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Monday, March 01, 2004  

Entertainment: Does Mel mirror his movie?

Everyone is asking if Mel Gibson's Biblical epic "The Passion of the Christ" is anti-Semitic. However, the reviewer who really caught my eye today, Pat Holmes of the Portland Tribune, is as much interested in the excesses of the man as those of the movie.

Perhaps the question to ask about Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is not whether it's anti-Semitic, but whether Gibson thinks it's autobiographical. [Emphasis mine.] Before playing a priest in the recent "Signs," Gibson played a number of roles in which he was tortured (often suggesting crucifixion) and twice played men who come back from the dead ("Forever Young," in which he returned from a voluntary, guilt-induced cryogenic state, and "Payback," in which he was left for dead after being betrayed by his best friend).

Now, intentionally or not, Gibson's orchestration of the pre-release campaign for "Passion" has resulted in a kind of media crucifixion, about which he was defensive even before he needed to be -- accepting martyrdom before it was offered.

Whatever else the film is or isn't, it certainly is the culmination of its maker's curious, career-long complex, or fetish -- or passion.

After a furor that never even addressed its quality, "The Passion of the Christ" can now be seen and judged as a film. And what may surprise many viewers, in light of so much inflammatory rhetoric, is that it is essentially a fairly standard Hollywood religious epic. The crucial differences are its narrowed focus (the final 12 hours of Christ's life) and its graphic brutality -- which, ironically, will force many people to go see an R-rated film when they would ordinarily condemn such a thing out of hand.

Speaking of hands, it's Gibson's own we see as those of a Roman soldier nailing Christ's hand to the cross. In this way, Gibson accepts his own role in the burden we all bear for Christ's death. Sadly, the image is also a comment of sorts on his heavy-handed approach. Anti-Semitism is not the problem; anti-subtlety is.

If Gibson can be accused of a lack of subtlely, that is even more true of his father, Hutton Gibson, an anti-Semite and reactionary who moved the family to Australia because of the changes that occurred in American society during the 1960s.

Even as Mel Gibson has sought to quell charges that his movie "The Passion of the Christ" is anti-Semitic, his 85-year-old father discounted the idea that millions of Jews died in the Holocaust and said Jews were trying to take over the world.

"It's all - maybe not all fiction - but most of it is," Hutton Gibson said of the Holocaust in a radio interview that will air Monday night.

Coming only days before the opening of his son's film on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday, Hutton Gibson's comments inflamed the debate over whether the film will foment anti-Semitic hatred. Critics of "The Passion," including some Catholic scholars, have said it blames Jews for killing Jesus and caricatures them as bloodthirsty.

. . .Steven Feuerstein, host of the syndicated radio talk show "Speak Your Piece!," said he interviewed Hutton Gibson three times since Monday. Portions of the interviews will be broadcast locally on WSNR/620 Monday and Wednesday at 10 p.m. "He was totally cognizant of everything he was saying," Feuerstein said. "This man has an agenda. That's the bottom line. "

Hutton Gibson, of Summersville, W.Va., is a self-described leader in the ultratraditionalist Catholic sect that rejects reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), including the church's renunciation of the notion of Jews as culpable for the death of Jesus. According to transcripts of the interview, he also blamed Jews for everything from the Roman persecution of early Christians to fomenting the Russian Revolution to orchestrating an international banking conspiracy. He urges someone to go out and "hang" Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who is Jewish.

Am I naive enough to believe that the son is necessarily an echo of his father? Of course not. However, if Ole Hut were my Dad I would have distanced myself from his extremist views decades ago. Instead, Mel Gibson says he loves his father and nothing will ever come between them. Furthermore, he has followed the man into the Catholic Traditionalist Movement, brother to the nefarious Opus Dei. Both groups reject the Reformation and anything that might be considered socially progressive, including Vatican II. Though could be fledged more, the charge of anti-Semitism is not in conflict with what we know of Gibson.

What of Gibson's persecution complex? I am always bemused when I see some rich, influential white man whining about being scorned and 'buked. It seems to me that Gibson has been very fortunate in his life, considering his limited talent. It is true that he may be low in funds after allegedly sinking some of his fortune into making "The Passion," but it appears the loss will be recouped by selling tacky merchandise associated with the movie.

Conservative blogger Bryant at Population: One voices my own concerns about the impact of "The Passion" on interfaith relations.

Moriarty reviewed "The Passion" over on AICN, his was fairly negative. I note his review not because of that directly, but because of some of the replies to the review:

“Most movies that are made in Hollywood are anti-white? Hollywood is controlled by jews. Most Hollywood movies have British and German villains. Blacks are overrepresented on TV. They’re either seen as the “victim” or superior to Whites. Blacks are NEVER portrayed negatviely, whereas whites are always the villains. Clearly this is anti-white racism at the hands of Hollywood jews.”


“Jesus was condemned by Pontius Pilate and betrayed by the Jewish people … Sorry to say but thats basically what you get when you look at the different books of the Bible. The Romans may have done the crucifying, but the Jewish people ultimately turned their backs on Him. Oh and as for Moriarty talking about how Pilate was softened because of when the books were written so as to not anger the Roman occupiers… well yeah I saw that History Channel documentary too about 4 weeks ago . . . Just because its on television deosn’t make it true, that was a small group of historians conjecture about the crucifixion. Bottom line, if you’re Christain you already know this story, and are just glad that someone made a high-quality version of it to help explain one small bit of our faith to others. If the details are hard to swallow, well history is a bitch sometimes. . . .”

Those are only two replies out of quite a few. Most of them are thoughtful, interesting, and not racist or anti-Semitic. But it’s the two guys out of a hundred who will take the movie as affirmation of their racism that I worry about.

Movie reviewer Holmes believes the controversies around "The Passion" will not have any long range impact on Mel Gibson's career. He says that money, specifically the ability to generate receipts at the box office, is what matters. Perhaps we will get to see Gibson nail himself to a cross before his career is over.

11:00 PM