The hot word in Hollywood today is the news that Warner Bros. has tapped Mel Gibson to produce a movie about Judah Maccabee and the Jewish-led revolt against the Greek-Syrian army that begot Hanukkah. Is this what Gibson meant when he said the Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world?
To mitigate the Gibson effect, Joe Eszterhas (“Flashdance”, “Basic Instcint”, “Showgirls”) will pen the script.
Even though Nikki Finke, who broke the story on Deadline.com, claimed in her trademark caps that this is a “SHOCKER” it’s not all that surprising.
For starters, Mel Gibson is obviously obsessed with the Jews. Between his personal religious convictions, decades working in predominantly Jewish Hollywood and the things he seems to let out when he’s drunk make it clear that he has a deep psychic preoccupation with Judaism.
Secondly, if the movie manages to generate half as much buzz as this story, the film should do well. Let’s not forget that the last time Gibson tapped into religious “history” (or at least his version of it) with The Passion of the Christ, Americans dropped $370 million to go see it (the worldwide gross nearly doubled that figure). A Jewish boycott of that film barely registered impact.
But for Jews, what’s disconcerting about Gibson getting Maccabee is the idea that someone who has a strange pathological hatred of Jews is co-opting one of their treasured stories for all the world to see. Jews feel they’re being stolen from, like Gibson is tearing out a page of Jewish history, claiming it for himself and wearing it as a cloak.
The news has incited the ire of Jewish leaders. Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance said giving Gibson the reins to this project is an insult to Jews. “Casting him as a director or perhaps as the star of Judah Maccabee is like casting Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Hier said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. Likewise, the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman simply said, “Judah Maccabee deserves better.”
But some Hollywood Jews found humor in the creative blasphemy, many of them taking to Twitter to vent. According to THR, the L.A.-based Jewish comedienne Shawn Pelofsky tweeted, “Mel Gibson and Warner Bros are teaming up to create a film about Judah Maccabbee. It’s called ‘Thanks for ruining Hanukkah’.”
Where humor fits in is that there is something cartoonish about the nature of Gibson’s ravings. It has to be asked, ‘Is this a man to take seriously? Is this man actually dangerous?’ For Jews, the post-Holocaust answer is ‘yes’ – read the first chapter of Elie Wiesel’s “Night” and know why: Because when Jews didn’t take anti-Semitism seriously, millions of Jews died.
But to be fair, it is more likely that Gibson’s madness stems from self-hatred. The kind of anger and resentment that slipped from his lips during that 2006 drunk driving arrest in Malibu can only speak to one thing: envy. Gibson is no Hitler, no statesman, no world leader, but a lonely and alienated movie star in emotional tatters (recall his loving treatment of his last girlfriend as a case in point). A guy like Gibson looks at the Jews and sees something solid, something that works, and has worked for many, many centuries. So what does he do? He looks out at this group of people, who seem to represent something he can’t have, and vacillates between lashing out at them and desperately wanting to be them.