Commentary by Patricia Nell Warren


As we count down to the Oscars, controversy over homosexuals' portrayal in film is boiling ever higher. In the 3/25 National Examiner, last year's Oscar-winner (for Braveheart) Mel Gibson complains bitterly that gay people are harassing him because of his gay-bashing.

Says Gibson: "I've been chased by automobiles doing dangerous things on the freeway. People have tried to spit on me. It's made me totally paranoid." His "paranoia" is due to the Gibson-watch being done by GLAAD and other human-rights activists in the gay community.

One day, Gibson says, a gay group confronted him. "They had signs, they were screaming and frothing at the mouth -- pure hatred," he says. "It was wild."

Poor thing. Too bad he wasn't born gay, black, native American, Asian, Jewish, non-Christian, or even female. If he was, he could have the educational and illuminating experience of being spat on lots of times, both literally and figuratively. It's a real eye-opener. But one good spit, and ole Braveheart is begging for mercy.

Too bad that every glob of spit flying at a gay kid outed at school doesn't get the same kind of high profile as the salivary missiles directed at Mr. Gibson. If only the Examiner would run flaming headlines like: STUDENT SPIT ON AT ANYPLACE HIGH SCHOOL...TEACHERS PRETEND THEY DON'T SEE IT. With this kind of scrutiny in the tabloids, maybe more schools would clamp a lid on gay-bashing behind their walls.

Going beyond spit -- how about the epidemic of murders of gay men and lesbians that is gaining ground, not only in Texas but other states as well? Maybe if the mighty Braveheart was actually brave enough to protest these atrocities, instead of being such a chickenheart and taking up print space with his whining, we would see a lessening of anti-gay feeling in the U.S.

If Gibson were a gay figure in history and lived through the same kind of liberation struggles and tortured death in real life, that he played fictitiously in Braveheart, maybe he would have a clue why the gay community is on his case. Indeed, if he had been the real-life king's lover thrown out the window, maybe he would have a problem with gay-bashing -- just before he splatted on the ground. The real-life gay-bashers with baseball bats are just as formidable as the king's army in long-ago Scotland. The gay community's scream of "FREEEEEDOM" is just as loud and real as that of Wallace's kilted clansmen.

It's all very well to talk the braveheart talk in front of the cameras. Film history is studdied with stars who swung a sword in a single heroic role that set them apart from the rest. But what about walking the walk in real life? Either way Hollywood figures lean, they have tremendous power when the express opinions. Some use their power and visibility to promote positive change in our country. Others, like Gibson, use their power and position in a less courageous way.

The people who spit on Gibson may not have acted appropriately. Tit-for-tat is not an effective way to end hostilities, as either side in the Middle East can tell us.

But one thing is sure. Gibson is getting a tiny taste of what every open homosexual has suffered for the last thousand years. If he doesn't like being spit on, maybe he ought to get brave where it really counts. He can swing his sword on behalf of gay people who are getting hurt for real, and help create a climate of tolerance in America.

Patricia Nell Warren is author of "The Front Runner" and other bestselling books, as well as a widely published commentator. Her publisher is Wildcat Press. Copyright (c) 1997 by Patricia Nell Warren. All Rights Reserved.

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