Stuff. That’s what Mel Gibson called allegations of rape during The Hollywood Reporter’s most recent Director Roundatble. Gibson, Mira Nair, Denzel Washington, Oliver Stone, Damien Chazelle, and Barry Jenkins came together for the annual hour-long conversation among film peers which, this year, touched on fears, frustrations, and fairness — or unfairness if you ask Gibson and Nair as it relates to The Birth of a Nation.
Asked whether it was fair that a lot of people refused to see The Birth of a Nation because of the controversy surrounding Parker, Mel Gibson plainly stated it was not.
“I don’t think it’s fair. He was cleared of all that stuff. And it was years ago. You have to follow the system there. I think he’s innocent of all that stuff. The fact that he has to live with that stigma, and that it affects the art he does, is unfair.”
On one hand, Gibson’s stance isn’t surprising. For one, he’s white and a male which means he expects the privilege of getting a pass for wrongdoings. He’s also had his own fair share of controversies which threatened to overshadow his projects. In 2004 there were protests and calls for film studios not to distribute Gibson’s biblical drama Passion of the Christ due to allegations of anti-antisemitism. And in the wake of Braveheart‘s release, GLAAD called out Gibson for derogatory remarks he made about homosexuals in an interview with a Spanish newspaper. Critics also weren’t a fan of the portrayal of Prince Edward as an effeminate homosexual in the film which Gibson directed and he again faced accusations of homophobia.
On the other hand, the actor and filmmaker is also the same man who was recorded telling ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva — who later got a domestic-violence related restraining order against him — that if she got “raped by a pack of n-ggers” it would be her fault. So, clearly, there’s some fluidity when it comes to Gibson’s views of Black men, accused rapist or otherwise.
Nevertheless, female director Nair agreed with Gibson during the roundtable, saying:
“I think yes, the art should be separated. But in this case, it was ironic that at the heart of Birth of a Nation was the nature of what he was linked with [a rape of the lead character’s wife]. That was, I think, what created ambiguity and confusion in the eyes of the audience.”
There were also those transcripts that cast a great bit of doubt about Parker’s true innocence — not his stance in the eyes of the law.
Still, I would’ve loved to hear Washington’s thoughts on Parker considering their work together in The Great Debaters and the influence Parker said the Academy Award winner had on his personal and professional path.