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Waxing and Waning: Mel Gibson, Michael Jackson, Brangelina, Vaughniston

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Being a celebrity isn't all it's cracked up to be. Beyond the A-list parties, luxury swag, and mass adoration is the unseemliness of intrusive photogs, obsessive fans, and a lack of privacy. But as much as the rich and famous wish the world – us – would just go away and leave them alone, they sure don't mind us when we are in the audience.

Celebrity worship is as old as religion. Be it for escapism or emulation, the symbiotic relationship shared between those we idolize and the idols themselves help to shape their world and ours. Acting as mostly passive observers of the lives of celebrities, we aren't completely blind to their manipulations, but neither are the celebs always on guard or in "persona" mode. Bits of actual truth do leak out.

Ultimately, the celebrities themselves are responsible for the success or failure of their efforts to appeal to us, and as we have all witnessed, even the most celebrated individual can fall out of favor in an instant. The journey back to our hearts can be a chasm to overcome, and for some, a point of no return.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingPhotobucket - Video and Image HostingMel Gibson's recent drunk-driving fiasco perfectly illustrates that, despite all the PR machinations in the world, you can't hide the drunken Jew-hater within forever.

When Mel Gibson barked at the arresting Malibu officers, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," he merely proved what many had already suspected. A once revered celebrity, actor, and director, Mel Gibson not so long ago waded into the waters of religious bigotry when he made his epic '04 film The Passion of The Christ, rated the most controversial film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.

In the face of Hollywood's reluctance to create the film during a time fraught with religious tension, Gibson financed, produced, wrote, and directed his controversial depiction of the last days of Jesus himself. Many felt his depiction was heavy-handed and not so subtly anti-Jewish. Through perseverance, a huge Jesus fanbase, and many interviews expressing his oneness with the Jews, Mel emerged relatively unscathed and with a smash hit film to boot.

Some, though, were not persuaded by Mel-sell, and this latest eruption merely confirms for them that Gibson is a Jew-hater. Despite issuing an apology, calling his remarks about Jews "despicable," many remain unmoved.

Actor, director, and producer Rob Reiner has suggested that Mel Gibson needs to recognize and admit "his work reflects anti-Semitism," especially The Passion of the Christ, which earned over $600 million in theaters worldwide.

Reiner went on to say, "When he comes to the understanding that he has done that, and can come out and say, you know, 'My views have been reflected in my work and I feel bad that I've done that,' then that will be the beginning of some reconciliation for him."

With his religious intolerance now publicly confirmed and his drinking back in effect, Gibson has entered a rehabilitation phase of his life and is now actively engaged in a 12-Step program. In the course of treating his alcoholism, Gibson is apparently at the stage where one makes amends – in Mel's case, one Jew at a time – to those he has hurt. This includes personally calling upon Jewish film industry associates to assure them he's not only sorry for what he did, but that would like to work with them again in the future.

Confirming your hatred of Jews in Hollywood is like donning your Grand Wizard apparel at an NAACP meeting. Not cool, Mel. And super scientifically speaking, only 41% of respondents to an online survey thought he was being sincere. Clearly, more Hebrew schmoozing will be necessary.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingPhotobucket - Video and Image HostingOf course, no discussion of the meteoric rise and fall of celebritydom is complete without mention of Michael Jackson. Once loved by billions around the world for his infectious rhythms, childlike joy, and musical acumen, Jackson banished himself from the U.S. after his acquittal on child molestation charges last summer, and has been living in the part of the world where women (or men who try to look like them) are encouraged to cover themselves from head to toe – perhaps blessed relief for the bizarrely transformed former King of Pop.

Despite having scored over 20 #1 chart hits, and selling over 51 million copies of just ONE album (Thriller), he has undoubtedly become persona non grata in the entertainment industry and most of the rational world. Jackson's lurid trial, unchecked spiral into profligate weirdo recluse, and obsessive physical transformation through countless plastic surgeries (and repeated denials thereof) have instilled such suspicion in the general public that no amount of good publicity can counter his betrayal of its love and trust.

In a Washington Post article discussing how much people dislike Dick Cheney, a poll indicated only 1 in 4 people still consider themselves fans of Michael Jackson (for the record, Cheney was at 18%. Yikes!). And, clearly, most of those were old school Thriller fans, considering Jackson's last #1 was in 1995.

How the mighty Moonwalker has fallen.

No mention of PR nightmares born of private infidelities would be complete without the Brangelina/Vaughniston bizarre love quadrangle.

Once Hollywood's golden couple, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were everything we could hope for in an off-screen union: beauty, success, wealth, great hair, perfect teeth, and they even seemed to like each other.

What they clearly didn't have was lasting love. After four years of what appeared to be bliss, in walked slithering seductress Angelina Jolie. Flush from having snatched up adorable orphan children from impoverished regions of the world, all Angie needed was a genetic match in the looks department with whom to spawn pulchritudinous offspring. Never mind that he was already married to America's sweetheart. The vixen got her chance when she and Pitt made Mr. and Mrs. Smith together: Jen was out, husband stealer was in.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingPhotobucket - Video and Image HostingThe fallout of these transgressions has been a tabloid bonanza. On one side we have the hurt and wounded Jennifer, left to dry her tears on the lapel of her next-in-line co-star, the tall and charming Vince Vaughn; and on the other we have the guilty-as-sin Brad Pitt playing dad and sex toy to Angelina Jolie and her motley crew of pampered street urchins.

All the press needed were photos of the heavily impregnated Jolie with Pitt's bastard child and we had a modern Shakespearian tragedy.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingPhotobucket - Video and Image HostingWhat's at stake here are the hearts and minds of the public. Team Aniston, no stranger to working the media, did what all scorned famous women do: Oprah. The intimate "girlfriend" chat, eye-dabbing, and "don't feel sorry for me" brave grin Aniston played Oscar-style, reaped the sympathy and public favor she sought. The world wagged its finger at Brad the Cad.

This did not sit well with Team Jolie, and Angelina dramatically whipped out her U.N. trump card and moved her burgeoning little family from urbane Paris to squat in the dirt of Namibia. To top off the ploy, she and Brad gave birth to the second messiah, Shiloh, quite possibly the world's most comely baby, with the final cherry being a $4 million donation to the needy of Africa.

Well played, bitch.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingContrived or not, the angelic earth mother tactic worked its magic, and people who otherwise would have likely sided with Aniston – Friends fans, even! – softened toward Jolie and Pitt. Aniston began to appear superficial, brittle, unmotherly, with reports surfacing that her marriage to Pitt failed because she was focused on her career and wasn't interested in starting a family.

And the one thing the heartland of America can relate to is motherhood – this whole "career" nonsense is for the faithless and selfish.

To make matters worse, Aniston has been on a shrill crusade to rid the world of rumors Photobucket - Video and Image Hostingregarding her relationship with her Break-Up co-star, Vince Vaughn. Aniston has gone WAY out of her way to act as if they aren't dating, including refusing to be pictured with him at movie junkets. Sheesh, if I were Vaughn, I might feel a tad insulted. Two weeks ago, both Today and CNN were reporting that Aniston was engaged to Vaughn, and her response to People magazine was less than cheerful.

"People are getting fed a lot of bull," she complained. "I'm not engaged and I don't have a ring and I haven't been proposed to. Even my dad has called me saying, 'Honey, it's on the CNN crawl,' and I'm going, 'Wait a second!' When it starts to travel over into the Today show and CNN and supposedly reliable and accurate news programs, then you just go, 'This is insane,'" she said.

It IS insane, and what's worse, the whole "catfight" thing between Aniston and Jolie may be a farce. According to recent reports, Aniston and Jolie are even on "civil" speaking terms, an insider is quoted as saying. "Angelina has had several conversations with Jennifer. Jennifer is still close to Brad's parents and Angelina has accepted she is part of Brad's past in the same way her ex-husband, Jonny Lee Miller, is part of hers. She has no problem with Brad speaking to his ex."

Unless of course, they are talking about reconciliations.

It's hard not be obsessed with celebrities, their lives seem so much like our own, except for the wealth, beauty, adoration, and powerful friends part. They DO have legal woes, embarrassing drunken moments, salacious rumors, infidelities, and angry exes to deal with, just like regular people. And though they have teams of experts and operatives in league to manipulate and control how we perceive them, we have the secret weapon of bullshit detection: tabloids.

God bless the tabloids!

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About Dawn Olsen

  • STM

    For God’s sake, Dawn, give the jew-hater stuff a rest. Get your priorities right. I mantain: a drunken rant by a self-confessed alcoholic is nowhere near as bad as his real crime, which was driving a car while he was drunk. A Lethal Weapon, for sure, and I guess the reaction would only have been marginally less hysterical had he hit and maimed or killed someone.

    But why would any of us non-Americans be surprised? In a baffling society where you can be histrionically ostracised and fined for smoking a cigarette in public but where every second fool owns a gun and the murder rate is the highest of any first-world country, it’s another classic case of America getting its priorities wrong.

    And on The Passion of the Christ: I’ll just say that it’s a pretty accurate portrayal of what’s in the New Testament. As a kid at school, I was always taught that the jewish authorities of the time, in concert with the Romans, orchestrated the torture and crucifixion of Jesus, pretty much how it’s depicted in that movie. However, if there are any fascists and fundamentalists out there who think that might be a good reason to engage in some jew-hating, as you rather crassly describe it, it might be worth pointing out that the true basis of Christian belief is the exercise of compassion, tolerance, forgiveness and unconditional love. It’s also worth noting here that Jesus was a jew and so were his followers.

    I’ll also say that while I sometimes feel annoyed at Mel for his dreadful, sometimes hateful stereotyping of the British (look at the depictions of the English in The Patriot and Braveheart, none of which are backed up by the history books), I’m not going to react hysterically over it. And I won’t be picketing his movies. Nor do I dislike Americans because of it (yes, he’s a Yank, from upstate New York, not an Aussie).

    Drunks say things they don’t mean and suffer the embarrassment, and in this instance you’d have to say it’s a severe case, and bear in mind he’s already copped a severe (and undeserved, in my opinion) flogging over the Passion movie. Drunk drivers, however, are committing a serious criminal offence. Yet I suspect that having admitted himself to a detox, his contrition in relation to both is genuine. But one’s a real crime, the other’s an act of idiocy.

    Maybe it’s just time to get over it. Otherwise, you’re just continuing to engage in your own brand of hate mongering.

  • Baronius

    The most controversial movie of all time? Off the top of my head I can think of a half-dozen more controversial films. Birth of a Nation, China Syndrome, Bowling for Columbine, JFK, The Manchurian Candidate, and All the President’s Men. The Passion of the Christ isn’t even the most controversial Gospel movie of all time.

  • Dawn

    It wasn’t my claim Baronius, so don’t shoot the messenger here.

    As for which is worse being a jew-hater or a drunk driver – I find them both equally offensive. But I guess the point is that he had professed his love of the Jews in the past, and clearly he lied about that. I don’t recall him ever stating he wasn’t an angry drunk, that was news to all but his closest acquaintences.

    I guess what he really is, is a lying fuckface.

  • Eric Olsen

    let us not forget that this article is primarily about perception and the relationship between celebs and the public and their efforts to influence/control that relationship – great job!

  • DotDotDot

    It’s strange, Mel would have been better off PR-wise by crashing into a soccer mom with her 3 kids…..

  • STM

    Eric: All true, and for what it’s worth, it’s a very nicely written piece and I know you’re an editor of the site … but the Jew-hater stuff has found its way in again, and quite frankly, it’s really crass, only serves to stereotype Americans, detracts from the story and is, in truth, all wearing a bit thin.

    However, as a great believer in the tradition of Westminster-style democracy, I’m prepared to give everything I have for another person’s right to express their point of view – provided I also have the right to tell them I think it’s a crock of self-indulgent you know what.

    I do worry, too, about America’s ongoing, near-hysterical pre-occupation with things that elsewhere might be worthy of a bloody good slap on the wrist (in this case, especially, given the said person’s severe state of inebriation), particularly when there is so much more of import happening around the place (read world).

    Had Gibson been sober at the time, I’d be calling for his head as well. We don’t need that kind of dangerous nonsense repeated anywhere on this Earth ever again. But by his own admission, he’s a dreadful drunk. I accept his diagnosis and feel his contrition might well be genuine. Hope so.

    On a more positive note, I do love the site and it truly is a showcase for some very good writing. So I hope my criticism will be seen as constructive – and that hereafter, I won’t be viewed as a Dawn-hater.

  • http://myso-calledjapaneselife.blogspot.com/ Orchid

    I think part of the problem with articles like this is that they assume that the relationship between celebrities and the public is managed fairly deliberately and shrewdly. Most of what shapes the relationship is in control of the media that chooses to write about them with the celebrities doing intermittent damage control.

    I don’t know to what extent any of Angelina Jolie’s actions were calculated to improve the public’s view of her relationship with Brad Pitt but I do know that all who “consume” gossip are interpreting every action according to their motives and neurotic reactions.

    Since Jolie was involved in charities for children around the world before her relationship with Brad Pitt, it is rather cynical to state that she put on an earth mother act to gain forgiveness from the public. Besides, I’m not sure she’s the type of actress who needs to worry about gaining a reputation as a man-stealer. Her appeal has nothing to do with being a public darling.

    At any rate, articles like this would have far more value if there were some factual basis for the ideas put forth. For instance, interviewing a former PR person for a celebrity and learning about what they actually do and what things they have control over. But, that’d be journalism, wouldn’t it?

  • Dawn

    I take issue with the assertion that Gibson should be forgiven because he was drunk. Having had more than a little intimate knowledge with drunks and people who have alcohol problems, I can say one thing with certainty: the drink lowers a person’s inhibitions.

    Lowered inhibitions doesn’t mean you are a different person, but merely intensifies already present indiosyncracies and character flaws.

    That’s were the idea of happy drunks and mean drunks come from.

    When sober, people tend to use their better judgment in what they say or do, but because alcohol messes with the receptors in your brain, your willingness to temper those otherwise unacceptable impulses is lowered and the result is showing your true inner self.

    Sadly, your true inner self isn’t always as nice and sweet as your sober, more cautious self.

    Honestly, not everyone should drink – and very, very few people should drink to excess.

  • STM

    And I take issue with you taking issue – and with your argument. It’s fluff; it’s not backed up by facts, and you are engaging in your own brand of hate-mongering dressed up as quasi-serious journalism.

    It’s well known among people who specialise in the treatment of alcoholics (perhaps you could quote one next time) that they will often say and do things that have absolutely no bearing on anything, let alone on what they really feel about certain subjects.

    Their worst character defects and true personalities (the opposite of non-alcoholic people) are often most obvious when they’re between drinks. While it doesn’t excuse the fact he said it, it does go a bit of the way to explaining it. Here’s a scenario for you: I suspect he’d been reading or talking about the conflict in Lebanon, and that’s somehow stuck in his head and that’s what he’s blurted out in his drunken fog to the cop.

    I mean, seriously, who spews that rubbish out to a police officer who’s just pulled them over for drink-driving?

    An alcoholic, that’s who. Most people would be instantly mortified (if they were driving a car in that state in the first place). And what alcoholics say when they’re drunk should, seriously, be taken with a grain of salt, not as an indicator of what they really believe.

    I maintain, again, that his real crime was driving under the influence. That’s what he should have been castigated for and it was lost in the hysteria. Perhaps you could do a poll of people whose loved ones have been the victims of drunk drivers rather than thoughtless words and see what they think.

    I’m sorry if my view upsets you: I liked the gist of your story – except for that bit.

    And I still for the life of me can’t see how The Passion of the Christ is anti-semitic to the point where it causes more offence than, say, I am (mildly) offended by Mel’s cruel depiction of nasty Englishmen in Braveheart and The Patriot. It makes the Gospels anti-semitic, too, if it’s true.

    The whole thing’s been an absolute crock and a total overreaction and it’s just your point of view. And I’ll bet London to a brick I’m not the only person who feels that way.

  • Dawn

    How’s your stating “well-known among people who specialise in the treatment of alcoholics” any more backed up than my own empirical data as a person who has had intimate contact with many alcoholics?

    No one doubts that driving drunk is a much more punishable offense than being an anti-Semitic, but using the whole “it was the alcohol speaking” defense as an excuse isn’t going to be bought by anyone with half a clue.

    Also, your statement of “who spews that rubbish” while being pulled over is EXACTLY why we should assume the worst about Mel’s religious and political views. It was completely out of context – unless the officer was dressed as a Rabbi,wearing a yarmulka and sporting Hasidic facial-wear, then where on God’s green earth did the “Jew-hate” come from. He said himself, sober no doubt, that what he did was despicable.

    STM – let’s face it, lots of people in this world hate the Jews. To which I say, lame on you, but to each his own, but when your views cross over into influencing a large population of this earth, that I have problems with. It’s fucking irresponsible.

    Besides, who need Mel to hate the Jews, when we have the NYT? They seem to do a fine job painting the heartland of Jewdom as blood-thirsty baby-killers – which I am getting pretty fed up with reading.

    Besides, Jew-hating is so cliched. I am way more disgusted by spermatophobians – fucking weirdos.

  • SFC SKI

    It’s funny, but the more time I spend away from American pop culture, especially now, the less I care about celebrities and the less I can understand why anyone else gives a damn about them, either. Our peoples’ own lives that boring?

  • STM

    Dawn said: “STM – let’s face it, lots of people in this world hate the Jews. To which I say, lame on you, but to each his own, but when your views cross over into influencing a large population of this earth, that I have problems with. It’s fucking irresponsible.”

    Yes, he offers lamely, and lots of people of many cultural and racial backgrounds hate lots of other people of many cultural and racial backgrounds, and vice-versa. I understand there’s a historical background to this, and that’s a good reason to be eternally vigilant, but I still think it’s been an overreaction in this case.

    Apart from the fact that trying to get an alcoholic to act responsibly is like trying to get blood from a stone, I suppose the problem here is that I don’t have any genuine experience of what you call “jew-hate”, or even mild “jew dislike”. I don’t have much time for drunken drivers though. I don’t live in New York, but in Sydney, where a lot of people are from somewhere else (lots of jews, too) and it has ceased to be an issue, for the most part (and racial anti-vilification laws also exist to stop it and are policed with vigour).

    Racism here has been mainly misdirected recently at our large Arab-migrant population (mostly Lebanese muslims), and interestingly, it’s been a reaction to the on-going criminal actions of a group of young, disaffected gang members of middle-eastern descent rather than terrorist attacks (including the one in Bali in 2002 that killed 80 of our people, including my friend’s 16-year-old daughter).

    But when the nastiness got out of hand here last year, and innocent people of middle-eastern background got caught up in it, the law came down very swiftly and it was backed by public opinion so we’re obviously doing something right.

    Most Aussies have the bullshit-detection meter switched permanently on high, and won’t wear that stuff – directed at jews, muslims, whoever. (The English, however, are not included in this and can be vilified and stereotyped at every possible opportunity.) But the hysteria meter, thankfully, is generally on low.

    While there are the usual outbursts from nutcases no one takes seriously, the only jew I’ve seen getting a hard time was sitting next to me at an Australia-South Africa tri-nations rugby international recently. As he’s orginally from Johannesburg, it probably had everything to with the colour of the rugby shirt he was wearing.

    We warn him before every game to wear something neutral if he can’t support his adopted country but he dosen’t listen (because he’s South African) and generally goes home with a new hairstyle accessorised by salted-peanut projectiles, which his wife forlornly hopes are kosher.

    So maybe it’s just a cultural thing. If you and others have to struggle daily with this stuff, I’ll apologise for my lack of understanding.

    And LOL, the last part of your post. Get stuck into them … they’ve got it coming.

  • http://jews spider man

    ellomates this talk is cool..NOT

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