To be perfectly fair, it's tough to try to imagine the real life of a real celebrity. We have to try to put ourselves in their shoes, imagining the pressure of living up to a lead billing, constant autograph requests at inopportune and inappropriate times, work days which frequently stretch for 12 hours and sometimes even longer, some fans crossing the line into the territory of outright obsession, constant hounding by paparazzi who exist only to catch you at your worst and write fabricated bullshit, and agents and other dealers trying to take advantage of you. It's truly amazing to me that some celebrities are able to remain as grounded as they are, considering all that, and looking at it through that lens, the perks of fame look more like a tradeoff than any privilege.
You also have to admit that this justifies some celebrities totally cracking. Tom Cruise spent a year going bonkers and attacking everything in sight, Britney Spears shaved her head and got married and annulled days later, and Charlie Sheen wreaked havoc on the set of his show before hightailing it to paradise with a porn star. The big difference between these guys and Mel Gibson was that the other three had breakdowns which didn't come with nasty rants about race.
Such is the tragedy of Mel Gibson. Until about 2005, Gibson had everything going for him. He wasn't on the road to becoming one of the all-time great movie stars - he was already there, and his public image led us to believe he got there through being one of the nicest and most grounded guys in Hollywood. When The Passion of the Christ was accused of anti-Semitism, I - being viciously anti-PC - believed people were reading too much into it, which made it a real pain a year later when Gibson launched his drunken rant - which was totally, unmistakably anti-Semitic - at a police officer. There was his anti-gay rant and his mistress, and a whole facade which came crashing down. Mel Gibson did more than simply break down - he had a Woody Allen/Soon-Yi moment, a dethroning moment of such spectacular suck that, any way it goes from here on out, his career may well be over. Just as Allen never fully recovered from marrying his stepdaughter, Gibson's name is forever tarred and feathered.
For one, I'm still in Gibson's corner. With his new movie The Beaver, we see that co-star Jon Stewart may well still be standing by Gibson, and co-star/director Jodie Foster is definitely still there. These are significant because Stewart isn't afraid to bring up his Jewishness on The Daily Show, and The Beaver began filming after Gibson's rant. Foster is silent about her personal life, but rumors and hints about her being a lesbian are at an impossible-to-ignore level of strength and persistence. What we DO know for certain about Foster is that she and Gibson have been very close friends for many years. It would appear to me that if Foster is in fact gay, Gibson would most likely know. Gibson has also had some well-publicized battles with alcoholism, and I've heard he's a manic depressive as well. I don't normally take stands for the kind of attitude that got Gibson into trouble, but that is quite a bit to take into account, although he has some explaining to do in regards to his mistress and the hypocrisy and chutzpah he exhibited in attaining said mistress.
I can admit I took an unholy pleasure in seeing Britney Spears break down. Cruise's breakdown confused me, and Sheen's amused me. Gibson's was a real heartbreaker because his film presence was so integral to my childhood. Lethal Weapon, Maverick, Braveheart, Ransom, Payback, The Patriot, and many movies I loved. And Gibson wasn't just a pretty face - he was a talented pretty face who could both act and direct. Many stations still regularly show his movies, so I suspect people are cutting him at least some level of slack.
The creators of The Hangover rejected a redemptive cameo from Gibson in the recent sequel to the film, and it really says something about just how far Gibson's once-shining star has fallen that a group of fairly unknown and powerless indie producers can reject him and get away with it. It's always nice to see someone who is thought to be as awesome as Mel Gibson knocked back a few pegs, because it humanizes such people. But I think we may have recently seen more of Mel Gibson's humanity than we ever wanted.
I'm really hoping Gibson lives down his cracking. He's a man of way too much talent for the world to deprive itself of - Braveheart alone is proof enough of that. But it will be a long time before anyone is able to look at him and see the magnetic, charming wisecracker Gibson was at the height of his fame.