Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Does Anyone Else Think This Mel Gibson Thing is Dumb?

I don't read tabloids. Even considering my profession, I make it a standing point to steer clear of the petty foibles and misdemeanors of celebrities, as well as the inevitable surrounding gossip. But this is different. I picked up a copy of USA Today to read actual news, and there, nestled comfortably in the front page, was Mel Gibson's sheepish, hung-over face. So I read the article. Sorry, maybe that suggests a lack of personal discipline on my part.

Many media moguls, as well as leading Jewish authorities, are seriously considering boycotting Gibson's work. To what end, I know not, but they hold that the anti-Semitic comments Gibson made while drunk off his bum were important enough to warrant this.

All I can say is, get a life. Mel Gibson is not a religious leader, nor is he a political one. He's a celebrity. When he goes out and does naughty or stupid things, it makes news headlines and editorials. Unfortunately, that's the way our world operates. That shouldn't affect our opinion of his work, which, as art, stands on its own. Nor should disillusion or dishearten us as human beings. Mel Gibson is a Hollywood celebrity, he's not Mother Teresa or Pope John Paul II. In a deeply committed and heartfelt act, he made a film called The Passion of the Christ. For that, he is to be commended.

I don't admire Gibson or look up to him. Even as someone who is neccesarily caught up in the importance of film and media, I think that things have gotten a bit out of hand when some famous celebrity's drunken comments stir a national controversy. Let's keep it real, people.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you. After all, we're all human, and if doing stupid or bad things necessarily and automatically invalidates any good we've ever done, well then, all of us are in deep, deep trouble. This is not to say that there is no connection between habitual virtue or lack thereof and the ability to do a good act. Obviously, it is easier to do good when one is in the habit of it. Concurrently, every bad action weakens one's command of virtue and ability to perform good acts. However, we have to allow for the fallen human nature that succumbs to bad choices, as well as the graces that help us overcome the failings of post-lapsarian humanity when we do do good things.

healthily sanguine said...

I liked what Cardinal Pell had to say on the subject after visiting Christendom and Front Royal: "[W]hile the billionaires, film stars and ghettos dominate the headlines the secret of America’s strength and stability lies in the suburbs and these country towns." Keeping it real is something we desperately must do. I really do want to read real news sometimes (rarely, but sometimes), and then I get sidetracked with stories like these.

It also strikes me that in our country we have a weird, schizophrenic relationship with our celebrities. On the one hand, we admire them, photograph them, iconize them, pay millions of dollars to watch them on the movie screen--but at the same time we criticize them, like to see their faults emblazoned in the media, get a vicious satisfaction out of the fact that even though rich and famous they are not better off than we are. We are the really good people in the world, they are just celebrities. Well, it seems to me celebrities are real people not icons, and I think they probably need a lot of prayers given the predicament they're in; it's harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, after all.

bakerstreetrider said...

Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.

If reporters/celebrities see Mel Gibson as being critical of their lifestyles and the things they stand for, they'll be searching for some reason to accuse him of hypocrisy. You see this kind of thing with "normal" people also. A Christian does something silly, and the response is, "tsk tsk, and you a Christian." It's usually justified, but there is definitely a double standard.

I don't think art stands apart from the artist.

Fezzick said...

As far as "Art stands apart from the artist," it depends on what you mean by that. I meant it in the "New Criticism" sort of way (for all you English majors out there), meaning that art is more than simply a bundle of the artist's impulses and inner feelings. (I'm not saying that's what you said, I just wanted to clarify). That was the point the likes of T.S. Eliot were trying to make with the whole New Criticism approach. The value and effectiveness of art is not and should not be connected in a sort of mathmatical proportion with the artist's virtue/lifestyle/political worldview, etc. Learning about the artist personally will often help us to grasp his meaning more precisely, or to glean more from the art in general. However, in order for art to be meaningful in any sort of way, it must be considered as a seperate entity from the artist. If this is not the case, then art is a completely subjective experience informed by knowledge of the artist. "Bad art" means a lot more that simply "an evil artist." Inversely, and perhaps more familiarly, good art is definitely a distinct thing from a "good person."

This might be material for another post. Anyway, that's all I meant by that statement.

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend reading "Art and Scholasticism" by Jacques Maritain if you're going to start talking about art qua art, or art qua product of the artist. It is extremely interesting, as well as clarifying of the whole issue. Based on St. Thomas.

Geoff said...

Emily, there sure is a double standard. Archbishop Sheen summed it up nicely: "The fact that the world is a thousand times more scandalized when a Catholic does something wrong is only proof that the world expected so much more."