for having "said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable," but none of those sentiments seem all that detached from the views of the actor's father.
A couple of points… It’s a good thing that he has apologized, and those who claim to apologize in sincerity should be given the opportunity to be heard out. Experience has shown me however, that being under the influence of alcohol does not so much induce anyone to say things that they don’t believe as much as it induces them to say things that they hold, but would not come right out and say otherwise. The other point is that although it is unfair to visit the sins of the father upon the son, Gibson’s father and his views do seem to have a powerful hold over Mel, and the son does seem reluctant to judge the sins of the father…
Hutton Gibson, 87, is a leading proponent of what is called Catholic traditionalism, a canon that rejects the changes to Catholicism made during the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965, which the elder Gibson once called ''a Masonic plot backed by the Jews.''
Hutton Gibson is also outspoken in his views that the Holocaust never happened, or at least not to the degree that historians maintain...
In one radio interview in 2004, Hutton Gibson said that "most of " what historians say about the Holocaust is "fiction." He claimed that 6 million Jews weren't killed during World War II. Rather, he said, they moved…
He said concentration camps were merely "work camps." Holocaust museums, he said, are "just a gimmick to collect money."
For Jews, he said, "it's all about control. They're after one world religion and one world government. That's why they've attacked the Catholic Church so strongly, to ultimately take control over it by their doctrine." He added that "to a Jew a Christian commits idolatry every time he looks at a crucifix and says a prayer. You know they're in control and they're going to get in control the way things are going. Because they get all of our people."
His son, he said, was happy about the controversy over "The Passion of the Christ." "Mel says he absolutely couldn't buy PR like this," Hutton Gibson said. He thanked the Anti Defamation League for ensuring that "everybody knows the line now: 'Let the blood be upon us and our children.'"
Whether Mel holds these views or not, who knows... I am no angel myself. I’m not here to attack Mel Gibson personally. See the price I paid for my own stupid and careless anti-semitic comments in the lengthy post below. What I am sick and tired of, however, is to see remarks like those of Hutton Gibson appearing with greater frequency on the web by a subset of self-described Catholic “traditionalists” who try to pass this garbage off as orthodoxy. This stuff makes me ill and it is a disgrace to our faith when someone tries to pass it off as Catholic “Truth”. I hate seeing petty bigotry masquerading as faith.
As for Gibson, I pray for him. Why he suffers so, I cannot know. It seems that he has a good wife and children, and has had nothing but success in his career. Who can say what causes us to suffer? I hope he can conquer whatever it is that torments him.
Paula Fredriksen had a long running battle going on with Mel Gibson over the Passion film. Sure to evoke strong emotions on either side, is her article on the film entitled The Pain Principle.
I think she was wounded in the fray too. The concluding paragraph, which explains much of her public silence over the last few years:
Finally, Gibson and his minions, I must note with gratitude, have certainly educated me. The hateful emails that I and my colleagues have received, the websites that this movie has spawned, and the angry displays of muscular piety prompted by this phase in the American culture wars have left me humbled and remorseful. With what conviction can I remain amazed by the literalism, the anger, and the defining power of hate in Islamic fundamentalism? With much less excuse, we have plenty of our own home-grown varieties right here.