Our Golden Age of the Craven Apology
Last year, a 15-year-old clip of America’s Next Top Model was dug up in which host and supermodel Tyra Banks was being painfully honest when she told one of her show's contestants that the gap between her front teeth was "not marketable." Predictably, legions of less comely fans slammed Banks for "shaming" the contestant. To Banks's credit, she didn't give the quivering self-debasement the mob rabidly craved. She agreed her comments were “insensitive” but never disavowed them, and tossed the mob some rhetorical table scraps about "showcasing different ideals of beauty" which did nothing to alter the unfortunate fact of her original assertion. Tyra Banks is a supermodel.
I would have preferred Banks to tell her critics to go pound sand. But in today's cancel culture climate, an evasive faux-apology is the best we Americans can hope from our celebrities, especially in light of the following examples:
Old pictures were dug up of white actress Florence Pugh donning corn rows and Rastafarian attire. Cue online mob. In response to accusations of cultural appropriation, Pugh blathered, "I was uneducated. I was unread...our ignorance and our white privilege...I could see how black culture was being so obviously exploited ... white fragility coming out plain and simple ... growing up white and privileged ... a culture was being abused for profit ... To see change I must be part of the change ..."
Actress Rachel Griffiths posted Instagram pictures of her fresh manicure at a time when she should have been posting support for the George Floyd insurrectionists...er, I mean, "mostly peaceful" protesters. Cue online mob. Griffith responded, "I did not intend to trivialise ... Thank you to the people who have called me out ... I have along (sic) way to go to truly understand my white bitch privilege ..."
"Comedian" Maria Bamford (I use quotes because if you bill yourself as a comedian, but nobody has ever heard of you, then you're a comedian in the same sense that I'm a baseball player) attempted to denounce racism by stating "we're all immigrants." Cue online mob. In response to (incorrect) claims that Native Americans aren’t immigrants, Bamford tweeted, "Thank you to people who pointed out my white lady bull***t. I am an idiot."
Mumford & Sons banjoist Winston Marshall endorsed Andy Ngo's book, an expose on the terrorist group Antifa. Cue online mob. Ngo is a gay Vietnamese-American who was physically assaulted by rich white fascists, but Marshall is apparently endorsing fascism by endorsing Ngo. Makes perfect sense. Marshall copied and pasted the usual charade, "I have come to understand the pain caused ... I am taking time away from the band to examine my blindspots ... I realize how my endorsements have the potential to be viewed as approvals of hateful, divisive behavior ..."
But the Oscar for Most Depraved Sniveler goes to Hank Azaria, who voiced the Indian convenience store owner "Apu" in The Simpsons. Per the documentary The Problem with Apu, the portrayed stereotype of this animated character allegedly unleashed tsunami upon tsunami of anti-Indian hate crime. What do the statistics say? The FBI reported that in 2016, America endured an astronomical total of 10 anti-Indian hate crimes; in 2017 a total of 11 anti-Indian hate crimes; and in 2018 a total of 12 anti-Indian hate crimes. Well, that got out of control pretty quickly, I'd say! Is an Indian-American version of Hotel Rwanda in the works yet? Had Azaria not made the valiant decision to stop voicing Apu, these numbers might have hit triple digits by the year 2106.
Azaria said he feels he needs to "go around to every single Indian person in this country and apologize." That's a bit much, but if he insists, he probably won't have to "go around" very far from his own neighborhood. Indian-Americans are the most successful ethnic group in America, averaging $120,000 per household. This is far better than Appalachia Whitey, who has just enough food stamps left from his Mountain Dew binge to use as kindling to set the wooden cross ablaze on M. Night Shyamalan's mansion lawn after the latest episode of The Simpsons pushed him over the edge.
Azaria's apology stands in a category of its own due to its rank hypocrisy. To date, he has voiced no objection to the negative stereotypes and racial microaggressions portrayed on The Simpsons by Ned Flanders, the light-tipped fundamentalist Christian, by Mayor Quimby the Bostonian Irish corrupt politician, by Barney the working class alcoholic, by Montgomery Burns the chortling greedy capitalist, by Milhouse the bespectacled bully magnet, by Fat Tony the Italian mob boss, by Chief Wiggum the donut munching police officer, by Selma and Patty the sapphically butch chain smokers, or by Groundskeeper Willie the red-haired Scottish brawler. Instead, Azaria parrots the usual boilerplate, "I couldn't possibly be passing along structural racism more perfectly ... a great example of white privilege comparative advantage ... as a white kid from Queens ..."
And on and on. Invalidated experiences. Marginalized communities. White privilege. The pain I have caused. Thank you for holding me accountable. I will continue to use my platform for ... whatever. It's utterly nauseating to read this scripted, paint-by-number groveling in which the only variables are the names of the offender and offended.
One of two scenarios is playing out here. The first scenario is that our online mob serves as a perpetual Stalinist show trial. The defendants in the virtual dock are mouthing whatever apologies the mob deems necessary, regardless of how degrading or humiliating, in order to avoid worse treatment. Everybody in the room knows that the apology is as disingenuous as the demand for it is absurd. But the staged farce isn't about contrition or reconciliation. It isn't about this or that "community" being legitimately offended to the point where its constituent members can't properly function on a daily basis until they're apologized to. It is about the sadistic exercise of predatory power by the hitherto anonymous zeroes. Joe Nobody living at 123 Mom's Basement in Gender Studies, USA tweets "Jump," and a rich, powerful celebrity whimpers "How high?" The feeling must be intoxicating.
Case in point: After allegations of workplace racism surfaced from Gabrielle Union of America's Got Talent, co-star Terry Crews landed in hot water for having the audacity to say he never personally experienced any such racism. How dare he? Cue online mob. He quickly took to Twitter with a cookie-cutter apology, then issued a second apology directly to Union herself. After these did nothing to placate the mob, he issued a third apology, in which he pushes for "reconciliation between the world," which seems hefty cross to bear for simply stating he never experienced racism in a particular workplace (and wouldn't that be a good thing?). He writes that if a fourth apology is needed, then he will continue to apologize, ad infinitum one presumes, until the world is reconciled.
Mr. Crews, I have bad news for you. If that's your strategy, then be prepared to live out your days in apology limbo. Every apology you offer is another hit to the junkies, and as long as you advertise that you're giving away free hits, you're going to be the one fueling their additions. Comedian Kevin Hart realized this after his umpteenth apology for his own alleged blasphemies did nothing other than whip up frenzied demands for more apologies.
The second scenario is that these penitent apologists actually believe what they're saying. They actually believe they are oppressors of some sort. They actually believe they have no right to their own opinions, and that they legitimately need moral guidance from perpetually aggrieved strangers. This second scenario is worse than the first.
The first scenario represents a totalitarian society in which freedom of thought is safe only within the confines of one's own mind. The second scenario represents a totalitarian society in which its subjects' minds have been so relentlessly indoctrinated that they've genuinely accepted the ideological equivalence of 2+2=5.
My hope is that the aforementioned apologies are not sincere. I hope they are just as they seem: pathetic, craven, spineless, embarrassing, cringe-worthy genuflections to the show trial judges, publicly confessing your betrayals you know didn't occur, begging forgiveness you know you don't need, all the while secretly hoping it all blows over or that some other celebrity steps in it and the attention is taken off you. Like any other nation, we have our share of cowards and can survive them.
Better yet, these celebrities (and Americans in general) need a collective tipping point, the snowball to the face that finally triggered Ralphie to start pummeling Scut Farkas. If you haven't experienced racism in the workplace and you say so, you haven't done anything wrong. If you're a standup comic and you made edgy jokes about different categories of people, you haven't done anything wrong. If you wear clothing or do your hair in a style that didn't originate with your particular ethnic group centuries ago, you haven't done anything wrong. And if you voice an opinion that deviates from the increasingly narrow breadth of what our shrieking "woke" fascists deem acceptable, you haven't done anything wrong. Have some dignity and stick up for yourselves.
Image: Gerd Altman, Pixabay // Pixabay License
To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.