"The Gospel of Mel Gibson"?
Poor schizoid Mr. Gibson, eh?
Oh, perhaps he's no greater wretch than the rest of us, but he certainly seems to be currently working overtime at bringing himself lower than what you might expect to scrape from the bottom of that proverbial barrel, and his image has taken quite a long, hard tumble since his heady days with The Passion of the Christ almost seven years ago.
I've read enough in the transcript from the recording of his self-righteous, narcissistic bluster towards Oksana Grigorieva to realize that we only now truly know the guy, and I don't care to know him any closer by reading more of that.
I'll therefore take some distance from the man and turn to an astute analysis of Gibson's narcissism by David Brooks in his recent column, "The Gospel of Mel Gibson," published with the New York Times (July 15, 2010):
There used to be theories that deep down narcissists feel unworthy, but recent research doesn't support this. Instead, it seems, the narcissist's self-directed passion is deep and sincere.Note this clever use of the quasi-religious term "passion." We'll return to this. But first, more on the typical narcissist:
His self-love is his most precious possession. It is the holy center of all that is sacred and right. He is hypersensitive about anybody who might splatter or disregard his greatness. If someone treats him slightingly, he perceives that as a deliberate and heinous attack. If someone threatens his reputation, he regards this as an act of blasphemy. He feels justified in punishing the attacker for this moral outrage.More religious terminology there from Brooks on the narcissist's messianic self-regard, with additional religious language of the sacred yet to come:
And because he plays by different rules, and because so much is at stake, he can be uninhibited in response. Everyone gets angry when they feel their self-worth is threatened, but for the narcissist, revenge is a holy cause and a moral obligation, demanding overwhelming force.Brooks then turns to Gibson and describes his verbal attack upon Oksana Grigorieva as "primal and searing" in "unleashing one . . . barrage after another," his "breathing . . . heavy," his "vocal muscles . . . clenched," and his "guttural sounds . . . like hammer blows." His "crude and derogatory" words "come out in waves" as he tries "to pulverize her into nothingness, like some corruption that has intertwined itself into his being and now must be expunged." Brooks is especially struck by Gibson's self-righteous -- dare one suggest messianic -- self-regard:
It is striking how morally righteous he is, without ever bothering to explain what exactly she has done wrong. It is striking how quickly he reverts to the vocabulary of purity and disgust. It is striking how much he believes he deserves. It is striking how much he seems to derive satisfaction from his own righteous indignation.How did he fall so far? Recall that this was a man -- as reported by Allison Adato in "The Gospel of Mel," People (Vol. 61 No. 9, March 08, 2004) -- who imagined himself already so low:
It's the director's left hand nailing Jesus to the cross. The cameo is more than a Hitchcockian gimmick. Gibson feels his telling of the Passion holds all humanity responsible for the death of Jesus. And, he has said, "I'm first on line for culpability. I did it."I recall being struck by those very words back in 2004 and thinking that they sounded something like what many evangelicals might utter, perhaps echoing the words of St. Paul in I Timothy 1:15, that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."
But Gibson's words seemed somehow different, perhaps because he had physically acted out the role of the one actually pounding in the nails. Consider his statement: "I'm first on line for culpability." If Brooks is right about Gibson being a narcissist, then we shouldn't interpret Gibson's confession of his culpability as an expression of humility, but as a claim to primacy.
Mel is just too good to be any place other than "first on line." His "Passion" is first and foremost about himself . . . as Brooks implies in his clever, striking pun on "passion," just one of many wordplays, beginning with his column's title.
Gibson's gospel turns out to be just Gibson, a self-glorifying narcissist flaming out as a falling star in a long, tedious arc of insidious descent.