Caitlin McBride: Are we all going to forget Mel Gibson's vile behaviour on his road to redemption?
As I’m sure you’ve heard: there are quite the congregation of celebrities in town.
Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgow and er…Mel Gibson, are all in Dublin on a fun-filled two-day promotional tour building up buzz about their new film Daddy’s Home 2.
Ferrell and Wahlberg, who were only on our shores in 2015, have been pulled out for various print and broadcast interviews, while Lithgow has been keeping a more low profile and we’re supposed to forget that Gibson is there at all.
Before Wednesday night’s red carpet premiere, we only saw a glimpse of him entering The Merrion Hotel – there were no soundbites on radio or photos with fans; for he is still on the extended leg of his nearly completed 2017 Redemption Tour, where we're supposed to forget about his past indiscretions, transgressions or literal crimes.
It's little surprise why he has been all but forgiven and it's why I don’t hold out much hope for the possible reincarnated careers of the likes of Brett Ratner and Kevin Spacey: Gibson and the oft-cited Roman Polanski and Woody Allen are proof that some people are untouchable.
What has made Mel’s journey of redemption cut so short?
His talent, of course. Hacksaw Ridge, his first directorial turn in 10 years was nominated for five Oscars this year: the Academy had officially welcomed him back; not necessarily with open arms, but more with a cautiously optimistic handshake.
I didn’t see the film, but it was extraordinarily well received by critics, despite the fact that it didn’t exactly muster the most inspiring cast, which included Andrew “Spiderman” Garfield and Mel’s 27-year-old son Milo. And he wasn’t starring in it and therefore absent from most of the promotional materials. The studio was able to use his talent to secure a few statues without having to go through the unseemliness of using a disgraced former star as the face of its film.
This time around though, he is in in his most high profile role since Edge of Darkness in 2010 - a leading part opposite bankable stars like Ferrell, Wahlberg and the legendary Lithgow. Who knows why Gibson was plucked from exile for this role, which, with a title like Daddy's Home 2, presumably doesn't require the most extensive of range.
Last week, I came across pictures of Gibson at the world premiere for his latest film alongside his fiancée Rosalind Ross, who is 34 years his junior, a woman who recently gave birth to their first child – his ninth.
I had ultimately forgotten Mel Gibson existed until that moment. After a few minutes, I hazily remembered Hacksaw Ridge and my quiet outrage at the Oscars earlier this year, but that left as quickly as it came.
I remembered he was racist and I had a vague recollection of him being verbally abusive in leaked tapes. I had completely forgotten he was accused of domestic violence in relation to a January 2010 incident; an incident which he pleaded no contest to and was sentenced to three years probation and counselling (in 2014, the sentence was vacated in a Los Angeles court).
And when I went back to remind myself of those upsetting tapes – how could I, or anyone – forget just awful he was?
It was just six short years ago that Gibson was the subject of a restraining order by his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, who claimed he punched her “more than once” on January 6, 2010, allegedly breaking her tooth, knocking out a veneer and giving her a concussion. She said, “I thought he would kill me”.
In 2011, after the trial was finished, he spoke out for the first time with the Hollywood Reporter and his comments were limited entirely to her behaviour.
He called the recordings in which he referred to her as a “f***ing embarrassment”, “Vegas whore” and being a “f***ing little girl with a f***ing dysfunctional c**t” as a “personal betrayal”.
In another part of the tapes, he says: “You can see your pussy from behind. And that green thing today was enough. That's provocative. Okay? I'm telling you. I'm just telling you the truth! I don't like it. I don't want that woman. I don't want you! I don't believe you anymore. I don't trust you, I don't love you. I don't want you. Okay?”
In a twisted attempt at damage control, Gibson said he slapped her once with an open hand to “bring her back to reality”, adding, “I did not slap her hard.”
His defence was literally, “It’s not like I knocked her out”.
Just let that sink in.
“It’s one terribly, awful moment in time, said to one person, in the span of one day and doesn’t represent what I truly believe or how I’ve treated people my entire life,” he said of the recordings.
This statement sums up the victim blaming culture we currently find ourselves in. The accused’s moral compass up until that point is considered and their future prospects are weighed up, while the victim, who didn’t ask to be part of someone else’s insanity, often finds themselves cleaning up the remnants of what is essentially someone else’s mess for the rest of their lives.
Do I believe someone can say something in the heat of the moment without meaning it or underestimating its ramifications? Of course.
But this wasn’t the heat of the moment. This was reflective of a series of well documented, publicised, hate-filled rantings over the course of several years. And Gibson’s ravings don’t end there – remember in 2006, he was arrested for a DUI and he was recorded saying, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world!”
He later played it down as an “unfortunate incident”, once again laying the blame at someone else’s feet.
“I was recorded illegally by an unscrupulous police officer who was never prosecuted for that crime,” he old Variety’s Playback podcast in 2016.
You see, it’s not his fault for saying such heinous things, it’s everyone else’s fault for telling the world about them.
“I guess as who I am, I’m not allowed to have a nervous breakdown, ever,” he added, trying to quantify his behaviour, citing mental health issues, still shifting personal responsibility from his transgressions like a child caught with his hand in the world’s most racist and sexist cookie jar.
The recordings made for incredibly uncomfortable listening and I was disappointed in myself for forgetting just how vile they were.
A colleague of mine dutifully pointed out last month that Winona Ryder was virtually thrown in the trash when she was caught shoplifting in 2001, while men continue to continue on with their careers, and in some cases thrive, with little to no retribution.
For example, Chris Brown was convicted of assaulting Rihanna in 2009 and now he has a documentary called Welcome To My Life which streams on Netflix. This, despite the fact that no one of sound mind wants to hear Chris Brown’s side of anything.
It’s easy to ignore some of these issues because Hollywood, by all accounts, sounds like an absolutely insane place to live and work, but now it’s literally around the corner from us.
And Daddy’s Home 2 debuted impressively at the US box office, making it the fourth biggest opening of any Paramount film of the last two years, which means Irish and European cinemagoers will likely fall into that pattern too.
We’re all guilty of forgetting something unpleasant; of getting absorbed in the never-ending news cycle, informing us of new people to hate like Brett Ratner, Harvey Weinstein and everyone on the other end of a #MeToo story.
But it’s important we don’t forget this time, because if we do, then it makes it okay for all of 2017’s villains, who we are so infuriated with now, to make a comeback in six years.