Saturday, December 16, 2006

Running through the jungle

Mel Gibson sees himself as a victim; thinks he’s been unfairly treated after his boozy transgression against public safety, his coy flirtations with holocaust denial, his demented tirade against the Jews and his resisting arrest. In a telephone interview, Gibson said:

"But how many people do you know get a DUI and are kicked around for six months? It's out of proportion. I'm not saying I wasn't at fault. Hey, we're not perfect, we're all human, get over it. I've apologized, done the right thing, now get the hell over it. I'm a work in progress."

He’s definitely a piece of work of some kind, that’s true, but since many people have gone to prison for what he got away with, the notion that, as he said to USA Today, he should get a target tattooed on his chest, is just another smug and arrogant bit of the persecution obsessed Mel Gibson.

“they're calling it blood porn. To make it personal against me, that's a low blow."

And it’s just as low to take specific criticism of his movies as evidence that he’s a victim and unfairly so. But was Apocalypto “the right thing?” As with his depiction of early first century Jerusalem, it depends on whom you ask. Believers don’t question, historians and linguists disagree, movie critics don’t always get the point. Mayanist Elin Danien at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology writes in the Philadelphia Daily News

“Gibson has taken bits and pieces from various groups and time periods and mixed them together with a large dollop of his own feverish imaginings into a Chinese menu of ‘one from column A and one from column B,’ with no attempt at accuracy.”

While the non-Mayan actors may be mouthing a modern Mayan dialect by rote, as Romans in The Passion of the Christ mouthed medieval Church Latin instead of Greek, they are not Mayans but rather native Americans from the American Midwest and the more important the role, the more the casting reflects Gibson’s biases. Gibson’s Jesus, for instance, could have easily passed for a Northern European, while the nasty unbelieving Jews were as stereotypically semitic as one would see in a medieval passion painting. In Apocalypto, says Danien

“we see fewer than a half-dozen people who are recognizably Maya in appearance.”

Of course that’s a bit typical of old Hollywood casting and location selection (the film was shot in Vera Cruz, not in the Yucatan,) but Gibson can only sneer and tell us that historical accuracy is more appropriate for the History Channel. What he sells is populist pandering, full of blood, torture and victimhood and it’s tempting to speculate that this fits with the personality and the dark fantasies of a man who feels the Jews who control the world and start all the wars are out to persecute him.

If you want two gory hours of torture and human sacrifice, go see Apocalypto, says Danien.

“If you'd like to learn something about the real lives of the Maya and other peoples of Mesoamerica before the Europeans arrived on these shores, visit the Mesoamerican galleries at the Penn Museum.”

And you won’t be enriching an alcoholic bigot by doing it either.


Anonymous said...

I usually don't trust movie reviews, so I've been surprised and disappointed (many people strongly recommended "Thank you for Smoking" which I found to have not one iota of cleverness in the whole 2 hours). But I read enough about "The Passion" that I refused to see it. Unlike most people, I don't like pornography, and enough people described it that way, that I decided not to take my chances with it. And, I assumed Apocalypto was another "Bible" movie, so until reading this, I didn't know it was about the Maya. MesoAmerican history is actually something I do know a little about, so I may see it, just to note the obvious and from what I read, numerous errors and re-writes.

d nova said...

i try 2 remind myself that mel can't help it, he's been programmed by his dad 2 have a phobia of jews, etc, but it's hard, man....