Celebrities and their Unnecessary Public Apologies

I’m trying to understand this. Someone called Kristen Stewart, who is a Hollywood actress, issued an apology for having a (brief?) affair:

“I'm deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I've caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected. This momentary indiscretion has jeopardised the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry.”

I’m going to be writing about apologies in a later post, but I’m still trying to understand the point of such statements. Tiger Woods, of course, is the test case for “disrupting” public morality, by having affairs with numerous women. But to reiterate: Why do celebrities apologise for betraying their partners to the wider world?

It’s easy to write this off as stupidity, a look-at-me from celebrities, as pandering to the so-called masses. It’s easy to think that they’re merely trying to fulfil contractual obligations, to sponsors and audiences, who – upon hearing of the celebrity’s transgressions – will not allow their Puritanical reactions to partake of the celebrity’s career activity (film, sport, etc.) But I think this is too simplistic.

I think we should recognise that celebrities do not exist in the same world as us and, more importantly, we respond to them as such. John Cheese, of Cracked.com, made this point a few months ago. We are talking about people for whom (1) money isn’t “a thing” to worry about, (2) who have little idea how most people try to make ends meet, and (3) are never told they’re wrong. Generalisations, sure, but it cuts to the core of celebrity culture.

Celebrities are basically semi-alien beings who happen to pass over our world every few months, exchanging ambassadors based on our ticket-buying tastes, appearing in messages to us mortals on big screens and big stages, with bright lights and a constant soundtrack, who only talk to us through speakers and mics. From Planet Infallibility, when they’re caught by us doing things we disapprove of, they have to therefore “rectify” the image using the same medium in which they exist for us, the same rectangle through which we’ve always experienced them.

Thus we have these stupid things called “public apologies” from celebrities. Unless the celebrity has actually done something to marginalise, unfairly discriminate or mistreat a group of people - say, women, gays or black people – I don’t see the point of public apologies (I might contradict myself later, since I’m grappling with arguments about whether there should ever be public apologies).

So Ms Stewart: I don’t care who you slept with. Don’t tell us who you do and don’t love. Unless you and I were dating (which is unlikely but not impossible given my memory), I don’t need this and you don’t need to issue it. This is between you and Sparkles. I look forward to the day when a celebrity will be caught cheating and handle the affair in a dignified manner, by not turning what is already painful into a public spectacle. The horrible thing, though, is that it is already a public spectacle, since celebrities are “caught out” by a media that is trying to hijack the rectangle, the box, that let’s us communicate with them. It’s not enough for us to sit and wait for the next transmission, the next communication; no, we want to know what these strange beasts are doing right now, all the time; we want to know what they’re wearing; we must know, we simply must know! So, obviously our insatiability for them fuels this stupidity – and they’ll keep responding as such. They’ll keep feeding it to us, even if we don’t want it, merely because some of us do live off their lives.

Some people like to tell me it’s harmless, it’s an indulgence. But it’s not: let’s just be honest. They may not live on the same planet as us, but we can at least recognise they’re persons, with digestive tracts and raging hormones, with money and power and beauty most of us will never know. They’ll fail like us and their failure will be louder and brighter and shinier. But it’s not their failure we should care about. I care about the roles, the action, the performances; for example, I thoroughly despise Scientology and its bizarre claims, but I still greatly enjoy Mr Tom Cruise’s performances. If he gets kicks out of believing something that silly, good for him. It’s none of my business.

Most of their failure isn’t helped or assuaged by our prodding, our ceaseless hacking of the communication lines. Let them be. Wait for the next broadcast, the next show, the next film. Buy your tickets for their remarkable talent, not their unremarkable but very loud lives.

Image Credit: Eva Rinaldi/Flickr (source)

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