I just read this article analyzing the recent Mel Gibson hoopla and how the media (and our society as whole) has reacted to it. It’s a great opinion piece, and you should read it, but I’ll go ahead and summarize. If you’ve been paying any attention to the coverage on this whole situation, then you may have picked up on them emphasizing Mr. Gibson’s racist remarks. Many say that he was let go by his agency because of the racism. From the article: “The claim is that Gibson screamed at his then-girlfriend that the way she dressed meant that she deserved to be raped by a pack of ‘n—-rs.’ The so-called ‘n-word’ is so totemically powerful that no one will even print it, and its use has finally placed Gibson beyond the pale: his own agents issued a statement saying that no one in Hollywood would touch him with a 10-foot pole. Because of his racial attitudes. But what about the (alleged) threats and assaults against his then girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, who claims that he broke two of her teeth, and attacked her while she was holding their baby? Those are mentioned in passing as ‘misogyny’ or ‘domestic abuse.’ Objectionable, maybe, but not enough to end a Hollywood player’s career.”
It’s undeniable how true this is; Charlie Sheen has come under fire numerous times for his abusive treatment of his girlfriends and spouses. Does it keep him from having the most-watched sitcom on television right now? No. Roman Polanski had a gaggle of celebrities come out to support him after his recent arrest, and that included a number of female celebs. Clearly raping a young girl is wrong, but if it’s an “artist” doing it, well, that might be excusable.
The actions of Hollywood agents and producers are dictated by what the American public wants. Oftentimes we can’t accept that someone who is on our favorite show or who directed our favorite movie could act in such a way. So we are unwilling to say, “No, I will no longer support this person or their projects with my time or money,” because, frankly, we enjoy them and we just don’t care enough. As long as this is the case, Hollywood will continue to support people like Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen and Roman Polanski.
I this this is especially true when they’ve committed crimes against women. People can’t seem to fully vilify misogynistic crimes, such as abuse or rape. Too often, we fall prey to victim blaming. “She’s just a gold digger, so no wonder he got mad.” “She must have done something to make him so angry.” “If my girlfriend cheated on me, I’d be pretty pissed off too.” “Oh, she was dressed inappropriately, she was asking for it.” In fact, Mel’s rant is guilty of this, too. He tells Oksana that she’s asking to be raped by a group of Black men if she leaves the house dressed so provocatively. This kind of behavior is sexist (not to mention racist, in this particular case) and yet it’s the exact kind of behavior we are guilty of if we overlook his abusive actions towards Oksana.
Getting off track a bit, I can’t help but wonder how we would have reacted if it were a Black man saying these things. Look at the Chris Brown and Rihanna case. Sure, he was incredibly guilty, and deserved everything that came his way. But our reaction in comparison to the fallout of this Mel Gibson debacle was much more drastic. We cried over how a young man could hit a woman, how horrible he must be. His latest album tanked and his career is (probably, mostly) over. It seems that the reaction to Mel Gibson’s threats, his abusive words, and his apparent physical abuse towards Oksana is much more mild compared to the reaction to Chris’s abuse. Only time will tell how Mel’s career will suffer; sure, his agency dropped him, and right now he’s a pariah in Hollywood, but he came back once before, and who’s to say he couldn’t do it again? But we were so utterly appalled by Chris Brown’s actions, it would take a miracle to get him back on track (though many think he may have performed that miracle with his tears at the BET Awards). Why were we so utterly disgusted? Most likely because the stereotypes we hold dictate that this is the way we should expect Black men to act. This is, of course, not true at all, but I feel that when Chris Brown acted in this way, it satisfied something in our societal subconscious and we had to make the most of it.
And then there’s Kanye West. His actions at the VMAs were scarcely abusive, but the fallout was absolutely ridiculous. How could he possibly steal the spotlight from a pretty, young, corn-fed white girl? The brute. He may as well have smacked her and called her a litany of horrible names, judging by our collective reaction to the situation. What’s more is that, as rude as he was (and he was, though it wasn’t that big of a deal), he was right. Almost a year later, we can see that, I think. Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video was more deserving – it spawned dozens and dozens of copycats. The song was huge. No one can deny that the two videos sparked vastly different cultural reactions, and one was much more successful than the other in that respect. But the bigger issue was that a BLACK MAN had behaved rudely, in public, to a WHITE GIRL. How. Dare. He.
The undeniable truth behind this whole situation is that we are continually proving ourselves to be much more prejudiced than we like to think we are. Women aren’t even a minority, and yet we continue to struggle for equality to our male counterparts. We have a Black American President and yet the Black community still struggles against racial stereotypes and lack of privilege. It’s also beneficial that we’re aware how we think and act about very public cases of crimes against women. Are you too quick to blame or judge the woman in that situation? Ask yourself why women are constantly being blamed for the fallacies of men. If a man rapes a woman, it must be because she tempted him and we can’t count on men to control themselves. Can’t we see how this viewpoint is offensive to men as well? We’re so far away from both racial and sexual equality, and it’s completely baffling considering how much a more balanced society would benefit everyone.