Many can’t look beyond Gibson’s past

Somehow, Mel Gibson was able to shed his nefarious light.

Conventional wisdom says once you’ve been labeled a racist or an anti-Semite, your career in Hollywood is over. People just don’t like bigots. When it comes to public careers, bigotry is, let’s say, a lethal weapon. Still, Mel Gibson is back.

After his drunken tirade about Jews this summer, it appeared that his career wouldn’t recover. Several Hollywood big shots, many of them Jewish, publicly reproached Gibson and said they’d never work with him again. People across the country had similar disdain for his actions. Gibson was a suspected anti-Semite even before his drunken rampage, partly because of a few scenes in “The Passion of the Christ” and partly because his father routinely claims that the Holocaust is exaggerated.

Somehow, Gibson was able to shed this nefarious light. Perhaps it was achieved by admitting to alcoholism and checking into rehab. It must have had some effect, because it certainly caught on. Disgraced Congressmen Mark Foley, disgraced Evangelical Pastor Tom Hagard and most recently, disgraced former Seinfeld star Michael Richards all blamed alcohol for their indiscretions. Sure, alcohol can make people do crazy things, but we’re thinking more along the lines of the lampshade-on-your-head variety. They expect us to believe that alcohol drove these people to send scandalous e-mails to teenage boys, shout racial epithets, buy meth and pay a male prostitute – when, by Hargard’s definition, being gay and using drugs is sinning.

We can chalk it up to the magic that is public relations. The advertisements for “Apocalypto” made it perfectly clear who was behind the film. It wasn’t just “Apocalypto”; it was Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto.” And it’s hard to believe this wasn’t calculated. Perhaps it was the result of a poll asking moviegoers if they would more likely see this movie if they knew Mel Gibson was behind it. Or, perhaps, the American public has forgiven him. Maybe it’s both.

Either way, Gibson’s off-screen tirade will forever haunt him. He will forever be known, just like Michael Richards, as a bigot. Even though movie critics enjoy “Apocalypto,” many can’t look beyond his past. Rightfully so; they shouldn’t.