To celebrate July 4th, the Weeklings Editorial Board brings you an in-depth look at the least acceptable among us. Although only living figures were considered, space was limited and deliberations were intense. In the end, there were fifteen good men (and women, but mostly men) chosen. God bless this great land.
When I asked you to list the worst people in America, you penciled in Mel Gibson, because you lack imagination (you admitted this once.) But until you’ve skewered a cavalry on sharpened saplings or shattered a man’s skull with a tomahawk from a hundred paces or stolen a tanker of gas from a gang of punks in hockey masks, until you’ve rescued a friend from a toilet packed with explosives or ridden your horse into the lonely bedchamber of an enemy and smashed in his pate with a cudgel, until you’ve led your troops at a gallop onto the field of battle or hacked off arms and legs or bashed bloody dents in helmets or gored holes in breastplates or consumed the English with fireballs from your eyes and bolts of lightning from your arse—or any of the other wondrous things Mel Gibson has done—you have no right to judge.
To support your opinion you provided links to all the seemingly racist, homophobic, misogynistic things he’s said, on gays, blacks, Jews, immigrants and women.
Sure, it all sounds pretty bad, out of context.
HE IS MISUNDERSTOOD
With the likes of Rumsfeld and Cheney on the list, I can’t argue that Gibson is the worst American1 out there, or even one of the worst. He hasn’t ordered the deaths of anybody that I know of. He hasn’t even shot anybody in the face.
You went on to suggest that his public persona mirrors the worst elements of the American character, that Mel Gibson as symbol—a carefully constructed image of heroism and virtue undermined by a poorly concealed ugliness—is America. Not as we like to see ourselves, but as we truly are—primitive, bigoted, enthralled by superstitions, waving our flags in the blind certainty that we are the greatest race of beings that ever erected a colonnade or scribbled guidelines on a spool of parchment.
But you were wrong.
On screen, as in real life, Gibson is an uncomplicated, unaffected man’s man who revels in the simple pleasures of home and hearth. He loves the kids, the wife, the dog. He’s a pacifist—measured, reflective, wise—reluctant to engage in conflict where diplomacy will suffice.
But his simple life is always compromised. Somebody rapes his wife, slices his son’s throat, or shoots his daughter in the head. Only when the things he loves are threatened or destroyed does he give way to righteous frenzy. Mustering a long-dormant talent for murder, he liquidates his enemies with a merciless resolve.
When his son is kidnapped, he takes revenge. When a man slices his wife’s throat, he takes revenge. When his activist daughter is shot and dies in his arms, he takes revenge. When his wife and best friend shoot him, he takes revenge. When degenerate bikers incinerate his best friend and run down his wife and baby, he takes revenge. When aggressive tabloid photographers instigate a car crash, injuring his wife and sending his son into a coma, he takes revenge.
But bloodlust is never what he wanted.
In the end, the battle won, the evil purged, the balance restored, Mel reverts to the decent man—amiably goofy, eating cans of dog food with feral children, throwing stones at his friend’s heads with a studied accuracy.
You suggest that the endless iterations of this routine—pacifism to victimization to revenge—reveal something about The West, about America. That it is of primary importance that we appear innocent, whether we are or not. Unwilling to escalate. Dragged into conflict. You suggest that the problem is not that we have such an abundance of revenge fantasies, but that we feel the need to whitewash them, to distance ourselves from our submerged barbarism. You suggest that every other characteristic Gibson prejudice and hatred has its analogue in the American psyche as well.
You’re beginning to annoy me.
In order to dispel these misapprehensions, in order to—as Saint John of Assisi suggested—bring light where once was darkness, I have prepared this reference:
A HANDY GUIDE TO THE CORRECT INTERPRETATION OF MEL GIBSON QUOTES
THE QUOTE: From a 1991 interview published in Spanish newspaper El Pais: “They take it up the ass. [laughs, stands up, bends over, points to his anus] This is only for taking a shit.”
POPULAR INTERPRETATION: Mel Gibson is a repressed homophobic jerk.
It’s no wonder it took so long to legalize gay marriage. Even in the slightly more permissive climate of post-Supreme-Court-ruling America, homophobia is rampant. Homosexuality has long been an affront to the American ideal of artless masculinity. The macho posturing, the bullying, the institutionalized discrimination, the allegations of sin, the murders of innocents like Matthew Shepard.
It wasn’t very long ago that homosexuality was monitored by The House Un-American Activities Committee. The Lavender Scare of the 1950’s saw the weeding out and persecution of homosexuals, and suspected homosexuals, as “sexual perverts” because “they were both unable to function within a family unit and presented the potential to poison the social body.”2
WHAT MEL REALLY MEANT: You only want to sit in the pub and have a lager, in a flannel, surrounded by lumberjacks, watching an illegal bare-knuckles boxing match, but there’s all these limp-wristed types trying to fuck you, because you’re fucking Mel Gibson, the paragon of masculinity.
Mel Gibson in Hollywood, surrounded by people he cannot understand, in this case the gays, is roughly analogous to the relationship between the Americans and the French. Why are they so insistent on culture? There’s something deeply suspicious about it all, their obsession with fragrances, and Fashion Week, and all that haute cuisine, perverted snails and mussels, root fungi and forcibly engorged goose livers. You only want to slaughter a few guys who have it coming, but here come the homosexuals, limbering their wrists with huile d’olive, waving their hands around like butterflies, using their anuses for something other than taking a shit. Everywhere a boutique, and you only want the Yukon Territory to yourself, and a pack of subservient wolves—still wild, but they recognize in you a kindred masculinity. You only want to fight bears with a Bowie knife, far from the salons, the lace, the cloying scent of society’s degeneration, to die like a man, like Ernest Hemingway, like Mel open-faced honest hard-drinking Gibson, as open and natural and heterosexual as the broad expanses of the Midwestern plains.
THE QUOTE: From a 2010 answering machine message to ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva: “You’re an embarrassment to me. You look like a fucking bitch in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n—–s, it will be your fault.”
POPULAR INTERPRETATION: Mel Gibson is a racist son of a bitch.
He reveals a submerged fear common to white America, the racist proposition that black men are brutes who can’t control their lustful tendencies, common at least since the Europeans first set sail, hot for things to steal.
He is “. . . half child, half animal, the sport of impulse, whim, and conceit . . . a being who, left to his will, roams at night and sleeps in the day, whose speech knows no word of love, whose passions, once aroused, are as the fury of the tiger . . .” –excerpt from The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan by Thomas F. Dixon Jr., 1905.
“[Southerners] . . . all had, at base, the same stereotyped image of the Negro as an inexhaustible sex-machine with oversized genitals . . .” –excerpt from Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, 1961.
It’s the same rationale used to justify caging Africans in human zoos in the nineteenth century, the same paranoia that lead to countless lynchings.
The American night is crawling with vigilantes avenging themselves on imaginary foes. The racist militiamen, the church shooters, the church burners, the self-imagined revolutionaries of the self-delegated oppressed white minority. They perceive a flawed world in need of redemption, and lash out Mel Gibson style, like William Wallace lashing out against England—the people that took control of his country, that raped his women, everything Dylann Roof accused African Americans of doing to his country, wherever that is—in a trailer beneath an overpass on a highway that leads to someplace better—before he opened fire at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing nine and ushering in an era of church burnings, saving the white race from imaginary black people by mercilessly slaughtering real ones.
WHAT MEL REALLY MEANT: You can’t even sip a mint julep on the colonnaded balcony of your manse without fear of a slave rebellion.
THE QUOTE: From a series of comments made to a police officer during a 2006 DUI arrest: “Fucking Jews . . . The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world . . . Are you a Jew?”
POPULAR INTERPRETATION: Mel Gibson is a raving anti-Semite.
Interestingly, The Jews are Responsible for all the Wars in the World is one of the songs they sing on orientation day at paramilitary militia compounds all over the state of Michigan. There, in the garrisons, on makeshift altars lined with SS daggers and cool-ass skulls in spiked Prussian helmets, white supremacist groups proudly display their unread copies of Mein Kampf, The Turner Diaries, and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Be warned: Jews are secretly behind everything from Wall Street, the U.S. Federal Reserve System, the World Bank, the news media, and the complete nine-season box set of Seinfeld.
WHAT MEL REALLY MEANT: I’m drunk, and you seem smart.
Mel Gibson is dimly aware that his acting coach, his manager, several of the production heads, the directors, and the cameramen are Jewish, as are some of the writers, and maybe a few of the neighbors too, and he only wants a few pints in peace, this time in a strip-mall Irish pub reeking of piss and antique fryer fat, and just play some darts maybe, and hit on sugar tits over there, did you know that I also DIRECTED Braveheart? but they just won’t stop poisoning wells and drinking the blood of Christians, and taking over newspapers, because if you control the obsolete print media, you’ve got the world by the balls.
THE QUOTE: From a phone conversation about an employee: “I will report her to the fucking people that take fucking money from the wetbacks.”
POPULAR INTERPRETATION: Mel Gibson’s empathy for economically disadvantaged Latin Americans ends at The Frito Bandito.
Compared to recent rants from Donald Trump, Mel’s comments seem like doggerel on a greeting card. But—obviously—referring to immigrants as “wetbacks” is as racist as it gets, and it reduces a complex narrative to a joke, denying the economic desperation, the fourteen hour shifts in dead-end factory jobs, and America’s unwillingness to share our hoarded wealth with anyone we deem unworthy of democracy.
WHAT MEL REALLY MEANT: If only I could build a border fence through my own house. Put up chain-link topped in razor wire from the game room to the conservatory, relegating the help to the lower levels, then hire some gun-nuts and set up regular patrols.
THE QUOTE: From a phone conversation on the subject of Grigorieva’s breast implants: “. . . look what you are . . . look what every part of you is . . . fucking fake . . . fucking fake . . . You are the most synthetic person . . . who the fuck are you?”
To a female police officer during the 2006 DUI arrest: “What do you think you’re looking at, sugar tits?”
POPULAR INTERPRETATION: Mel Gibson is a misogynistic piece of shit.
You live in a world where your mind is devalued, and appearance seems the key to happiness, or at least freedom from privation, and after years of painstaking self-scrutiny and self-loathing, staring in the mirror fantasizing about surgical solutions to perceived deficiencies—if only this or that were different then I would be lovable, I would be OK—you go under the knife and the changes make you attractive to Mel Gibson of all people, but he’s mired in his virgin/whore dichotomy, and when he gets drunk he looks at you and realizes that this sexualized being he was so attracted to is not, in fact, a shining beacon of purity, like his idealized mother, but is, in reality, a mortal convinced that the path to happiness lies in pleasing men.
WHAT MEL REALLY MEANT: Your body is a battleground for my insecurities.
I’M JOKING. HE’S THE WORST.
We are our myths. This thing, this character—suspicious, cruel, xenophobic—it’s us. The anxieties that motivate the killing rampages in Mel Gibson movies are the same anxieties motivating so much American violence. Hatred and distrust of the other, fear of home invasion, rape of the wife, slaughter of the children, combined with a will to dominance, a secret pleasure in humiliation, a strong yearning for retribution, a distrust of sexual differences. This hidden self, this racist, sexist, colonizing self, that fetishizes the noble savage but is in fact a deadly serpent—Don’t Tread On Me—his dark fantasies mirror our own. They are endemic to our culture.
Mel Gibson is us.