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May 21, 2019 by

Mel Gibson’s ‘Rothchild’ Film Ditches the ‘S’ But Keeps the Anti-Semitism

As the endless reboots, remakes, and superhero movies show, no Hollywood exec is seriously asking if we need another movie about a given topic. Movies aren’t about need. They are about want. Desire. Wish fulfillment and fantasy. Movies are where we go to imagine other worlds, and be transported from ours.

So what does it say about our world that Hollywood has greenlit a major film that uses an almost identical name to Rothschild, a name almost synonymous with anti-Semitic tropes? Whose subject is a wealthy and corrupt family who will stop at nothing in pursuit of the almighty dollar? What does it say that the film stars one of the most notoriously anti-Semitic actors of our time—you know, who I mean? If you’re not aware, google Mel Gibson and his vile comments.

For the sake of full disclosure: his reps insist that the name similarity in this forthcoming project is a coincidence, and earnestly (and seemingly in all seriousness) point out that this film’s subjects are the “Rothchilds,” not the “Rothschilds” about whom the Nazis once made a propaganda movie.  

But sometimes, if it looks like a cigar, and it smells like a cigar, and it burns like a cigar…maybe just don’t light it.

The name Rothchild—with or without an ‘s’—evokes a whole lot of associations. For the anti-Semites out there, who are increasingly vocal, empowered, and deadly, those Rothchild associations are of the most appalling kind. Having this fictional family be wealthy and corrupt is a kind of shorthand these modern-day Nazis are all too equipped to understand. Casting a major propagator of that rhetoric in a starring role makes the message all the more clear. 

How does this even happen? I mean, I get that it happens because of structural and systemic oppressions and beliefs that people in power act on largely because they are white men, yes. But surely sometimes the PR nightmare isn’t worth it.

Hollywood, and culture at large, still has a lot of work to do. #Metoo exposed how deep the problem is in the supposedly liberal industry. The stunning bravery of those who spoke up and continue to do so has begun a movement, but the problem is deep. And it’s not—as this latest development shows—just about those making the movies, but also who gets to be redeemed and who gets to tell certain kinds of stories.

This movie is one of hundreds in development right now. A lot of other movies have beautiful and moving and transportive content and star amazing people and are funded and directed by others who constantly make the world a better place. And other movies fall right in the middle, full of people who are people doing their best to entertain. The world is complicated. 

But this isn’t. This movie is an embarrassment, and it’s part of a larger and more systematic problem. As much as I may wince at the publicity the outcry against this movie is giving an actor who should best be ignored and forgotten, I am so grateful for the voices that are speaking up right now. 

Here’s the good news: we have choices. We can choose what films we wish to see, and review, and talk about, and tweet about, and promote. We can choose which actors and directors and producers we support with our dollars and our hearts and our minds and our fantasies of other worlds. We can use this industry of myth-making to help create this world as we want it to be. We can vote not just with our dollars but our voices, promoting the work and the worlds that we want to think with and live in. Pop culture matters; it both produces and reflects our values and beliefs, and helps shape them in ways that can be profoundly powerful. So when decisions like this are made—to “redeem” Gibson, to give him this inappropriate role—it compels us to speak up.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.