As an undergraduate English major, I dropped out of a class on John Milton (1608-1674) when I couldn’t deal with the poet’s arrogant presumption in Paradise Lost to “justify the ways of God to man.” And then, as a graduate student, I dropped out of a Milton seminar when I came across accounts of how the self-righteous polemicist went blind at the age of 46, and how he proceeded to maltreat the three daughters who were his amanuenses the last twenty years of his life. To this day, I remain ambivalent about having dropped out of those classes.
And now the media is full of news about Mel Gibson’s rancorous racist and sexist rants against his ex-girlfriend and mother of his youngest child. I hate to confess this, but among my favorite movies are some of Gibson’s earliest work as an actor—Gallipoli (1981), The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), and even the Mad Max series. He started to lose me with the Lethal Weapon movies in the late 1980s, and by the time The Man Without a Face (1993) came along, I noticed that he wasn’t aging well. Indeed, his face was undergoing a strange transformation.
And now the awful transformation is complete. The latest photographs of Mel Gibson in the media are hard to look at. It’s hard to believe, but this man, who was once so blessed with good looks, who might have been one of the good angels in Milton’s paradise, now looks like hell. But, perhaps all is not lost. For his next film project, Mel Gibson can now play the aging John Milton browbeating the women in his life. The part seems tailor-made for him. Let’s see him unleashing his lethal weapons yet again, as he seeks to “justify the ways of man to woman.”
Meanwhile, I don’t know whether to keep or throw away the Mel Gibson movies in my collection.