In defense of Mel Gibson
Perhaps this stems from my admiration of Mel Gibson the filmmaker or perhaps it is simply because I hate to see a piling-on when someone is so obviously in such a dire straits, but I feel compelled to come to Gibson’s defense. Obviously, the things Gibson said to his girlfriend were horrible, and if he did hit her then that is even more indefensible. But I think it is also quite obvious at this point that Gibson has a serious addiction problem and quite likely serious mental problems as well. If he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, this may account for quite a few of his demons, including his inability to stay on the wagon or to his faith. It may also account, to some degree, for his creative brilliance.
I suppose Gibson is at his best when navigating the straight and narrow of his Catholic teaching (and that he belongs to a traditionalist catholic church is, as far as I can tell, immaterial here). When he falls off that wagon he falls off all the rest. He has admitted that his divorce was his fault, plain and simple. He is now likely at the very bottom of whatever pit he has dug for himself. Guilt over his failed marriage, his drinking problem – it is all converging. And standing at the center of this convergence is the woman he wrecked his marriage upon, like some hideous reminder of all his failings.
Furthermore, these sorts of people – at once rich and creative and hugely vulnerable to bad influences – are like flames to the worst sort of moths. At their worst they are manipulated and taken advantage of and used up. I suspect Oksana Grigorieva is one of these moths – perhaps if Gibson had taped her without her knowledge a broader picture of their relationship would have emerged. I suspect there is much more to the story.
This certainly doesn’t make the things Gibson said any less awful. Then again anger, mental illness, alcoholism, despair – these are powerful and poisonous and anyone has been through any of this – through addiction, despair, divorce, etc. knows that we all say things we don’t mean. (Even those who haven’t had addiction problems or marriage problems have likely been to these dark places inside themselves.) We lash out. We suddenly use the language of our fathers – of a past we thought we’d buried deep. Certainly Gibson was not raised in a home that looked favorably upon minorities. One doesn’t need to be a racist to have that impulse rise up like bile in moments of despair.
I’ve certainly said things I’ve regretted in darker times in my own life. I’m certainly not without my own grave errors, my own hateful words. I can’t imagine being taped during such a painful time as this, in the middle of a hideous fight at the end of a crumbling relationship.
In the end, we have only a few details, only a scrap or shred of the truth, and yet we all rush as quickly as we can to judgment. That’s a wagon we can all easily stay upon and never fall off.
To the stone throwers, perhaps it’s best we remembered sound advice given long ago: he who is without sin, throw the first stone. If you know for sure what is roiling about in Gibson’s heart and mind, throw away. Those of us who have sailed through this life free from any hateful thoughts, any prejudices, any moments of rage, keep lobbing. I, for one, hope that all is not as bad as it seems. I will reserve my own faulty judgment in any case.
I hope Gibson submits himself to a higher judgment. And I hope he can come out of this darkness and be forgiven.
Then I hope he makes another amazing film.