Can we still love 'Lethal Weapon' in light of Gibson's rants?

OPINION - It's hard to watch Mel Gibson's movies now because, deep down, we feel that we've been had...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Between Whoopi Goldberg’s recent blasting of bloggers for, she says, erroneously claiming she defended Mel Gibson’s actions on Monday’s edition of The View, and yesterday’s emergence of yet another alleged taped Gibson rant and a mountain of other celebrity reactions, Mel Gibson has somehow made his latest known meltdown almost as commentary-worthy as Tea Party protesters and the never-ending BP oil spill. While we Americans have so many pressing issues to address like unemployment and a war in Afghanistan, we can’t seem to shake this Mel Gibson insanity.

Many of us may not be ready to co-sign Whoopi’s statement that “I can’t sit and say that he’s a racist, having spent time with him in my house with my kids” but, on some level, the latter part of her statement holds true for many of us. No, we don’t actually know Mel in the same way Whoopi actually knows him but we had, until now, felt a similar closeness. Thanks to his many hit movies, including the Lethal Weapon franchise with Danny Glover, we too had “spent time with him” in our homes and with our families. So his latest meltdown felt very personal, especially for African-Americans. Mel had us going. We really thought he was one of the good white guys.

Why wouldn’t we? Tina Turner appeared in one of his Mad Max movies and his Martin Riggs was almost like an adopted brother to Danny Glover’s Roger Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon. Murtaugh and Riggs weren’t just partners at work, Riggs spent significant time with Murtaugh and his family. In a twist on many similar films, Riggs became the appendage to the black family and not the other way around. It was the Murtaugh family that showed him what love and normalcy was within the nuclear family structure and, now, thanks to widely believed confirmation that he’s racist, among other things, we feel betrayed. It’s certainly been an ‘et tu’ moment.

Our once cool white guy Mel even bucked Hollywood by bringing an unabashedly Christian film The Passion of the Christ to mainstream theaters. We didn’t really respond to accusations of anti-Semitism; the fact that Danny Glover’s buddy loved him some Christ too was icing on the cake for many of us. Then we heard “the pack of ni**ers” comment and many of us are now asking ourselves if we can watch any Mel Gibson movies. All of the sudden, Braveheart, which Nas famously referenced in a rap, isn’t as cool as it once was. Most problematic actually are those very Lethal Weapon films that we loved so much.

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Knowing the man instead of just the actor makes it a little difficult to embrace the ethnic diversity found in the Lethal Weapon films. Now we wonder if he was truly out to nail those apartheid loving South Africans in Lethal Weapon 2. What about all the black actors that appeared in Lethal Weapon 3? What did Mel really think? And, to think, Chris Rock joined Mel and Danny in Lethal Weapon 4.

I can’t speak for everybody but I know that, if I even bother to watch those films now, I will watch them with new eyes. Yes, I am a history buff who has longed learned to separate the accomplishments of a person from their sometimes less than stellar personality. When it comes to folks dead and gone, it’s easy to do that. I don’t have a personal connection so I can rationalize their actions. But Mel? That’s another story.

I feel like I know him and he stabbed me in the back something terrible. That said, he’s always been a sort of loose cannon. In the Lethal Weapon movies, Murtaugh definitely had to keep Riggs’s craziness in check. And in What Women Want, he definitely was a sexist in the beginning. Over the course of that film, he changed when he began to hear the innermost thoughts of women. It softened him and, by the end of the film, his character, Nick Marshall, was closer to the man we believed Mel to be. Certainly a man who loved his wife enough to have seven kids had to bear little resemblance to the self-serving, chauvinistic Nick Marshall we initially met. And, wait a minute, didn’t Loretta Devine appear in that film?

It turns out that Mel is an even better actor than we thought. All the while we took his many films, including Apocalypto, which he directed, primarily casting actors with indigenous ancestry, a definite anomaly for Hollywood, to mean that he was indeed a spokesperson for how white men could co-exist with other races and ethnicities in the here and now.

In light of these taped racist and sexist rantings, which his camp has yet to deny, we feel beyond betrayed. It’s hard to watch Mel Gibson’s movies now because, deep down, we feel that we’ve been had. Instead of celebrating us, we now feel that Mel was secretly taunting us, making a mockery of the world we know to be true, where all of us fit in together. The whole time he was just faking the funk and co-signing isms that continue to rob millions of their just rewards. And, that, is just unforgivable.