Apologies are funny things.
Remember this guy? This was Jimmy Swaggart’s tearful apology for his prostitute habit. He was so sad. He was so sorry.
As a result of the mild backlash from her insensitive remarks, Margaret Cho has written a heart-felt apology on her blog. I encourage you to hop on over there and read it, and be sure to read the comments. They make excellent food for thought.
I don’t really care all that much about the apology itself. I mean, I don’t know Cho, she doesn’t know me, and she doesn’t owe me any apology. She can be a jerk if she wants, and I can slam her for it if I want. (Freedom of speech, baby!) The thing that rubs me wrong is how typical this “heart-felt” apology is. Some celebrity is guilty of a fantastic boob, then they issue a sappy, crappy, “oh-I-didn’t-mean-to-hurt-anyone” apology.
I always wonder about apologies. I sometimes ask my son, when he gets in trouble, if he is really sorry for what he did, or if he’s just sorry he got caught. The phrase that comes to mind is “damage control.”
A lot of the comments on Cho’s blog suggest that people are just looking to be offended, and that it isn’t that big of a deal. I guess, from a certain perspective, that right. Ultimately, what a minor celebrity says during a cable television interview isn’t all that important, compared to, say, the President, the Pope, or Stephen King. People say jerky things all the time. The world is consumed by jerkiness. Bygones.
But here’s the thing–Cho promotes herself as a great human rights activist, standing up for minorities of all kinds. More than that, while it may not make any difference about what a person says, it certainly reveals their character, doesn’t it?
Take those comments–a lot of the commentators remarked that it was an “accident,” or that Cho “slipped up.” “Humans make errors.” Hey, you don’t have to tell me that. I’ve made enough mistakes in my time to fill this blog and ten more. You know what though? I have never called anyone a retard. Ever. I’m sure I’ve hurt people along the way, but there are no excuses, and no apologies. Those people can hate me, and rightly so.
And while I’m at it, that whole “accident” and “slip-up” thing really got me thinking. An accident is when you step on someone’s toe, then say, “Oh, I’m sorry!” Or maybe when you back your car into a parking meter. (Just an example.) Those are accidents. You might even “accidentally” hurt someone’s feelings by something you say. I personally am very familiar with the taste of my foot.
However, when you set out to do or say something that you know is going to be hurtful and hateful, well, that’s not an accident. That’s not a slip-up. Cho was giving a little comedy routine right there on live television. She’s promoting her new comedy tour, and she was giving everyone a preview. Part of her repertoire is being crude and pushing the envelope. That’s who she is. No sense in apologizing for it now, I guess.
Don’t get me wrong–I do believe in apologizing when you hurt someone. Here’s the catch–being sorry for something doesn’t fix it. Apologies aren’t a license to do or say anything you want. Everyone would do well to remember that they while they absolutely do have the freedom to say what they want, others also have the freedom to react. People who were Margaret Cho fans before probably still are. I would go so far as to say that a lot of people she offended had never even heard of her until now.
(Can you say, “publicity?”)
One last thing–it is possible to be funny and racy and edgy without tearing others down. You can even poke fun at others without hurting them. There is a line there, and when you cross it, don’t be surprised by the consequences, and screw your apologies.
Oh, and make sure you have a good publicist.