Last Saturday evening, I downloaded Mel Gibson's latest, Blood Father . Mel has been in Hollywood's naughty corner for years and this gritty thriller about an ex-con who makes his living as a tattoo artist in a grungy Southern California trailer park is a "please, Miss, can I come back now?"
On Rotten Tomatoes, Blood Father had an 89% approval rating by the critics. "A small gem: a good old-fashioned chase picture, thickened with pulp," according the Los Angeles Times . "At some point, he deserves to be let out of the Hollywood doghouse," according to Variety. "Mr. Gibson makes a persuasive derelict John Wayne with a loose, energetic performance, finely tuned comic timing and an amused, self-aware 'Lethal Weapon' glint," according to the New York Times .
What none of the critics noted was how cruelly Blood Father stereotypes Mexicans. Perhaps they are so used to Hollywood vilifying people from south of the border that they no longer notice it. The villain is a sleazy, charming, sadistic nephew of a cartel drug lord. He employs more muscle-bound, menacing Mexicans toting high-powered weaponry. One of them is a "sicario", a professional Mexican assassin with terrifying face tattoos.
Oh yes, there is a charming 30-second vignette where Gibson's character and his daughter hitch a ride with a truck full of Mexican workers. Dirty, illegal and silent - those are the "good" Mexicans.
Hollywood's A-List has blamed Donald Trump for whipping up hysteria about immigrants. They should take a good look in the mirror. For decades Hollywood has tutored Americans in xenophobia.
Every word Meryl Streep used to dump on Donald in her Golden Globes speech recently ought to be applied to the actors, directors and producers who create films which demonise Mexicans.
And this instinct to humiliate, when it's modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, filters down into everybody's life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
I couldn't have said it better myself, Meryl. When will Hollywood stop bullying people south of the border?
Just consider these popular Hollywood films. Those that don't portray Mexicans as sinister, hyper-violent thugs portray them as charming, hyper-violent drug lords.
Sicario (2015) received three Oscar nominations. Dozens of decaying corpses, corruption, drug cartels, smuggling, illegal migrants. Etc.
Get the Gringo (2012), with Mel Gibson incarcerated in a filthy, over-crowded, hyper-violent Mexican prison.
Savages (2012), directed by the politically progressive Oliver Stone, about Mexican savages - drugs, cartels, rape, torture, beheadings, etc, etc.
Man on Fire (2004), with Denzel Washington as a mercenary who goes on a rampage in Mexico City. Kidnapping, torture, corruption, the usual.
Traffic (2000) won four Oscars and uses all the tropes about corrupt drug lords and their even more corrupt wives.
Who's kidding who, Meryl? If it weren't for Hollywood trafficking in xenophobic clichés, would President Trump be building a wall right now?