A couple of days ago it got leaked that Mel Gibson would be shooting a cameo in The Hangover 2, playing a tattoo artist. That follows in the footsteps of the first film, where another disgraced crazy celeb, Mike Tyson, made a colorful cameo. Except that this time it ain’t happening. Mel’s cameo got cut; some thought it was because the appearance got spoiled by the internet, who loves to just give everything away these days. But the truth seems to be that the cast and crew, led by Zach Galifianakis, objected to Mel’s appearance in the film.
Which is really interesting, since Mel Gibson - drunk, racist and possibly wife abusing - has now been deemed a worse human being than Mike Tyson, who once bit a man’s ear off and was convicted of rape. A convicted rapist is better company for the cast of The Hangover than a spiteful, mean, violent drunk.
I mean, look, neither of these guys seem to be decent human beings, but convicted rapist. Maybe it’s that the cast is finally in a position where they can make their feelings known, or maybe, as Matt Zoller Seitz remarks in a very good editorial at Salon, it’s another example of bullshit selective Hollywood outrage.
It might be an absolutist position, but I’ll go ahead and state it here: I don’t care how horrendously a person behaves behind closed doors. Knowing what swine they are informs but does not veto my appreciation of their work, if in fact I appreciate that work to begin with, and even if I don’t, the gossip, arrest reports and tortured personal history add flavor to what I know, or think I know, about what such people do and represent. But the private melodrama never becomes the whole story for me—partly because of that whole, pesky “Judge not lest ye be judged” thing, but also because when we feast on these headlines, we’re treating selective knowledge as the whole story. We have no idea whether Tyson, Gibson, Baldwin, Lohan, Moss or anyone else are truly among the worst-behaved creative types in the entertainment industry, or just the ones that happened to get caught.I’m reminded here of a revealing comment from Tom Hanks. During an interview about 10 years ago, I joked that it seemed strange that Hanks was treated as a model of moral rectitude, when for all we knew he could have a collection of severed heads in his basement. Hanks fixed me with a chilling psycho stare and hissed, “Who told you?” Then he laughed and said, “I’m kidding. But yeah, it is weird. Why am I Mr. Nice Guy? Because that’s who people say I am. That’s my image. Nobody really knows what people are like behind closed doors.”
Americans are the most irritating of hypocrites: binary-minded, easily distracted scolds. We have trouble holding opposing thoughts in our heads at the same time, and we stay furious only until the next outrage pops up in the media cycle. We have staunch positions on what constitutes right and proper behavior, but only for certain people—the people whose behavior we happen to consider beyond the pale, for whatever subjective reason—and we reserve the right to give a pass to whoever we like, whenever we please, and to come up with pretzel-logic rationalizations justifying our inconsistency. And we’ve got no problem taking a nuanced view of morally challenged artists as long as they’re not raising hell in the present day. That’s why some journalists in the early ‘90s could warn that the soon-to-be-late rapper Tupac Shakur was setting a poor example for America’s youth by keeping company with drug dealers and gun-toting fools, then pen rhapsodic appreciations of Frank Sinatra, who kept company with mobsters and used his influence with them to secure union votes for John F. Kennedy.
I agree with Seitz completely, especially about the idea of not caring what someone does in their personal life. I don’t boycott filmmakers or actors based on what nonsense happens in their daily lives, or on their politics or religious beliefs. The reality is that in my time living in LA I’ve picked up stories about beloved entertainment figures who pay prostitutes to beat them, family values types who cheat regularly on their spouses and major genre talents whose tastes in companions should earn them a visit from Chris Hansen. But I don’t care - it’s the work that matters. It’s why I can enjoy a really well made thriller like The Ghost Writer from international fugitive Roman Polanski.
We love art and entertainment, not gossip and bullshit. I don’t like Mel Gibson as a human being, but I’m not about to stop watching his work, old or new. In fact the only thing that will make me boycott a filmmaker or an actor is bad work, not bad living.