| During the early filming of Mel
Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" in 2003, there were many emails
circulating with boycott calls and others leveling charges of anti-Semitism
upon producer Mel Gibson and his father based on concerns of the films content
having a possible anti-Semitic tone. The emails circulating smelled like a hoax
to us for several reasons so we looked into those charges and spoke to a friend
of Boycott Watch who just happens to be a bona fide co-religionist and close
friend of Mel Gibson. We asked for his thoughts and were told there is not an
anti-Semitic blood cell in Gibson, and that he is misunderstood in a see of
media reports and Internet hysteria. After our detailed discussion, we were
convinced of this, and we were offered a direct contact to Mr. Gibson's staff
and possibly even Mr. Gibson himself to clear up the claims.
On March 13, 2003 Boycott Watch contacted Mr.
Gibson's agent via the phone number as supplied to us by Gibson's friend. When
we asked about the film, the agent suddenly became very irate and refused to
comment claiming she could not speak for Mr. Gibson. Boycott Watch did not
believe that comment since an agent's job is to speak for the client,
especially in financial negotiations. When we asked who can comment, suggesting
perhaps Mr. Gibson's publicist, Mr. Gibson's agent at the International
Creative Management agency in Los Angeles started yelling at us, further
refusing to comment. It is important to note that we asked our questions with
respect and in return was treated poorly at best.
Boycott Watch then asked what they wanted us to
report. In response, the agent screamed at the top of her lungs on the phone:
"We don't want you to report anything." We were also asked to fax a letter to
ICM for further questions, but the agent hung up the phone on us before giving
us a fax number. Boycott Watch attempted to find a fax number for ICM on their
web sites, www.icmartists.com and www.icmtalent.com, but both sites are marked
as "Under Construction" at the time. We were unable, therefore, to fax a letter
and out contact with ICM ended.
regularly speaks directly with PR departments and corporate presidents to clear
up possible rumors and to allow consumers to read both sides of the story
regarding boycott calls. In this case, the refusal to cooperate and the level
of emotional reaction lead Boycott Watch to believe, at the time, that Mr.
Gibson may have had something to hide, or at the very lest that is the
impression they wanted us to have. This was very odd, especially considering
that we used an inside contact.
One would think that
a publicist would want to clear up false information. Based upon the response
we received, or lack thereof, including the refusal to allow Boycott Watch,
which has a reputation of clearing up possible misinformation, Boycott Watch
could have just easily said the emails must therefore be true because there was
no attempt to deny the reports. Instead, we held off our reports because the
reactions we received just did not make sense, especially when we could have
cleared up a rumor about very serious charges - something was wrong.
Why would the ICM agent want to get us angry? Why
would the ICM agent just scream at us? Why did they not want to refute the
charges? Did they want bad PR? With those questions in the air, we sensed that
that Gibson wanted bad PR but we did not want to play his game.
A few weeks after the closely held movie was
released, it became apparent that the charges were false and that what we saw
was a publicity stunt to get free advertising and to generate movie buzz,
something every movie producer wants because it saves them money in
advertising. Let's face it. Controversy sells.
happy we did not jump on the then conventional bandwagon of negative reporting.
We also realized that we did not pick up on the publicity stunt at the time,
but it was done so well that everyone else missed it too. The publicity stunt
gave "The Passion" unbelievable amounts of buzz, making it a box office smash
while saving Gibson millions of dollars in advertising.
Today, as another religious-based movie, the "Da
Vinci Code" is about to be released, we are also seeing boycott calls and
religious hate claims, just as we did with "The Passion". The producers are
saying the "Da Vinci Code" movie is fiction, yet the controversy not only still
lingers, but it is attracting people to study Christianity. In fact, the more
the producers say it is fiction; the harder religious groups press to present
their version and the more people are listening. The History Channel climbed on
board with a week of specials related to the story line, explaining the
Christian standpoint of the movie content. Even though it is a movie many
Christians hate, it is sparking interest in Christianity and by people who want
to learn the basics and details of their religion and religious history, thus
Christianity as a whole is benefiting from the movie that some claim is
anti-Christian. As for boycott calls, nobody really knows what to boycott thus
the boycott calls are not working.
believes we are seeing boycott calls being used in another publicity stunt,
just like we saw with "The Passion." While a Da Vinci Code publicity stunt
could not possibly be operating on the scale of Gibson's, there is a definite
benefit being derived by the current buzz. We won't know for sure until a few
weeks after the movie is released, but as it stands today, just days before the
movie opens, Boycott Watch believes that we are seeing is another publicity
stunt, and the public is buying the movie buzz but not the boycotts.