The Problem With Celebrity Apologies

To be human is to say stupid stuff.

It’s in our nature to put our feet in our mouths, whether it’s because emotions run high, we don’t realize how we’re coming off, or we’re just fallible people who say some lame stuff. Regardless of how often it happens, it can be pretty hard to apologize. It gets that much harder when you are in the public eye and that dumb crap you would normally say in the company of those who love you gets amplified over social media, becomes a firestorm and gets somehow linked to you forever: you’ll be forever known as someone’s “problematic fave.”

Quick caveat: I’m not speaking about celebrities who are known abusers, violent racists and criminals. They can apologize until the cows come home and until they rot into obscurity for all I care.

It’s easy to hate people who say or do particularly terrible things and refuse to apologize for it (i.e. the Rachel Dolezal scandal) or have just a generally terrible apology (i.e. anyone who uses “I’m sorry that you got upset/offended”), but what about people who have genuine apologies? Why is it still really hard to stomach that?

Think about what we want when we desire an apology from someone. We want acknowledgment that we were not wrong to be upset. We want the other person to admit that they were wrong. We want assurance that moving forward, the other person will make a conscious effort to not make the same mistake.

But when we’re talking about celebrities, the line gets much more blurred. We feel like we know these people and in some ways we do. We know who they’re married to, their kids’ names, what their houses look like, but much of what we think we know about their personalities come from things that other people have written for them; press releases, scripts and ghost-written social media posts.

We don’t interact with them on a daily basis and despite hearing about them ad nauseum, we don’t really have to care about them, so why do we expect them to strive for perfection?

Of course we want people who we pay money to see and support their work to be good people, but that is not always the case. And that’s OK. Believe it or not it would probably do more of a service to expect less of celebrities and less of their apologies.

Much like a stubborn friend or a bad ex, apologies from celebrities mean little to nothing in the grand scheme. Think of how many public figures have apologized publicly and made no efforts to change their lives. All that apology did was give them more headlines, more mentions and more revenue. All it did for you was to give you a false sense of security that they are truly repentant when it reality, their publicist was the one who is “unbelievably sorry.”

To top it all off, these apologies can start fan wars between those who appreciate the apology and those who feel an apology was not necessary. The line of what is acceptable is constantly moving and changing depending on who says it, their fans, and how high-profile the celebrity is. Someone, such as the late Joan Rivers, didn’t need to apologize as much as say Giuliana Rancic did for saying something less heinous. And their fans will back them up on that.
And that’s OK! But maybe it might be a little easier to stomach if we stop thinking of celebrities as our family members, role models, and moral idols and start thinking about them as people who are flawed and have complex emotions and bad days and good days. Maybe when they say things that we wish they didn’t, instead of freaking out and causing a social media war against them, we let them have a slip-up and focus on the art that they’re putting out, and focus our energies on our politicians, policy makers and real-life friends and family who we want to rise to the occasion. Let’s let celebrities be celebrities and enjoy the art they give us.

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