Mel Gibson is enjoying a career Renaissance of the likes of Matthew McConaughey or Winona Ryder. The problem here, though, is that Gibson’s career isn’t recovering from a string of bad rom coms or a shoplifting charge — instead, he has a long track record of racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic statements, plus domestic violence charges that he plead no contest to. In an industry that constantly celebrates white male alleged abusers from Roman Polanski to Woody Allen to Casey Affleck (black men like Nate Parker don’t enjoy the same privilege), this isn’t surprising, but it is, as always, disappointing.
Gibson is nominated for the Oscar for Best Director for his film Hacksaw Ridge. The Best Director category is one that is overwhelmingly white and male: only one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won, and this year, a grand total of zero women are nominated. This means that more white male alleged abusers (Gibson, who already won for Braveheart, as well as Polanski, Allen, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Clint Eastwood) have won the Best Director Oscar than men of color (three: Alejandro Inarritu, Alfonso Cuaron, and Ang Lee; if Barry Jenkins wins this year he'll be the first black man to do so), white women (one: Bigelow), or women of color (zero).
Additionally, Gibson is now reportedly being “courted” to direct the blockbuster Suicide Squad 2. The film’s budget hasn’t been released yet, but it will be big: the first film in the franchise had a budget of $175 million. It’s worth mentioning that only a few women have ever directed films with a budget of over $100 million: Bigelow; Lana and Lily Wachowski; Patty Jenkins (for the upcoming Wonder Woman); and Ava Duvernay (for the upcoming Wrinkle in Time; she’s the only woman of color to do so).
Every time we criticize the Academy and other industry organizations for awarding alleged abusers, commenters say that it’s the work that matters, not the actors' or directors' personal lives. But are you really saying that it’s simply a coincidence that white male alleged abusers keep getting awards, while women of any race and men of color so very, very rarely do? Oscars and film budgets are symptoms of a society that elevates white men over everyone else — a society in which white men are untouchable, no matter what they do.
Let’s go over some highlights from the 26-year list of Gibson’s racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic statements and allegations of abuse.
In 1991, Gibson made homophobic statements in an interview with El Pais. He said, “They take it up the ass, this [pointing to his butt] is only for taking a shit. With this look, who’s going to think I’m gay? I don’t lend myself to that type of confusion. Do I look like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them?”
In a 1995 interview with Playboy, when asked about his previous homophobic comments, Gibson refused to apologize. He said, "I'll apologize when hell freezes over. They can fuck off." In that same interview, Gibson said, “I’ll get kicked around for saying it, but men and women are just different. They’re not equal.”
In 2003, many critics said that Gibson’s film The Passion Of the Christ was anti-Semitic. Additionally, New York Times writer Frank Rich (who is Jewish), wrote that Gibson’s father was a Holocaust denier. In an interview with the New Yorker, Gibson said that saying the Passion of the Christ is anti-Semitic is “anti-Christian” and that “modern secular Judaism” is trying “to blame the Holocaust on the Roman Catholic Church.” Of Rich, he said, “I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick. I want to kill his dog.” Of Gibson’s father, Gibson said: “He never denied the Holocaust. He just said there were fewer than 6 million.”
In 2006, Gibson was arrested for drunk driving. During his arrest, he made anti-Semitic remarks, including "Fucking Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” He also asked the arresting officer if he was a Jew and called a female officer “sugar tits.” Gibson admitted to the comments and apologized.
In 2008, reports came out saying that Gibson had counseled Heath Ledger against taking a role in Brokeback Mountain because Ledger’s character was gay. "Gibson strongly counseled against it. The role apparently ran counter to Gibson's morality. And he felt that it would ruin Heath's career,” private investigator Paul Barresi told the New York Daily News. Gibson denied the claims.
In June 2010, Gibson’s ex-wife Oksana Grigorieva filed a restraining order against Gibson for domestic violence. Grigorieva said that Gibson punched her in the face “more than once” and that in one incident had given her a concussion and broken teeth. After Grigorieva’s filing, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department launched an investigation into Gibson’s alleged abuse.
In July 2010, RadarOnline released a series of recordings and photos that appeared to show Gibson’s alleged abuse against Grigorieva. The recordings seemed to be of Gibson ranting against Grigorieva and the photos were of Grigorieva's bruised face and broken veneers. In the tapes, along with calling Grigorieva a cunt and a whore, the voice that seemed to be Gibson’s said: "You look like a bitch in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n******, it will be your fault. You provoked it." Another tape recorded racist remarks about “wetbacks.” Gibson said the tapes had been edited. As a result, Gibson was dropped by his talent agency.
In a November 2010 interview with CNN, Grigorieva detailed the abuse she said she had suffered from Gibson. She said Gibson "assaulted me while I was still holding the baby [Gibson and Grigorieva’s daughter Lucia] in my arms” and while Grigorieva’s 12-year-old son watched. She added, “Then we went on towards the pool and he had been screaming and yelling and then he told us, you know, to get the 'f' out and went to get the gun. And I asked my son to get in the car and that's how we left the 6th of January and from then on every day he was apologizing." She said, "I forgave him in a couple of weeks' time after the first, you know, severe beating that, you know, he struck me twice with his fist and then he was choking me and whilst I was holding Lucia and not protecting myself.” Documented showed that Gibson surrendered four guns as well as ammunition to the LAPD.
In 2011, Gibson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of battering Grigorieva, in a deal that let him avoid jail. Gibson was sentenced to 36 months of probation, a $600 fine, 52 weeks of counseling, and 16 hours of community service
In 2012, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas — who wrote a screenplay about the Jewish hero Judah Maccabee for Gibson — published a 9-page letter detailing incidents of Gibson’s alleged anti-Semitism. Eszterhas wrote that Gibson used terms such as “oven-dodgers” and “Jew-boys,” saying “most 'gatekeepers' of American companies were 'Hebes' who 'controlled their bosses,’” and saying “the Holocaust was 'mostly a lot of horsesh*t.” Eszterhas also said Gibson had discussed planning to have Grigorieva killed and detailed his abuse against her.
In 2015, Australian paparazzo Kristi Miller accused Gibson of physical and verbal abuse. She said Gibson shoved her from behind and yelled sexist language when she took a photo. She said, “He was spitting in my face as he was yelling at me, calling me a dog, saying I’m not even a human being and I will go to hell. He swore and called me a c**t. It was non-stop, he didn’t even breathe.” Gibson denied the claims.
This is what I was able to find in less than two hours of research, so there is likely much, much more out there. All of this has been widely publicized over the years. But does Hollywood care? From Gibson’s Oscar nomination and Suicide Squad 2 gig, looks like the answer is, unsurprisingly, no.
Top photo: Gibson's 2006 mug shot