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Gary Oldman’s Bigotry Blindspot

The actor’s problem is that he sees Gibson and Baldwin as one and the same

Rachel Shukert
June 25, 2014
(Mel Gibson: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images; Alec Baldwin: Brad Barket/Getty Images)
(Mel Gibson: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images; Alec Baldwin: Brad Barket/Getty Images)

We’ve been through it many, many times before. A famous white man past 50, in a fit of pique toward somebody exerting an unwanted and presumably undeserved amount of authority over him—be it the cops, the ever-present paparazzi exercising their constitutional right to free assembly, or simply a much younger woman he very much wants to sleep with—lets loose with an emotional tirade in which he says something offensive about the Jews/blacks/gays. The Internet goes bananas, every trend reporter with a blog to maintain breathes a sigh of relief that we’ll have something juicy to write about that day, and said over-50 white man releases an ill-advised, often grandiose, apology that nobody is appeased by. And then everyone forgets about it when Prince George does something cute. This is the way the world ends, fa la la.

So it’s almost refreshing that Gary Oldman’s recent anti-Semitic-ish remarks in Playboy and subsequent bizarre and unconvincing apology followed a somewhat different template. Unlike Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin, whose controversial utterances he was purporting to defend, Oldman was speaking on the record, to an interviewer, and on a topic on which he had obviously had time to formulate a opinion. Which is not to say that it was a particularly thoughtful opinion: His notion that Mel Gibson was “biting the hand that feeds him” and that everyone in the world is guilty of saying angry and bigoted things is a little like the serial rapist who maintains that every man has raped someone, it’s just a matter of who’s gotten caught.

A big part of Oldman’s problem springs from his conflation of Gibson and Baldwin in the first place. Mel Gibson is a man with a deep history of troubling statements and beliefs about a whole range of people, whose father is a Holocaust denier and traditionalist Catholic who rejects Vatican II and its forgiving attitude toward the Jews with regard to the death of Jesus. (I shudder to think of his opinion of the liberal Pope Francis, my favorite Catholic of all time after Elaine Stritch.) Baldwin, on the other hand, is a long-time supporter of gay rights and gay organizations, who has made a home for himself in the arts community of New York City, who hurled an ill-advised slur at a photographer who was shoving a camera in his baby daughter’s face. To claim, in the coolly rational space of an interview, that they are both equally victims of politically correct hypocrisy only proves that Gary Oldman wouldn’t know an actual bigot if one was looking at him in the mirror. Take it from one of the Chosen.

Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.