This is an expression, and a great one.
I can’t take credit for inventing. I should, but I won’t. Robert Downey Jr made it up in reference to Mel Gibson. It means, basically, public penance. Or, just penance. The old phrase was ‘in the dog house’. Iron Man was saying that Mel Gibson has suffered enough. He has ‘hugged the cactus long enough’. You know, I think he may be right. That isn’t for me to decide. Well, it is and I have decided he has hugged enough. I am not writing about that, though.
So, in closing, remember I have invented this and you should use it often. What else have I brought you, the unwashed masses? Snain, Newstainment, the phrase ‘on it like a bonnet’ and a ten key pad on a laptop. All have come to fruition, and I came up with all of them!
* update – in retrospect, Mel had not hugged the cactus nearly enough. Sometime after this, he was caught saying to his girlfriend (at the time of the recording, this was his girlfriend. I can imagine how you might say things about or to an ex… but this is his gal) “look at that dress. I hope you get raped by a pack of niggers.” There are too many things wrong with that sentence to even begin to break down. Back to the cactus, Mel. I can’t ever forgive or forget you saying something like that.