I just watched Braveheart, a movie I have long enjoyed, for the first time since learning of Mel Gibson‘s anti-Semitic tirade in 2006 when pulled over for driving under the influence.Â Given Gibson’s comments, I feared I might not see past his past behavior.Â I was wrong.Â The movie overcomes any negative image I had of its lead actor.
To be sure, when Gibson first appears on screen, I did not readily warm to the character (as I had when I watched the film in the past), but it was a lot like my reaction to Elijah Wood as Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring.Â When I first see him, his youth strikes me.Â While in the books, Frodo was the oldest of the four principal hobbits (himself, Samwise, Merry & Pippin), in the film adaptation, Wood is the youngest of the four actors playing said hobbits. As you focus on the film, you concentrate in what’s in front of your eyes and if the acting, visuals and/or storytelling. are good enough, you usually lose sight of any objection you might have.Â At least while you’re watching the film.
So it was with Mel Gibson.Â Soon, I forgot his anti-Semitic slurs and focused on his screen character, William Wallace and his fight for freedom.Â “It’s all for nothing,” he said, “if we don’t have our freedom.”
I don’t think they made any films about crusaders for equality, well, there was that movie about John Reed.Â Still, I can’t imagine a scene of a dying hero crying out, “Equality,” having any resonance.
Freedom is an idea which resonates.Â to secure it many heroes in many lands and many ages fought very bravely, sometimes futilely.Â But, their stories are told and retold because we understand their goal.
And that is one (among many) reasons, Braveheart holds up despite the sometimes boorish behavior of its lead.