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FIRST-PERSON: Mel Gibson’s end-around

JACKSON, Miss. (BP)–“I just can’t believe it!” said one movie mogul to the other Hollywood big shots assembled in his office for the crisis meeting. “I thought Mel Gibson was one of us. Didn’t you think so, too? Why, we feted him and put him on a pedestal and gave him every possible award. We made him! Then he goes out without our permission and creates this, uh, what’s the name? Oh, yeah, The Passion of the Christ movie. How could he do this to us?”

“I know what you mean,” said the studio owner. “He’s definitely off the plantation. What could Mel have been thinking? He was brought up through the system; he has to understand how it works. Surely after all these years in the business, Mel knows we’ve given ourselves the exclusive right to determine the moral standards for this country. He acts as if he doesn’t comprehend that we decide whether a movie gets made or not.”

“That’s the part that really gets me,” said the producer, “and besides that, he didn’t ask us for one penny to finance the movie -– like we would have given it to him anyway. He went out on a limb and spent $30 million of his own money. He’s got some nerve!”

“He even found an independent company to take the movie the final step into theaters,” said the big-time movie distributor. “He went around us! How are we supposed to control what Americans see in movies if we can’t even keep a religious movie like this one out of theaters?” he asked his soul mates.

“I don’t get it,” said the movie critic, “the people aren’t listening to us. We’ve panned it viciously and used every conceivable personal slur against Mel — 60 Minutes’ Andy Rooney even called Mel a ‘wacko’ on national television — and yet people flocked by the hundreds of thousands to see it on opening night. Don’t all those unwashed cretins out there in flyover country understand that we’re the ones who tell them what they can watch?”

“Get a load of the numbers this flick is pulling down,” said the producer. “$125 million in five days. Five days! The Passion of the Christ actually beat out one of the Star Wars movies in the five-day numbers. The sky’s the limit when this movie hits DVD. Go figure.”

“Actually, it’s not that hard to understand,” said the studio chaplain. “Americans have always had a hunger for stories that depict people as noble and moral, even self-sacrificing. Look at the success of the Star Wars movies, the main characters of which exhibit unshakable courage, character, and devotion to duty and friends. Doesn’t that tell you anything? Nary a curse word in those movies, and no sex at all. Yet on the 20th anniversary re-release of A New Hope, the first Star Wars episode, people lined up around the block for hours to get a ticket.

“The same goes for the Lord of the Rings series. The Return of the King installment just won 11 Academy Awards. Together the three films are set to gross billions of dollars in revenue over the next several years. Yet there wasn’t a hint of nudity or perverse behavior among the heroes — just courage, character, and devotion to friends and duty. Is any of this starting to sound familiar?”

The chaplain’s comments were met with immediate howls of laughter.

“What century are you from?” the studio owner asked derisively. “You’re positively quaint. That kind of stuff went out with virginity and ‘love thy neighbor.’ In our world, there are no longer any such ideals as courage and character. There is no absolute truth. We make it up as we go along, film by film. You’re joking, right?”

When the Hollywood mogul stopped laughing, he agreed with the studio owner and suggested that the chaplain be excused from the meeting. “Here, here!” the others enjoined, and the chaplain was sent on his way.

“Now, let’s get serious,” said the mogul. “We’ve got to figure out how to reassert control before this wacko Gibson -– or anyone else — does anything like this again. My friends, we’re in a war for the soul of America.”

On that last point, all were in agreement.
Perkins is editor of the Baptist Record, Mississippi Baptists’ newsjournal, www.mbcb.org

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  • William Perkins