Mel Gibson Makes More Friends

If you go to a university, and show a movie, and open the floor to questions from academics who specialize in the subject, you should not be surprised if they ask tough questions. Mel Gibson, however, could only cuss out one such professor, who was then escorted out by campus police.

Alicia Estrada is an assistant professor of Central American Studies at Cal State Northridge. She asked questions about his depiction of the Maya, then handed the microphone to a Maya community leader, Felipe Perez, translating his Spanish. At that point the crowd started getting restless and uncivil. According to the campus newspaper,

While Estrada and Perez spoke, CTVA [Cinema and Television Arts] students and others in the audience booed, yelled, “This is America, speak English!” and shouted for them to sit down and shut up.

At that point Gibson, apparently playing to the crowd, reportedly shouted,  “F— off lady, get a history book and read.”

Estrada is demanding an apology to herself and the university.

“I asked about his sources, which is a common question in academia. It’s a question you would expect in a university setting, especially in a Q&A portion of a screening.

4 thoughts on “Mel Gibson Makes More Friends

  1. But Gibson DID answer Estrada’s questions (calmly and without profanity). Everyone there agrees on this point except for Alicia Estrada. Here are two eyewitness accounts (language warning).

    http://www.cinemablend.com/new.php?id=4744
    http://fox-gloves.livejournal.com/153262.html

    CSUN spokesman John Chandler is also empthasizing this point.
    http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_5510126

    Practically every person quoted has said that Estrada was confrontational, rude, and condescending. One person said that Estrada was at the microphone for over ten minutes.

    The only reason that this story made the news is that A) the sole authorized photographer (Khristian Garey of the student newspaper) rushed out of the event to sell the photos and story to celebrity gossip site TMZ.com, and B) assistant professor Estrada has been giving lots of interviews claiming victimhood.

  2. The quality of writing of those students leaves much to be desired.

    Clearly, there are two camps here. One are the film folks, who organized the event. The other are historians and Mayans concerned with historical accuracy.

    It’s a replay of “The Passion.” Mel wanted to make an artistic and theological statement, and wasn’t concerned about history, and was shocked and offended and outraged when academics raised historical and theological questions. Deja vu all over again.

    Clearly, the faculty of the film department failed, as one of your links suggests–but not for the reason that student suggests. This wasn’t set up for academic discussion. Was a professor wrong to expect the possibility of academic discussion at a university event?

  3. The quality of writing of those students leaves much to be desired.

    Obviously those blog posts were hastily written and impressionistic. Still, they provide a necessary counterbalance: actual comment on the words and actions of “the professor” by someone other than the professor. She doesn’t come off well at all.

    Clearly, there are two camps here. One are the film folks, who organized the event. The other are historians and Mayans concerned with historical accuracy.

    The first camp is the film folks. The second camp is comprised of members of the Department of Central American Studies and Mayan activists. Both camps include only those directly involved in the incident. The assistant professor is not a historian, an anthropologist, nor an archeologist. Her department is analogous to an African-American Studies or a Women’s Studies department. The Mayan activists are likewise not historians. The second camp “crashed” the event of the first camp. The professor used her faculty position to commandeer limited seating for herself, some of her students, and non-CSUN Mayan activists at the expense of the students waiting in line since 3 pm for the 7 pm program. Many of the students waiting in line were CTVA majors. This shows a lack of respect on the part of Estrada. More on the “historical accuracy” concern later.

    It’s a replay of “The Passion.” Mel wanted to make an artistic and theological statement, and wasn’t concerned about history, and was shocked and offended and outraged when academics raised historical and theological questions. Deja vu all over again.

    Too large a topic to discuss here. Suffice it to say, there was a lot more at play than merely questions being raised. This much should be clear to a disinterested observer.

    This wasn’t set up for academic discussion. Was a professor wrong to expect the possibility of academic discussion at a university event?

    Every academic disciple has its own conventions. Even “Cinema and Television Arts” is an academic disciple to some extent. For Estrada as an outsider to intrude on the CTVA event and grille the guest speaker like she would a graduate student defending his dissertation shows both a narrow-mindedness (film=/=thesis) and a lack of respect (for the speaker and for the audience).

    But was the professor even attempting an academic discussion? No, Estrada was badgering and name-calling and conducting a political protest. Her microphone was turned off long before Gibson became angry. His frustration is more credibly assigned to Estrada’s unyielding rudeness rather than the essence of her questions. I doubt Estrada’s filibuster mic-hogging would be regarded any more favorably at a seminar in the history dept. Like a good activist and a poor scholar, she is cloaking herself in martyrdom rather than arguing facts.

    Which brings us to the question of historical accuracy that you raise. Curiously it’s not the theme that Estrada is raising. She would have a difficult time arguing that the human sacrifices depicted in Apocalypto did not occur more or less as shown. At most, she could argue about the scale of human sacrifice. Plus anachronistic artwork and other niggling details. No, Estrada argued to Gibson that Apocalypto is racist because it “reflects a colonial mindset.” Try debating facts with an ethic studies professor armed with catch-phrase.

    Although Estrada had not previously seen Apocalypto, she brought along Mayan activists and manifestoes because she wanted to make a statement, NOT conduct an academic discussion. Fortunately for the assistant professor, Gibson obligingly lost his temper, giving this scholar the opportunity to denounce racism and colonialism on TMZ.com, home of “Celebs Swappin’ Spit” and “Sag Awards.” Unfortunately for her, the AP coverage of her courageous showdown gives credence to colonialist archeologists:
    “Human sacrifice among the Mayans has been well-documented in recent years and is accepted as fact by most anthropologists, knocking down a previous theory that the culture did not take part in such bloody rituals. However, there are some scholars and Indian activists who still believe the human sacrifice accounts are false or overblown, and an attempt by racist scientists to paint the culture as violent.”

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