And not just because it’s been an age since my last post (but sorry about that too – can I blame work, Christmas, New Year, life? Anyway I’m SORRY). But because apologising – in a real, heartfelt way, when you have genuinely done something wrong – is the only way to get somewhere towards righting that wrong, understand it, learn from it and (hopefully) avoid doing it again.
SO CAN SOMEONE PLS MENTION THIS TO THE CELEBRITIES?
The latest A-list non-apologist is Beyoncé, who has responded to criticism over her use of audio from the NASA Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster in track XO by saying that the song was recorded “with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you.” And that “the songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten”.
Did they really Beyoncé? Or did they just tactlessly slap a sample of an incredibly harrowing moment where seven people were killed into a generic pop song that’s vaguely about making the most of your relationship with zero regard for those affected? If this was done “in tribute” then why didn’t they inform the families affected first or better still get their APPROVAL (the widow of the shuttle’s commander Dick Scobee, June Scobee Rodgers has issued a statement saying how “disappointed” they are, and that “the moment used in this song is an emotionally difficult one for the Challenger families, colleagues and friends”)? Or make a donation or give a portion of the song proceeds to those families? And really, how does a poorly-written, cliché packed song about “appreciating every minute you have” help people who have lost someone to heal? What if they didn’t make the most of their time together? What if they’d had a row that day or just hadn’t been getting on for a good while? Or what if listening to you warbling “Baby love me lights out” or “I love you like XO” isn’t exactly the universal grief-banishing salve we’ve all been waiting for? What about simply saying ‘I’m sorry’? ‘I fucked up’. ‘It was incredibly thoughtless and actually I now feel like a total dick.’ Or something along those lines.
Of course, Beyoncé isn’t alone in the world of celebrity non-apologists. There’s Shia LaBoeuf who, after plagiarising content for a short film project, issued a plagiarised half-apology (before eventually admitting ‘I fucked up’). Justin Timberlake – whose response to revelations about the ‘joke’ video of homeless people a friend made for his wedding, essentially stressed ‘it wasn’t me’, it wasn’t intended to be “distasteful” and, even worse, was “kind of funny” (it really wasn’t). Even Lance Armstrong, who after years of aggressive denials, finally had to admit cheating his way through seven Tour De France wins, buried his tightlipped apology amongst copious justifications, excuses and blame-shifting in his ‘confessional’ interview with Oprah. And while in some circumstances there may be shades of grey in terms of responsibility, awareness and culpability that we can (and do) debate till the cows come home (or the celebs actually issue any real apology) – how about a starting point of I’M GENUINELY SORRY TO HAVE OFFENDED ANYONE, then perhaps a small exploration of how/why the mistake was made, before a big fat resounding I’M SORRY AGAIN BECAUSE WHETHER I MEANT TO OFFEND ANYONE OR NOT I DID AND THAT IS A BAD THING.
Whether it’s down to being advised by their ‘people’ against apologising and not having the character to go ahead anyway, being too stupid or uninformed to understand the nuances of their behaviour, or so arrogant that they can’t accept they’ve done anything wrong (or, um, all of the above), this shift from ‘I’m sorry’ to the conditional ‘I’m sorry if you were offended…’ or a complete refusal to admit any wrongdoing is a troubling one, and reminded me of an incident a friend told me about as we winged (slowly wheeled) our way to Peterborough on the National Express (TOO MUCH GLAMOUR). At the coach station a teenage girl had bumped into her, and instantly said ‘I’m sorry’ – only for her mum to reprimand her display of good manners with: ‘You don’t have to apologise to everyone!’
Something has gone very wrong. So Beyoncé – could you just woman up here? We promise to forgive you for it.