Long before there was Mel Gibson there was Mel Brooks. In fact, it was many decades after Mel Brooks had been entertaining audiences via The Sid Caesar Show and movies before Mel Gibson became a household name.
What different contributions they have made to humanity. What different ways they will be remembered by history. I make no bones about it; I love Mel Brooks. I grew up watching Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Silent Movie. Alright, I’ll admit it – I used to be very fond of Mel Gibson too. Despite the boycott of many Jews against ever watching a Mel Gibson movie, I must admit, while channel surfing the other day I came upon a very important part of the movie Ransom. I kept telling myself to change the channel, yet I stayed for a couple of minutes – that’s how compelling Mel Gibson can be.
If Mel Gibson could only be a little bit like Mel Brooks he, and the world, would be a much better place:
Mel B. takes his cues from the Adolph Zukor playbook; Mel G. from Adolf Hitler’s.
Mel B. has been known to indulge in chicken soup; Mel G., alcohol.
Mel B. is a mensch; Mel G. is a schmuck.
Mel B. has made a career of making people laugh; Mel G.’s celluloid history contains a lot of gratuitous violence.
Mel B. is proud of being from Brooklyn; Mel G. is proud of being Australian even though he didn’t move there until he was a teenager. Perhaps they will take him back?
If Mel B. was in charge, the world would have a lot more farting cowboys; with Mel G. perhaps Jews would be forced onto boats back to what’s left of the old country.
The real tragedy isn’t what Mel G. said; the real heartbreak is that anti-Semitism exists in his heart and the hearts of countless others around the globe.
I was in my mid-twenties in Nepal, about to trek the Himalayas, before I ever heard the expression “Jew me down,” referring to the price of something. I guess my gargantuan, Aryan-looking Australian roommate felt comfortable enough saying it in front of me because it was, most likely, something she said frequently. If I were a bigot, at least I think I’d have the sense not to say something to the face of the person I was bigoted against.
No, Mel G. isn’t the first anti-Semite, and he’s far from the last. He’s just very high-profile, so his, shall we say, indiscreet comments, can easily fuel the fires of anti-Semitism worldwide. That’s the true tragedy. Mel G.’s legacy is cemented now. Whatever else he has done or will do, there will always be an asterisk by his name in print and in the minds of people: “Oscar winner and anti-Semite Mel Gibson died today…” And what has Mel Brooks done for the people of the world? Made them laugh, made them laugh, made them laugh. As for a fictionalized view of history, I’ll take History of the World: Part I over The Passion of the Christ any day.