[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]
A recent GQ interview with Winona Ryder reveals this disheartening tidbit about Mel Gibson:
“I remember, like, fifteen years ago, I was at one of those big Hollywood parties. And he was really drunk. I was with my friend, who’s gay. He made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish. He said something about ‘oven dodgers,’ but I didn’t get it. I’d never heard that before. It was just this weird, weird moment. I was like, ‘He’s anti-Semitic and he’s homophobic.’ No one believed me!”
Now, Winona Ryder is not the best character reference, but it is getting hard to escape the conclusion that Mel Gibson is an all around bigot. Which is a depressing thing.
I mean I can’t suddenly decide that Braveheart is a bad movie, even though obviously that colors how we look at the treatment of the gay prince. Even now, it really isn’t a simple or even obviously anti-gay portrayal. Yes, he is portrayed as a gay wimp, but there was genuine sympathy in that depiction For instance, there is a scene when Edward the Longshanks throws the prince’s lover out a window. The prince then tries to attack his father, only to be beaten. The prince’s impotent anger, crying and humiliated, was a sympathetic moment in my mind. I didn’t get the sense that Gibson, the director, enjoyed that humiliation.
And I have seen The Passion of the Christ several times, and I cannot see any clear anti-Semitism in it. For me, I saw a movie that if anything portrayed Jews very well. Jesus was portrayed not as your typical blond-haired, Aryan dude, but as someone looking Semitic, and being Jewish in culture. (Some would say Christ was a Jew. I would say he was as much a Jew as any Christian is—and in truth I think you could say that Christians are Jews, who just happen to have this additional belief that Jesus was the Messiah.) And the only person ever identified as a Jew by name was Simon of Cyrene, who is given a very positive portrayal. I never saw the supposed “hook nosed” Jews that some people claimed in that movie. And indeed, if anyone was stereotyped, it was the Romans, known to us today as the Italians. And more importantly, Jesus is seen forgiving his tormenters; are we supposed to do less?
I even thought, at the time, that Gibson had a profound answer the question. He said we killed Christ. Christ had to die for our sins, so it was us, our behavior, that made that death necessary. That is a deep thought, a real insight, even if the person delivering it is profoundly flawed.
But as for anti-Semitism… Perhaps there is a line in Aramaic that is untranslated that says, “damn the Jews” or maybe one of the prior drafts of the screenplay contains that line. Or maybe the answer is something a little subtler.
You see I do believe that people who were Jewish killed my savior. It’s in the Bible, and you are never going to convince me that this wasn’t true. But it doesn’t lead me to hate Jews. Why? Because we are responsible for ourselves and ourselves only. Some Jews back about two thousand years ago acted in a vile manner that probably doomed their immortal souls. But the other Jews alive at the time, who had no part in it, did nothing wrong and bear no blame. And as for their children… it is wrong to blame children for the actions of their parents, or ancestors. You are not your father, or your mother. You are you and you are responsible for you, and for no one else.
(Indeed, that concept is written into the Constitution itself. In the treason clause it states that there shall be no corruption of the blood. That is a reference to the doctrine of holding the family of a traitor responsible for treason—one that was specifically denounced in the American Constitution, for what was considered the worst crime one could commit.)
So okay, that is how I think. And that is why my belief that people who were Jewish killed my savior doesn’t result in me hating all Jews.
But what if you don’t think that way? Imagine if you were an anti-Semite, who blamed all Jews for the actions of a few. Then in your mind all you have to do is show some Jews participating in the murder of Christ to indict all of them. And maybe that explains it.
But barring some stunning rebuttal, it’s pretty clear that Gibson has a problem with bigotry. Which leaves me profoundly disappointed. Mel, I thought you were a better person than that, and I am sad to discover you are not.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]