The Passion of the MelTom: Gibson and Cruise Have Long Been Untouchable Movie Icons despite Their Attacks on Things Say. So Should We Rejoice in Their Recent Public Humiliations?

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It's not even Labor Day, and already 2006 is a banner year for lavender schadenfreude.

Like many gays out there, you probably felt as I did that the career juggernauts of Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise would continue to bulldoze over our feeble protests forever. Whoever cared that gays and lesbians had collectively and quietly been boycotting these guys--call them the MelTom--for years? Just look at the figures of their recent successes: Cruise's War of the Worlds grossed almost $600 million worldwide last year; in 2002, Gibson pushed M. Night Shyamalan's Signs to a $400-million-plus global gross. As a director, he scored even bigger with The Passion of the Christ (2004), which did nearly $400 million in the United States alone.

Lest you've forgotten, here's Gibson talking back in the 1990s: "Who's going to think I'm gay? Do I sound like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them?" Certainly not when it comes to his own butt, Gibson insisted. "They take it up the ass," he said. "This is only for taking a shit." Which he illustrated by pointing to his own presumably untouched rear.

Gibson's lame remarks about gays--and more recently about Jews--are so over-the-top repugnant that most rational people can't help but want to upchuck. The film images that his bigotry has produced, however, are far more insidious: In his Passion, not only are Jews depicted as being responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ but Herod is played as a mascaraed old queen who rules over a tranny court. Worse, Satan is half man and half woman--to social conservatives, the very definition of a fag or a dyke.

Then there's King Edward I, a.k.a. Longshanks, in Gibson's Braveheart. The film's cathartic applause-grabbing moment comes when Longshanks throws the male lover of the future Edward II out the window because he thinks the two fairies have neglected their duty to kill the rebel William "Braveheart" Wallace. Instead of provoking outrage and condemnation, this gleeful, historically bogus depiction of a gay-bashing saw the gentiles and Jews of Hollywood band together to award Gibson Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director in 1996.

The equally overhyped Cruise has fashioned a second career out of a similar take-no-prisoners strategy: suing for libel anyone who dares question his sexual orientation. Yet despite his tedious legal habits, he's had an uninterrupted string of movie hits longer than those of either Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart. It seemed Tom's popularity would go on forever.

Until it didn't.

What hubris led Cruise to trash Brooke Shields for treating her postpartum depression with proven medications? Here's a celeb who has been so sequestered away in his own ever-thickening cocoon of superstardom that he thinks the height of romance is proposing to his girlfriend atop the Eiffel Tower--and jumping up and down on a couch like a 5-year-old to demonstrate the power of his feelings for "this woman," as he's called her.

Thanks to the former Pretty Baby and a newer baby named Suri, Cruise's last film proved to be a surprise money-loser for Paramount. Mission: Impossible III was a quarter-billion-dollar boondoggle, grossing just $133 million domestically, of which Paramount might see no more than $70 million. No wonder the studio appears none too eager to renew its production deal with the out-of-work movie star.

Even Cruise's muzzling of those relentless gay rumors has foundered: On the eve of M:I:III's release, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone accused Cruise of preventing Comedy Central--a division of Viacom, as is Paramount--from rebroadcasting their show's "Trapped in the Closet" episode, which has two Scientology acolytes literally sharing Stan Marsh's bedroom closet: "John Travolta and Tom Cruise won't come out of the closet," the cartoon characters scream repeatedly. …


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