These days, it seems all people are talking about is Charlie Sheen. Though I don’t particularly care to, I take comfort in the fact that at least there has been some discussion of Sheen’s history of domestic abuse. But Sheen isn’t the only actor prone to violent outbursts who has largely avoided media scrutiny for his treatment of women; Mel Gibson, who has been viciously attacked for his anti-Semitic comments, has received little criticism for his alleged abuse against women, even from the most surprising of sources: women themselves.
“God, I love that man,” said Jodie Foster in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the director and co-star of Gibson in her new movie, The Beaver. Though it’s in Foster’s best interest to downplay Gibson’s history of violence in the hopes that people will still go see her film despite the horrible press that her lead actor has been receiving, are finances and artistic success the only things propelling her? Or has our culture of silence surrounded her so completely that she’s not compelled to speak out?
Speaking of Gibson’s character in The Beaver, Foster said, “He brought a lifetime of pain to the character that we’ve been talking about for years, that I knew was part of his psyche and who he is. It’s part of him that is beautiful and that I want people to know, too,” implicitly referring to the not-so-beautiful things that the world knows about him. Not only has Gibson been arrested for drunk driving (this arrest was the site of the aforementioned anti-Semitic remarks), but he participated in a domestic violence counseling program for a year and was on probation for three after alleged abuse towards his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. He has recently plead guilty, and in a statement from one of his lawyers, did so in order to come to “a proposal that would bring all of this to an immediate end.”
In the past, Gibson has attributed his behavior to alcoholism, which seems accurate and entirely probable. But Foster appears to take her love to the next level, explaining that, “He’s so incredibly loving and sensitive, he really is. He is the most loved actor I have ever worked with on a movie. And he’s not saintly, and he’s got a big mouth, and he’ll do gross things your nephew would do. But I knew the minute I met him that I would love him the rest of my life.”
Much of the time, knowing someone in a professional setting is entirely different than knowing them in a personal one. As was the case with the bevy of stars who refused to condemn Roman Polanski for his rape of an underage girl decades ago, it’s quite possible that Foster is unwilling to get involved in an issue that ultimately is none of her business and might drag her private persona into the light in a negative manner. But as with Charlie Sheen’s actions, when is it our responsibility to intervene? It’s admirable to support someone that has taken steps to fix their life, who has atoned for what they have done, and to help them move on. But is it admirable to ignore years of erratic and dangerous behavior, particularly when such issues are so important to discuss seriously? Knowing Foster’s typical unwillingness to speak, we may never know.