LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In 1985, Mel Gibson was declared People magazine’s first ever “Sexiest Man Alive”. Ten years ago, women flocked to see him in “What Women Want” playing a chauvinistic executive who finds he can read the female mind.
But in the last week, tape recordings apparently with the Oscar-winning actor ranting and cursing his ex-girlfriend in angry tirades that included racial and sexist slurs have shocked and alienated his female fans, media watchers say.
Yet unlike public condemnation from movie industry big-wigs over Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitic outburst in 2006, there has been little official comment about his misogynist tirade -- a reflection, some say, of lack of female clout in Hollywood.
“It is shocking to hear from this man, who has such charm and seeming intelligence in his film roles, but has emerged as a dastardly anti-hero,” said HollywoodLife.com editor Bonnie Fuller. “Guess what? Mel doesn’t know ‘what women want’.”
Celebrity website RadarOnline.com on Tuesday made public a third expletive-laced phone call said to be between Gibson, 54, and Oksana Grigorieva, 40, the mother of his eight month-old daughter. The pair are locked in a bitter court battle.
Gibson’s representatives have declined to comment on the tapes, nor have they denied the widespread reports that it is the “Braveheart” actor talking. Los Angeles sheriffs have launched a domestic violence probe into allegations that Gibson punched Grigorieva in the face in January, breaking her tooth.
In the tapes, the enraged voice said to be Gibson calls Grigorieva a “whore,” a “mentally deprived idiot” and a “pig in heat,” among many of comments that are laced with expletives. He also takes racist jabs at Latinos and African-Americans.
Yet the media coverage and any public outrage have focused more on the damage to Gibson’s career, and his racist slurs, than his sexist invective.
While some industry watchers have said his career will survive given his financial ability to fund his own projects -- as he did with his “The Passion of the Christ” -- there seems little doubt that many of the women who once admired Gibson will now leave him behind.
“I’ve had a lot of people who are professionals in the industry say to me that when you alienate women, they never come back,” said Kim Masters, editor-at-large of trade publication The Hollywood Reporter.
Joy Behar, one of the hosts of female TV chat show “The View” said on Tuesday that Gibson was not welcome there because he was an anti-Semite and a racist. Fellow “View” host, actress Whoopi Goldberg, defended Gibson against charges of racism.
“Mel Gibson has become a persona non grata throughout Hollywood. But not because of how he treats women,” said Melissa Silverstein, who runs the Women & Hollywood blog.
“People should be talking about the anti-women stuff as much as they talk about the racist stuff,” she said.
Silverstein noted that while Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal and talent agent Ari Emanuel denounced Gibson for his anti-Semitic rant in 2006, there have been no public statements this time around from major Hollywood players.
“It is indicative of where women are in Hollywood,” Silverstein said. “It’s about power, and the boys have it.”
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte