Tag Archives: Tequila Sunrise

Race, Fandom, and The Years of Living Mel-lessly

{I know the right way to approach the Mel Gibson story (if you don’t know about his racist, misogynistic outbursts caught on tape you  might wanna read this first) is to be either hiply cynical (y’all sure he didn’t say nigga?) or just casually jaded (racism! from Mel? whatever, man!), but maybe cause I was a fan, neither approach satisfies me. I’m too old to be shocked, yet too shocked to avoid it…}

I’m one of those people who likes to know which movies people consider their favorites. Especially if I sense you might be a person I might get close(r) to: I ask, very early on, “What’s your favorite movies?” It’s not that I judge their tastes—God knows I’d prefer someone to have very bad taste than no taste at all—it’s more that I like to learn from others, and if you seem cool, your choices in movies might be cool, and I’ll discover something I didn’t know about.

I’m also the type of person who, depending on the day, will try to make sure that you see at least some of the movies that I love—partly because I have a tendency to quote them, but also because sharing flicks is, to me, sharing a deep part of me: the movies I love really do, like the books I love, I think, define who I am. I am a fan, and proud to call myself one, someone who nonetheless understands and relishes his fandom as a complicated site of oft-needed pleasures and cultural belonging.

Two movies I’d always refer peeps to: The Year of Living Dangerously (problematic in some ways but oh so sexy) and Tequila Sunrise (problematic in other ways but endlessly fascinating as an investigation into the nuances of male friendship). Both because I think they’re top-notch examples of Hollywood filmcraft, rich of character and ambience, filled with grace notes of longing and loss, and because they starred one of my very favorite movie stars: Mel Gibson.

Suffice to say, it’s been years since I’ve watched a Mel Gibson movie. Dating back to 2006, to be exact.

When I was a teenager, Mel Gibson was The Man: coming off the over-the-top action of the Mad Max flicks, he was infinitely watchable in the Lethal Weapon flicks, and by the time I was an adult, Mrs. Soffel and Gallipoli (which I discovered late), showed him off to be quite the actor, equipped to perform touching moments that felt real and true, who also had—compared to other big stars—impeccable taste in material and the directors he worked with. And though I saw Payback and Signs, the last Gibson film I can say I really liked was Ransom. A Ron Howard throwback to high-Hollywood suspense burnished by a sleek contemporary world-weariness that wore well on its entire top-flight cast, Ransom felt in many ways like Mel cementing his eventual Clint-ness (as in Eastwood)—as wrinkles deepened along with the presence, as maturity began to take the place of rip-roaring braggadaccio.

I didn’t much love Braveheart; it felt a little over-determined to me, and I won’t even get started on the blatantly nasty homophobia that marred the representation of King Edward as such a complete, I don’t know, nelly(?), that he might as well have been—as the direct opposite to “masculinity” in which he was portrayed—literally, a Queen. Thinking back, was this the beginning…?

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