Celebrity apologies and crocodile tears
Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. Blimey, we can barely make it through a week without someone proffering an apology.
Those above came from John Galliano, Tiger Woods, Todd Carney, Ricky Nixon and Fergie, the Duchess of York – whose latest transgression led her to admit: “I am just so contrite, I cannot say.”
This, just two weeks after her last apology for offering to sell access to her ex-husband, saying she needed to “find the lotus flower within”.
Ricky’s also seeking his inner lotus, and while he didn’t actually say “sorry” – preferring the term “inappropriate dealings” – we all know he was truly regretful, as you would be if you’d ruined your reputation by playing around with a teenager who’d made you look like a fool.
With the footy season now underway, we can expect a few more sorries. And, if momentum halts, we can always rely on Mel Gibson to fill in the gaps, because contrition is the latest celebrity accessory: I’m famous, therefore I’m sorry. Unless I’m Charlie Sheen.
My problem with the latest round of apologies is that they’re as sincere as my 10-year-old’s response to dumping a bucket of water on her sister in the bath. “Soh-ree,” she snarled, in much the same fashion as I suspect Galliano stamped his pony-skin clad foot and apologised after his anti-semitic rant.
Tiger Woods at least had the decency to rock up in a suit to apologise for his extramarital match play, but he didn’t actually sound honest as he delivered his 14-minute PR-spun script. He sounded angry. At being rumbled.
To err is human and to admit it is mortifying. But an apology is only meaningful if it shows genuine remorse and a will to restore integrity for its own sake, not for public perception.
Take the surgeon who mistakenly removed my friend’s healthy fallopian tube instead of her diseased one. Huge mistake and alarming for the hospital if she’d chosen to go public.
But in addressing it face-to-face, rather than through lawyers, she knew the doctor’s sorrow was sincere and accepted the offer of as many IVF treatments as she needed to fall pregnant.
Likewise the substitute teacher who, in a frazzled moment, revealed to a class that one of their classmates was on mood-altering medication. She immediately confessed her error and the school apologised to the family.
We all do things that are thoughtless, stupid, cruel and wrong. I once wrote a spiky piece about a celebrity. I loathed myself for it. Still do. I even wrote her a long apology and explanation, but the email sits in my drafts folder, unsent. Why? Because saying sorry was too easy.
What was harder was having the courage to leave a job that demanded those sorts of articles, and – with time and thought – recalibrate my personal integrity.
No one will forget Matthew Johns’ apology on A Current Affair. Afterwards, his wife, Trish, threw up and Johns had to be helped to stand. His remorse seemed authentic, but only time can restore rectitude and reputation.
The experience of being wrong helps to make us better people, says author Kathryn Schulz. “Error, even though it sometimes feels like despair, is actually much closer in spirit to hope,” she writes in her book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.
“We get things wrong because we have an enduring confidence in our own minds; and we face up to that wrongness in the faith that, having learnt something, we’ll get it right next time.”
Angela Mollard is a columnist for Sunday Life magazine.
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