Mel Gibson's latest apology -- call it Apology 2: Oh, Yeah, About the Jews -- is the first time since Godfather II that a Hollywood sequel has so outshone the original.
Only time will tell whether it reflects the most stunningly fast and vast transformation since Saul became Paul on the road to Damascus or the work of a PR genius -- but, for now, it has to be said: Mel gives excellent apology when his back is shoved up against the wall and he gets a do-over.
Crisis manager wanna-bes take note:
"There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark."
"I am a public person, and when I say something, either articulated and thought out, or blurted out in a moment of insanity, my words carry weight in the public arena. As a result, I must assume personal responsibility for my words and apologize directly to those who have been hurt and offended by those words."
"This is not about a film. Nor is it about artistic license. This is about real life and recognizing the consequences hurtful words can have. It's about existing in harmony in a world that seems to have gone mad."
If these are truly Mel Gibson's feelings, then let me be among the first to welcome him back to the land of the sane.
If they are the work of a publicist, I want his name and number. He's the Shakespeare of spin, the Picasso of PR, the Camus of Contrition.
So as Gibson embarks on what he (or his punch-up man) calls his "journey through recovery," we'll have to wait and see if he grows into the person reflected in the apology -- which would be a great moral victory for him. If he doesn't, life will no doubt provide him with another opportunity to show that there has not been true redemption.
Alright, so much for Gibson. Now what about Hollywood? Yesterday, I said the Gibson story would be a defining moment for the entertainment community. So how did Hollywood fare? It is also on a "journey through recovery" -- in its case, from a longstanding addiction to the bottom line and the willingness to forgive even the most egregious trespasses of its big name stars?
The town's performance has been decidedly mixed. If I were going the Ebert/Roper route, I'd have to give Hollywood one thumb up and one thumb down.
First the pan: Far too many of Hollywood's power players stuck to the industry's time-honored code of silence about superstar screw-ups -- as entrenched as the mafia's vow of omerta. As the LA Times reported:
Hollywood was largely founded by, and the studios are still chiefly run by, Jewish executives... Still, dozens of Jewish executives, producers and agents contacted Monday would not go beyond expressing their outrage in private. In typical Hollywood fashion, they refrained from publicly criticizing -- and potentially alienating -- a powerful star and director who could make them a lot of money.
Similarly, although ABC announced it was dropping its head-scratching plans to develop a Holocaust-themed miniseries with Gibson, it refused to link its decision to Gibson's anti-Semitic comments, preferring to take the cowardly route and attribute its decision to the lack of a good script. Way to send a message, ABC!
Now for the rave: the Gibson episode proved what a difference even one person taking a public stand can make.
By taking an immediate and unambiguous stand on Sunday, Ari Emanuel showed that not everyone in town was willing to write off Gibson's odious racism as the cost of doing business with a bankable hit maker. Others then followed suit, including Sony Pictures chairwoman Amy Pascal, producers Arnon Milchan and Laura Ziskin, and manager Bernie Brillstein -- earning themselves a plaque in the Backbone Hall of Fame.
Their reaction made it clear that Gibson was not going to be able to get away with his original statement that completely glossed over his anti-Semitic ravings.
Does anyone doubt that without the outrage expressed by Ari and the others, Gibson and his representatives would have gladly pulled the contrition plug following Sunday's Jew-free, apology-lite press release?
Instead we got today's unequivocal, world-class mea culpa -- and the chance to see if Gibson actually means it when he says "I am not a bigot."
PS For other takes on the Gibson story, be sure and check out: Ari Emanuel, Bill Maher, Al Franken, Adam McKay, Alec Baldwin, Nora Ephron, Harry Shearer, Bob Cesca, Jane Smiley, Seth Greenland, Nina Burleigh, Eric Boehlert, Rachel Sklar, Marty Kaplan, Merrill Markoe, Peter Mehlman, David Rees, Norm Ornstein, David Mamet, Adam Hanft, Michael Smerconish, Patt Morrison, Karen Finley, Byron Williams, Martin Lewis, Jayne Lyn Stahl, Maia Szalavitz, Dave Fratello and Steve Young.