In another swat at the ever-impotent cancel culture, the sexist, anti-Semitic, racist Mel Gibson will be directing the fifth and final Lethal Weapon movie. In a parting middle finger to the last of the give-a-damn’s, longtime franchise director Richard Donner, presumably on or near his deathbed, requested Gibson helm the movie.
“‘Listen, kid, if I kick the bucket, you do it,” Gibson recounted at an event in London on Sunday. “And I said, ‘shut up.’” While it’s hard to imagine anyone bestowing the “kid” endearment on the graying wolfman, before he passed in July, the 91-year-old Donner also told the studio that Gibson was his chosen successor.
It’s almost unnecessary to go through the exhaustive list of all the moments where Gibson should’ve been slingshotted out of the mainstream. There’s the time he beat his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva and told her that should she be “raped by a pack of n*****s, it’d be [her] fault.” This is the same guy who has a generational tie to Holocaust denialism, dropped the wildly antisemitic Passion of the Christ, and blamed Jews for “all the wars in the world” in 2006, at the tender age of 50. Oh, and according to Winona Ryder, he also openly questioned whether she was an “oven-dodger” at a party and asked a gay man if he would contract AIDS by merely speaking to him (one of many homophobic statements he’s made over the years). After a while, the -isms and -phobias blend together and become moot. He’s ticking off all the hate boxes with ease.
While all signs point to Mel Gibson being a Grade-A asshole, he’s got a thick Rolodex which keeps him working. His immense wealth (much of which came from Passion of the Christ) and cachet as a director, writer, producer, and actor mean that Gibson can construct his own film worlds without oversight or any real restraint. He has survived the onslaught of public scrutiny and done quite well for himself (his last film as a director, Hacksaw Ridge, received widespread critical acclaim and earned him a Best Director Oscar nomination), which may disappoint the folks who he’s antagonized all the more. There’s a reason why he can pull Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, and other stars into his films: There’s a relatively solid chance that they’d be standing at the awards podiums by year’s end. And their bet on Hollywood’s forgetfulness has thus far paid off.
It’s not that people haven’t been loud about all of Gibson’s misdeeds. With every new opportunity, the public decries his continued presence on their screens. Every new movie announcement comes with a stream of reminders and articles detailing every last one of his hateful controversies. But Gibson has repeatedly told the story differently, only referencing his recorded arrest—when he said Jews are responsible for “all the wars in the world”—as his sole offense. While promoting Hacksaw Ridge, he claimed he’d never “discriminated against anyone or done anything that supports that reputation. And for one episode in the back of a police car on eight double tequilas… to dictate all the work and beliefs…. is really unfair.”
The greater Hollywood community just doesn’t seem to care anymore. They believe he’s “served his time,” whether in jail from his DUIs or through his quiet-but-brief excommunication from Tinseltown almost two decades ago—so much so that Jimmy Kimmel can joke about his antics at the Academy Awards and no feathers were ruffled. All flame-ups have been forgiven. Every antagonism appeased.
It’s hard to know how Gibson got himself back in the good graces of Hollywood elites. But perhaps it’s because representation truly matters. They might see themselves in Gibson a little bit. They see him as more human than the people he shat on, deserving of every benefit of the doubt despite a history of fumbling good will. Hollywood has shown time and again who and what it cares for. Mel Gibson’s uncancellation cycle seems to be complete.