Friday was a day that ended in ‘y,’ which meant the interwebs were boiling with rage over something that someone said about something they weren’t supposed to talk about in the way they did. Having already rakedMark Cubanover the coals for having the balls to admit in public that he’s bigoted in some ways just like everyone else, it was time to focus on the latest villain in this ongoing outrage drama: Jennifer Lawrence?
J-Law, what did you do?
At the Cannes Film Festival, Lawrence was so excited upon spotting Mexican film director Alfonso Cuarón, she screeched, “Ahhhhh! Ahhhhh!” and told him, “I broke out my rape scream for you!”
Lawrence has yet toapologizefor the “rape scream” comment and I hope that if and when she does finally explain herself, it’s a sincereapology, and not an “I’m just a regular goofy gal” excuse. She can’t hide behind that persona when she makes a mistake, and it’s not entirely just that she often gets away with similar uniformed and offensive jokes simply because she is so publicly loved…
This time, J. Law needs to sack up andapologizefor her off-hand and off-color comment. Just because she’s the most GIF-able celebrity of the moment doesn’t earn her a free pass to make light of something so painful. Candor is one thing; ignorance is another.
It’s hard not to be reminded of theSouth Parkepisode where Randy Marsh says “nigger” on live television, and afterwards must kiss Rev. Jesse Jackson’s rear end as part of the public apology process:
As Chez Pazienzaput it so well recently, “One of the problems with demanding an apology from someone is that if by some chance that person actually concedes, the apology you’re getting is by its very nature not really an apology — it’s just something he or she was forced to do.”
I would add that, this being the case, most of the people who demand apologies are almost never genuinely interested in the offender being redeemed through the sort of public recantation ritual they’re so eager to see performed. In fact, they’re interested in everything but that.
Notice that the offenders — whether they’re Mark Cuban, or Donald Sterling, or Paula Deen, or Joan Rivers, or whoever — aren’t viewed as mere misguided bigots who must be saved from their own racist, sexist, homophobic, or generally offensive ways, but as villains to be overpowered and whose views must be brought into line with what is acceptable. They must be, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, defeated. Or at least, what they represent must be. In this way, apologies aren’t acts of redemption, but triumphs of good over evil, of the enlightened over the ignorant.
This isn’t to say that one should never apologize or that apologies under duress can have no value, but the transparent self-righteousness of the apology extractors seems to sully the whole thing. This compulsion to assert moral superiority, as well as a desire to brandish an often illusory influence (Hello, Suey Park and #CancelColbert) are the fundamental drivers behind demands for public apologies. Inevitably, a public mea culpa is first and foremost a sign of self-interest in the form of a capitulation to those who demand it the loudest, and sadly, perhaps nothing more.