Criticize mainstream Hollywood actors and entertainers as you will; berate its constituents, scoff at the thespians you once idolized and enjoy their illustrious fall from underground grace to commercial commonality to all to your pretentious hearts’ content, but know this: Some semblance of fortitude remains in front of the silver screen, in the unlikely form of Zach Galifianakis. This portly stalwart has risen as a beacon of decency and individual thought, in one of the most pandering businesses around.

The bewhiskered funny-man has recently garnered much attention – not for garbing an infant in retro aviators – but for his outspoken protest against casting Mel Gibson as a Thai-tattoo artist in the much anticipated release of “Hangover 2,” a sequel to the movie that skyrocketed Galifianakis into the spotlight in the first place. Galifianakis apparently succeeded in getting “The Patriot” star canned from the film.

For once, an actor has taken an outright stance. Galifianakis risked excessive monetary gains by taking a far nobler path, in an industry saturated with vanity and greed. By exhorting his co-stars and director to find a more respectable agent than Danny Glover’s infamous sidekick, Galifianakis sidestepped his aptly fitting Sancho Panzo persona to one that retains some honor. Here is an actor that exemplifies moral responsibility and thus sets an example for Hollywood icons. Galifianakis could have easily taken the safe and silent path; after all, it wouldn’t matter if Gibson secured the minor role. He opted, instead to raise the bar on social accountability by shaming moguls into following his lead.

Although “The Hangover” kind of sucked, there was no reason for director Todd Phillips to be petty and play the cameo part in the sequel to anti-Semitic Scotsman, William Wallace – Braveheart. Yes, Galifianakis’s rebuke of Phillips, referring to him as “the worst Jew in Hollywood” for initially casting Mad Max understandably makes the reader wince. Seriously, dock the bearded bear a few Don Quixote points.

Also, the fact that Galifianakis’s crude comments were said in jest, while he was merely joking with the director, who happens to be his close personal friend, reduces the harshness of these off-putting comments. More importantly, axing Bret Maverick (a lesser known Gibson gambler bit) from the movie supports Galifianakis’s endeavor to maintain his and his colleague’s integrity, as well as that of the movie. As mediocre as it will probably be, we need not bring Gibson back into starlight and hold box offices for “Ransom.” (The double entendres come part and parcel with the actor.)

But for a second, let’s put the Gibson puns aside and pay homage to Galifianakis’s backbone, flesh covered as it may be.

All things considered, a farcical role, such as an expat tat artist, could easily provide the necessary lubrication that Melvin desperately needs to squeak back onto the Hollywood scene. A thorough makeover is duly required for the embroiled actor, but, thanks to Galifianakis, “Hangover 2″ will not set the catwalk.

If other Hollywood power players followed suit, a strong message would be sent about common decency in our society. Gibson is reportedly infuriated by the ousting; his “Passion” is not unexpected, given the fact that he is an angry, transplanted Australian who likes to get liquored up.

Galifianakis’ actions have to be understood in the broader social context. The loss of civility in our society is unprecedented. Just this past Monday, Rhode Island Democrat Frank Caprio told a sitting President to “shove it,” referring to the President’s non-forthcoming endorsement. I would have never expected a Hollywood comedian to be the one who finally stands up as a visible spokesperson, but here we are.

Braveheart’s vacancy has opened the door for British actor, Liam Neeson. Neeson enriches the role with a special set of skills and will provide “Hangover 2″ with a much less controversial tattooist.

All in all, the intensely average looking yet hilarious everyman that is Zach Galifianakis has preserved the integrity of all those around him by not selling out. This cannot be said of many others in his field. Gibson might know “What Women Want” but his mistreatment of them and of human beings in general will continue to hamper his reemergence into cinema, as long as Galifianakis-types are on the scene.

Dennis O’Reilly (dgoreilly@wisc.edu) is a senior majoring in economics.