Why “death of the author” needs to die

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It can be hard discovering an artist you love is actually a controversial figure. There is a desire to dissociate that person with the work they have made, to meteorically kill the author if you will. “Death of the Author” is a form of criticism in which the author intentions do not matter when discussing a product.

The term comes from an essay written in 1967 by French literary critic Roland Barthes. “Death of the Author” is often used as justification to enjoy a piece of medium despite the personal beliefs of the creator. However, this behavior is bad as it enables actions and beliefs that are racist and sexist.

This weekend saw the release of “Hacksaw Ridge” which is Mel Gibson’s first directorial role since “Apocalypto” back in 2006. Gibson was once one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, starting with cult favorites the “Mad Max” series and then becoming the goto leading man with the “Lethal Weapon” films. In the 90s, Gibson also proved himself as a director with the 1995 “Braveheart.” He also directed 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ” which is still the highest grossing non-English film of all time. But that came crashing down in 2006.

On July 28, 2006, Gibson was arrested for driving under the influence. While being arrested, Gibson said, “******* Jews, the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. Are you a Jew?” 

He also called a female officer “sugar****.” 

He blamed this on alcohol. A few years later in 2010, Gibson would leave a message on the answering machine of his then girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, in which he said, “You’re an embarrassment to me. You look like a ******* ***** in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of *******, it will be your fault.”  

Gibson would plead no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge in a case against Grigorieva in 2011.

Now Gibson is trying to stage a comeback with “Hacksaw Ridge.” As of this article the movie is sitting comfortably at an 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so other critics seem to have short memories. Some people might see that the personal actions of the Gibson shouldn’t taint a well-made film. They should be able to ignore Gibson’s words and just enjoy the movie as a standalone film. 

But by ignoring his behavior, you condone it. You are sending a message not only to them but the companies that this kind of racist and sexist behavior is acceptable. I don’t care how good the acting is or how pretty the cinematography is, people should not be awarded for terrible behavior. If Hollywood thinks we don’t care, then they’re not going to care. By paying for this movie, you are funding an anti-Semitic sexist racist.   

Gibson is far from the only star in Hollywood to do something terrible, but he’s the one with a movie that came out this weekend, so he’s the example. At the end of the day, the movie industry is just that; an industry. Industries respond to money. You speak with your dollar, whether you mean to or not.