Your star has fallen from my firmament, Mel Gibson.
Tom Selleck was the first to go down like, dare I say it, a shooting asteroid. The tall, dark, hirsute and handsome actor sat next to Rosie O’Donnell on her talk show shortly after two students killed a dozen schoolmates and a teacher at Colorado’s Columbine High School, and defended the National Rifle Association, of which he was a member.
Selleck, who continues to fill out unbuttoned Hawaiian shirts and jeans ever so nicely on endless "Magnum, P.I." reruns, was flacking the standard NRA message in the face of an unthinkable tragedy.
It ruined him for me. I can’t even see an old "Friends" rerun where Selleck plays Monica’s love interest without associating him directly with principles I find impossible to stomach.
Now Mel Gibson has gone and dashed my ability to enjoy his blue-eyed, craggy, magnetic pseudo-everyman screen presence. In a recent issue of The New Yorker, in a long piece about his forthcoming Jesus biopic, he brayed on about "those people" who are out to get him. Like a modern-day Father Coughlin he was talking about the Jews. His quotes are doubtlessly splayed all over white supremacist Web sites, and merit inclusion in the next edition of "The International Jew."
Never again will I be able to bring myself to rent "Braveheart" just to see Gibson run through a pasture, bare-chested and wild in a kilt and war paint.
When I go to the movies, it’s to escape all that is awful in the world, even if just for a couple of hours. Sitting in a blessedly dark, cool theater, I get to immerse myself in someone else’s reality for awhile, to indulge in a bit of harmless fantasy by living in a fictitious world where the people are a little wittier, and far better looking, than they are in mine.
But now Mel and Tom have put an end to that pleasure when they’re in the picture.
Though I’d hardly call him hunky, something similar happened when Woody Allen’s affair with the daughter of his longtime girlfriend came to light, complete with details about sexually explicit Polaroids he took of Soon Yi Previn, which were discovered by her mother, Mia Farrow.
They’d met when Soon-Yi was just 8 and Allen was courting Farrow. Farrow and Allen went on to jointly adopt three other children. In 1997 the 62-year-old director married his 27-year-old sort-of-step-daughter. Yech. They’ve since adopted two daughters themselves.
After boycotting his movies out of sheer revulsion, friends eventually pressed me to join them and see one of his more recent works. I just couldn’t enjoy it. The specter of who he is just overshadowed even the erudite silliness I’d long loved.
Is it fair to expect our favorite actors, or professional athletes, for that matter, to live up to the codes of ethics, morality or even political sensibility that we hold ourselves? Perhaps not. After all, they’re just people, and as likely to be creepy and unethical and narcissistic as anyone else. Probably more so.
And we do live in a nation in which Californians have just elected to be their governor an actor with no political experience who, immediately before the election, owned up to allegations that in years past he’d groped numerous women and made admiring statements about Hitler’s ability to rise to power. I’ve never found The Terminator appealing, unable to get past that thick Austrian-German accent and muscles the size of watermelons, and so these sad revelations don’t leave me disappointed. But the fact that Californians’ admiration for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ability to stomp on bad guys up on the big screen has trumped their common sense does.
Maybe politically conservative "Barbarella" fans felt crushed when Jane Fonda started protesting the Vietnam War. At least Brigitte Bardot had the sense to wait until she was past her big screen days to go all ga-ga over cats and start campaigning on behalf of the notion that animals should have legal status equivalent to humans’.
Gibson and Selleck’s politics are far more dangerous than hers, with real potential consequences. But Gibson sounds so inane when he’s talking about imagined Jewish plots that it’s hard to imagine that anyone can be taking him seriously. Perhaps I’m being naive, and some wacked-out anti-Semite is just waiting to use the Gibson movie to justify a rampage against the Jews. I don’t really think so.
All of it, real and potential, is overwhelming. It makes me want to escape. To the movies.
So let me put out a plea to the Last of my Mohicans: Daniel Day-Lewis. Last I heard, between films you’re pursuing your dream of becoming a couture shoemaker. Cobble away, but permit me to remain in my own Age of Innocence: and don’t do or say anything that will want me to see you in a straightjacket rather than a loincloth. Please.