Mel Gibson's Uneasy Welcome to the Golden Globes

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

After a DUI, domestic-abuse scandal, and a few well-publicized expressions of anti-semitism and racism and sexism, can a movie star rehabilitate his career? That’s been the common question around Mel Gibson for at least a half-decade. In 2010, Ricky Gervais blasted him on stage at the Golden Globes, setting up tonight’s testy exchange between the two men. The moment was bound to be weird, but whether it was supposed to be this weird isn’t clear. It seemed genuinely acrimonious to me on first viewing, but maybe the entire episode was choreographed in hopes of giving Gibson his final punishment.

“A few years ago on this show I made a joke about Mel Gibson getting a bit drunk and saying a few unsavory things,” Gervais began. “We’ve all done it. I wasn’t judging him, but now I find myself in the awkward position of having to introduce him again. Listen I’m sure it’s embarrassing for both of us, and I blame NBC for this terrible situation. And Mel blames... Well, we know who Mel blames.”
Gervais sipped a glass of what looked like beer as the audience finished the punchline.
“Listen, I still feel a bit bad for it. Mel’s forgotten all about it, apparently—that’s what drinking does. I want to say something nice about Mel before he comes out, so, here you go: I’d rather have a drink with him in his hotel room tonight than with Bill Cosby. Please welcome Mel Gibson!”
Gibson appeared; the two gingerly hugged; Gervais nearly left his drink on the podium, then went back to grab it, then left.
“I love seeing Ricky once every three years,” Gibson said, “because it reminds me to get a colonoscopy.”
Gervais re-emerged, raising his hands out to the side, all angry-like.
Gibson: “You don’t need to leave your drink here, I’ll put you to sleep another way.”
The two had another weird hug.
Gervais: “Listen. Can I ask you a question. I think we all want the answer to this…”
Whatever Gervais next said was muted out by censors.
Gibson’s answer: “I don’t know, ask the guy who said it. It wasn’t me.”
According to tweets from people in the room, Gervais’s question was, “What the fuck does ‘sugar tits’ even mean?”
Right. “Sugar tits” was what Gibson called a female police officer during a DUI stop in 2006.