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Mel Gibson -- Bringing America Together

Thank you, Mel, for the gift you have given us. Just as the country is fracturing into ever-sharper shards of discontent -- as we're fighting about immigration and deficits and gusher accountability -- you come along and give us something to unify around.

Indeed, other than a few outliers, contrarians and Hollywood insiders who insist they know the "real" Mel, you've managed to accomplish a rare moment of simultaneous head-nodding and shared opprobrium in American culture.

That’s too bad. Not that your behavior isn’t reprehensible. Not that we all aren’t entitled to a little "celebenfreude" in this hot summer, basking in your meltdown. 

Not that you haven’t lived up to your reputation as a self-pitying, simmering kook, harboring rage and all sorts of messy demons for which, at some point in the future, Oprah’s couch beckons.

No, the reason I say your unanimous condemnation is regrettable is because your bottomless blackness gets all of us off the hook. The treatment you’re getting says that what you’ve said and done is a completely different species of behavior from what’s commonplace in the celebrity culture and beyond.

That’s not true. You’re no different than the rest of us, just a larger and uglier version. As a result, all the exaggerated attention you get in our tabloid culture perversely does two things. 

It will enable other bad-behaving bold-face names to implicitly or explicitly be compared to you in the future; you can hear it now: “Yeah, but compared to Mel Gibson, he’s Gandhi.” 

Similarly, you’ve raised the bar in our personal lives as well; you’ve given us the dubious gift of lower expectations, of legitimizing less than your ugly explosiveness and intolerance, when in fact we are all just reduced versions of you.

So in some way, I think we’d be better off as a culture if the tabloids and TMZ left you alone, rather than raise you up in into a strange kind of poster boy for our own good behavior. 

I don’t think your agency – William Morris Endeavor – should have dropped you. It isn’t like they have any ethics or morality – it’s simply good for their brand to run from you, the passion of the expedient.

Everyone in America deserves a lawyer and an agent, I say. Let that magical free market do its work; Chris Brown battered the crap out of Rihanna and he’s about to star in “The Takers” with Matt Dillon, a film where he’s also executive producer. 

You shouldn’t be denied your own chance at redemption because it makes us feel good. That would be, well, intolerant.

Adam Hanft is an award-winning creator of advertising and a brand strategist, as well as a journalist and cultural critic.  He is the founder and CEO of Hanft Projects and the author of "Dictionary of the Future."

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