Girlfriends’ Guide: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mel Gibson?

July 19th, 2010

I’ve been on summer vacay, professionally known as a hiatus, but even fun in the sun couldn’t distract me from the Mel Gibson debacle calling to me from supermarket checkout lines to the evening news to family dinner conversations.

He’s a beast, isn’t he? Rage, mixed with misogyny and racism is just too grotesque to be ignored. What do you think we should do about it? Ban him from “The View?” Applaud that his talent agency has kicked him to the curb? Go easier on those Russian spies, to show solidarity to Oksana Grigorieva, his baby mama? Torch his homes? Start recording all our distasteful private conversations for future evidence?

I, for one, am microwaving popcorn and settling in with my iPad, TV and gossip mags on my sofa. It’s many things, but to me it’s entertainment. It’s so extreme and perverse, yet somehow non-threatening, that I find it diverting. Lust, greed, lots of injectibles and orthodontia combining with one man’s struggle to deny time and the diminishment of his potency are the stuff of King Lear and MacBeth. How fun! I just wish it were better written.

If I were Lindsey Lohan’s P.R. agent, I’d be squeezing myself with delight right now. Only Mel and Oksana’s cocktail of narcissism, sex, ambition and treachery could have diverted America from her jail sentence and entrance into drug rehab. Or is it vice versa, I can’t recall. Then again, Lindsey is existing on the fumes of celebrity rather than an actual career these days and might resent every anguishing moment of the Aussie actor’s compelling disintegration.

Who is Mel Gibson to you or me anyway? A performer. An actor, folks, and a good one. His most distinguished contributions to the screen have always been sociopaths and extremists. Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, Braveheart — not a single character you’d want to leave your dog and kids with for a weekend. Sure, he has played other, more moderate men, but he vibrates in an irresistible frequency when he plays men with outsized egos who are seized with paranoia. We can’t get enough of that guy.

And then we have Apocalypto and The Passion of the Christ, for Christ’s sake (pardon me, I couldn’t resist)! What right-sized person would write and direct such arrogant and agonized films? It’s not like he wasn’t preparing us for this less-compelling and sordid drama in his personal life. To borrow from F. Scott Fitzgerald, the artistic are very different from you and me, and I find them exhilarating.

Singer/songwriters, painters, writers and actors, not to mention inventors and philosophers and architects are often very tortured and self-involved people. Being one of their intimates, lovers, spouses, or children can be so damaging as to require them to wear asbestos suits. But for the rest of us it is often moving, inspiring and transcendent to share the fruits of their insanity.

The Mel Gibson who intrigues me is not the ordinary man of Radaronline.com or Entertainment Tonight; in fact that guy is embarrassingly predictable and pedestrian. I prefer my Murtoughs and William Wallaces to be the insane heroes of popular mythology. It would be nice if Mel Gibson could spare us his personal indelicacies and really move us again. C’mon, Mel, put it on the screen!