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How Hollywood abusers might use the Mel Gibson redemption playbook to rise again

UK Premiere of 'Daddy's Home 2' Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

Mel Gibson, who pleaded guilty to beating the mother of his child in 2011, has some thoughts about the storm of sexual assault and harassment allegations now coming to light in Hollywood.

Says Gibson, who in 2010 was caught on tape informing his girlfriend that she deserved to be “raped by a pack of ni**ers”:

Things got shaken up a little bit and there is a lot of light being thrown into places where there were shadows and that is kind of healthy. It’s painful, but I think pain is a precursor to change.

In another interview, Gibson — who declared in 2006 that Jews are responsible for “all the wars in the world,” added:

Your heart goes out to the victims, of course. And I’m glad that they spoke up. And I think it’s unfortunate that they have to relive the whole thing to heal themselves. And the rest of us are subjected to the problem. And I think we really need to look at it.

Gibson, who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director earlier this year and currently has a new movie in theaters, is an instructive figure for us to be looking at right now. He is living proof that in Hollywood, you can be absolutely disgraced — a byword for moral bankruptcy, considered a violent bigot and a monster — and yet still claw your way back up to the A-list. All you need to do is wait out the worst of the outrage, and then work on movies that make a lot of money or carry some high level of social prestige.

It’s extremely likely that at least some of the men who are currently in disgrace will be following the Mel Gibson playbook in the near future. They’ll disappear under the radar for a few years. And then around, say, 2023, they’ll start to quietly put out feelers. Louis C.K. might perform at a prestigious club. Harvey Weinstein might produce an indie art film with his own money. Kevin Spacey might take a supporting role in a small but buzzed-about movie.

People will start to murmur about whether they might be staging a comeback. Cultural commentators will write think pieces. The men will give a somber interview or two about how things have been painful for them but they’ve really used this time to learn and grow. And then the Oscar campaigns will start.

And if the men are really good, as good as Mel Gibson has been, by 2024 they’ll be starring in feel-good family comedies that rake in money at the box office. All they have to do — as illustrated by Gibson’s vague and hypocritical moralizing on the allegations currently roiling Hollywood — is repent publicly, take a step back, and wait.