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The Passion of Mel Gibson

Laura Miller | Wednesday, December 6, 2006

If you’ve seen the trailer for Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto,” you were no doubt intrigued. But what makes this film different from other Hollywood box-office-busters? The answer lies in the controversies surrounding director Mel Gibson.

Although many people have trouble accepting the ethical decisions of Hollywood’s rich and famous, it rarely keeps them from attending films. But the controversy surrounding Gibson indicates that he might be an exception to this trend. Here are a few things to consider before going seeing Gibson’s newest flick:

If you, like most, are annoyed by Hollywood’s constant trouble with the law, consider that Gibson has been arrested twice for drunk driving, and has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. The first was in Canada, where he was fined $400. The second occurred in the United States, where he received three years probation.

A more politically oriented person might wish to consider that Gibson is actively against: stem cell research, abortion, withdrawal of life support (as in the case of Terri Schiavo), and gay and lesbian equal rights. He is for the death penalty. Despite his general pro-life stance, consider how Gibson reacts to a critic. He says of an unauthorized author of a biography, “I don’t think God will put him in my path. He deserves death.”

For those who are socially aware, know that in 2005, Gibson raked in a heaping $185 million. Publicly announced donations (that could be easily located) amassed to a mere $11 million, about 6 percent of his total income. Oprah Winfrey donated 22 percent of her annual income in the same year, coming to a total of more than $50 million. Most devout Christians, Jews and Muslims consider an appropriate tithe to be about 10 percent.

Many Catholics show concern for Gibson’s religious ideologies, but his stances are potentially even more offensive to non-Catholics. Gibson’s version of Catholicism is one of the most striking aspects of his personal life. He is a part of the Catholic Traditional Movement (CTM), which concludes an official statement of their origins in a quote from St. Pope Pius V (1570), “And if anyone could…ever dare to attempt any action contrary to this order of ours…let him know that he has incurred the wrath of Almighty God and of the apostles Peter and Paul.”

The CTM considers most of the documents of Vatican II to be heretical, believes that under no circumstance should anything ever be changed in the structure of the Catholic Mass, that all Masses should be conducted in Latin, and that every pope since 1960 has been “spurious.”

CTM also believes that Mary is equal to Jesus in her status of mediator and redeemer. In order to support this movement, Gibson has founded his own church called “The Church of the Holy Family.” Membership is exclusive.

This is not an attempt to start a boycott, but a call for people to spend their money carefully. If you are upset about paying your taxes because you don’t like what they are paying for, how is buying a movie ticket much different? Buying a movie ticket is a statement of support for the actors and directors of a particular film. Viewers are handing over their money to consequently be enraged by how it is being used. And then viewers spend even more money pushing their old money through the court systems of California. More than ever, it is time to weigh entertainment and ethics against each other. In some movies, they can’t both win.

Contact Laura Miller at lmiller8@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.