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Mel Gibson's 'Passion'

Posted: January 26, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2004

Mel Gibson is the bravest man in Hollywood. Perhaps, he's the bravest in the country, all because of a movie. It's called "The Passion of The Christ" and it opens on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25.

His isn't just the courage of a man facing physical danger in a job or in a lifestyle. Gibson endures that and moreA1V much, much more.

He's under fire for his life and beliefs, his morality and for his religion. It's not often, in this day and age, that anyone faces that kind of challenge. When it happens, it's often a private hell. Gibson's hell has been very public.

Mel Gibson wanted to produce a film about the Passion of Christ V the last 12 hours of His life, up to and including the Crucifixion. He says it's a film he had to make and he spent $25 million of his own money to do it. When he approached studios for financing or distribution, they scurried away like rats.

Gibson wanted to use the Gospels as the basic script. He wanted it in Aramaic, the language of the time. He wanted it as the Bible presents it, without sanitizing the horror of the suffering and death. He certainly wanted it without the usual Hollywood touch of sex and heresy. It was to be as close as possible to portraying what actually happened. He did it.

Gibson risked everything, knowing that if he lost the gamble, he'd not only face the financial ruin, but in the eyes of Hollywood, he'd be doneA1V a failure and a fool.

He's endured a stolen script which was publicly reviewed, the screening by the New York Post of a bootlegged copy of the film to select people for "review," scathing commentary by people who never saw it, persistent accusations of anti-Semitism and, beneath it all, boiling contempt for Catholicism and believers.

Despite this, Gibson's screenings of the film have drawn almost unanimous praise. But, personally, he's drawn fire and his defenders have been trashed. The latest is the pope!

Frank Rich, did it in the New York Times. Obviously his nose is out of joint because (in his words) he is "one of the many curious Jews who have not been invited to press screenings of "The Passion."

Hey Frank, I'm one of the many curious Catholics who hasn't been invited either. And I'm in the media and a conservative, too. So baby, you're not alone. Buy a ticket!

Not having seen it doesn't stop Rich from ripping the film. He admits he depends on hearsay and second-hand opinions. But when it was reported that Pope John Paul II had a screening of the film and said "It is as it was," Frank went berserk.

He tore into Daily Variety for describing John Paul as "a playwright and movie buff," commenting lest anyone doubt his credentials.

Hey Frank, the pope is a playwright and also acted and directed in his youth and always loved movies.

As for the pope's assessment of the integrity of the film, in case Frank didn't notice, the pope is an expert in theology, the Bible and the life and death of Christ. Somehow, I'll take his comments more seriously than those of a newspaper writer, scared to death that a film, filled with traditional religion, might be successful.

Not content to revile the pope, Frank Rich jumped on the bandwagon of asserting the film encourages anti-Semitism, involves political partisanship and, that it panders "to church-going Americans."

Hey Frank, what happened to target audiences?

Going further, he excoriated columnist Robert Novak (who saw the film and said, it was not anti-Semitic) not for his "review," but for his coverage of the presidential campaign (!) calling it "spiritual McCarthyism"!

Now who's playing politics?

When GibsonA1V whose father was skewered in a major piece in the New York Times MagazineA1V defended his film, Rich dismissed Gibson as playing "hard-knuckle religious politics."

The arrogance of professional moralists who persist in attacking traditional Christianity is breathtaking.

Hollywood and the media have no use for people with consistent beliefs. They certainly have no use for people with religion, especially, if that religion is Roman Catholic. Gibson's double sin is not only that he's Roman Catholic, he's traditional CatholicA1V Latin Mass, against abortionA1V one who prefers the Church before Vatican II opened the doors to modernism and in the process lost much of what made Catholicism what it's been for 2,000 years.

God help the person who stands up for what he believes and who puts his money where his mouth is.

God, indeed.

Barbara Simpson, "The Babe in the Bunker" as she's known to her KSFO 560 radio talk-show audience in San Francisco, has a 20-year radio, television and newspaper career in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

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