Mel Gibson is a publicist’s dream, a Catholic ‘family man’ and actor with that perfectly wholesome look; a wide
white smile and enough tattoos to look modern, he has encountered appalling adversity for one barely into his
sixties. In 2009 Mel revealed that doctors had diagnosed him with malignant racism and noted bluntly: ‘Your
career is dying. You have six weeks - four months, tops.’
Sickened by two months of AA meetings and Robert Downey Jnr, Gibson abandoned conventional medicine in favour of a range of holistic treatments, including Ayurvedic medicine
and oxygen therapies. He embarked on a de-bullshitted, refined sugar-free diet, which he detailed on a 2013 Instagram blog @healing_Mel. Therein Gibson announces an intention to
continue healing himself from terminal career decline “naturally”. Already, it seemed that Mel had defied quite astounding theatrical odds.
The blog soon became a successful iPhone and iPad food-slash-lifestyle app called ‘The Whole Bollocks’ which has achieved over 300,000 downloads. Publishers took note excitedly,
and last December The Whole Bollocks book was published in Australia, illustrated with photographs of wholefoods - buckwheat pizza, overflowing bowls of chia seeds - in casually
but gorgeously displayed rustic kitchen settings alongside stills from Lethal Weapon 3.
The Hollywood publicity machine subsequently described Mel as “inspirational” and a star who, after being diagnosed with terminal career decline, found himself unsupported by
conventional wisdom. And so, Mel began a journey of self-education, treating himself through a combination of nutritional supplements and absolute bollocks.
Gibson’s own introduction to this book contains some dramatic claims. He describes growing up “in a very dysfunctional home” with a mother who had multiple sclerosis and an
autistic brother. At twelve, Mel writes, he moved out and discovered his first vegetable garden. Aged twenty, “I had a stroke at work” which led to a diagnosis of “malignant
over-acting”. Gibson went on to blame the Jews for this, but one day he began to read up on nutrition (“one thing that really stayed with me was reading about the detoxification
properties of lemons”) and pulled himself out of psychoanalysis "even though my doctors freaked out, they couldn’t stop me”.
Thereafter Mel began “empowering myself to save my life” (although last July he posted on Instagram the sad news that his decline had inexorably spread: “I have terminal career
decline in my blood, spleen, brain, arse and nutsack. I am hurting”). Still, the financial risk of launching The Whole Bollocks app was rewarded when an Apple executive chose it as one
of the select few to be featured on the Apple watch.
Even then came numerous weevils in The Whole Bollocks story. Earlier this month, former friends and colleagues began to post sceptical accounts of Mel’s story on Facebook. Fairfax
Media asked serious questions about the “inspiring causes” Gibson said profited from the proceeds, with several named charities having never heard of him. Gibson then broke down in
an interview with The Australian newspaper. Between drunken fits of anger, followed swiftly by tears and prayer, Gibson became vague and evasive,
telling the interviewer the bleak news around his career decline was inaccurate: “It was more of a misdiagnosis than completely fictional. It’s the
kikes - they’re all in this together.” Mel refused to name the doctor responsible then set about punching out the interviewer. His story was crumbling, no
one sure Mel ever had terminal career decline at all, or even what his real age was, with some speculating Gibson could even be in his nineties.
Soon after, Gibson turned his Instagram account to private, boarded up his house and told the neighbours Christ was coming. Thereafter Penguin announced it was suspending
publication of the US and UK versions of The Whole Bollocks book. Gibson had gone to ground.
Many of the people who enthusiastically followed Mel’s progress are now furious and betrayed. Those in the media who lauded the former
star of ‘Mad Max’ and ‘The Beaver’ have been publicly embarrassed. Reflecting on their summer encounter, Elle Australia magazine ran a
feature last December calling Gibson “the most uninspiring tit we’ve met this year”. Yet Lauren Spams, a writer for Cosmopolitan magazine
which recently gave Mel its ‘Fearless Drinker’ award, expressed disbelief anyone should criticise Penguin for failing to fact-check Gibson’s
story. “Why would they? I certainly wouldn’t have bothered if I were in their position,” said Spams. “Career decline is so all-consuming, so catastrophic, so final, that to question
anyone’s diagnosis would be downright shameful.”
Shouldn’t they have at least asked for more information on Gibson’s condition? Or politely requested an interview with those doctors who were allegedly so distraught when
Mel first came off theatrical-therapy? If Gibson’s story had been published in a scientific journal, such questions would have been obligatory. Even for a newspaper article,
basic fact-checking and additional sources ought to be utilised.
But the real problem lays in Gibson’s story having originated elsewhere, on a blog that quickly became part of the global acting industry, a fast-growing business empire which
runs partly on the free-flowing fuel of faith, assertion, anecdotes and assholes, and where words such as “inspiration” or “empowerment” recur frequently. Here blunt,
evidence-based questions are instinctively discouraged.
The peculiar, hazy rules of this industry - where lifestyle and diet meet health - can be seen in its response to Gibson’s serial claims. On the one hand, Mel has impressed
followers with the apparent triumph of his decision to heal through alternative therapies and diet. Then again, Gibson’s sudden revelation last July that his decline had spread
through his body was so shocking, no one in the publishing industry even looked to evaluate these claims independently. It’s hard to know which
template his promoters had in mind for Gibson: was he a genuine “medical miracle” whose “detoxifying” lifestyle achieved results defying scientific
predictions? An inspirational campaigner and fundraiser whose public struggle against career decline nonetheless appears doomed? Or just a total tit?
Obviously the acting industry is full of such people, twats who will endorse anything for cash, from health supplements to spa treatments, diet regimes to holiday retreats. But when it comes
to conventional wisdom, few doctors would agree that the diet or behaviour of actors has any influence on your health - just look at the total rubbish Gwyneth Paltrow comes up with on a
daily basis. Some genetic factors and triggers are currently beyond medical analysis or control which, unfortunately, means actors can make up any old bollocks and the public will believe
it Doctors must deal in statistics and probabilities within this controversial area rather than certainties, not least because actors themselves can be unpredictable.
As for Mel, when we approached him this once-respected actor refused to comment on our article, insisting “you’ve got the wrong Gibson”, Home Defence “would be hearing from his
lawyers” and we could “go fuck ourselves”.