How To Apologize

Jonah Hill, star of the upcoming “22 Jump Street”, landed himself in some hot water recently when he used the f-word a homophobic slur starting with F in response to a paparazzo.  He used his appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s show to address his remarks and to *gasp* a sincere, thoughtful, and effective apology.

I wouldn’t call it a perfect apology but I will say that it is a hell of a lot better than anything I’ve seen recently from someone in the public eye and should immediately become part of the core curriculum in Public Relations 101.  Also, in How Not To Be an Asshole, which unfortunately tends to be an advanced level class most people don’t even realize exists.

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15 thoughts on “How To Apologize

  1. I love Jonah Hill. I’m glad that he took responsibility for his mistake. He’s human, he did something egregious, he feels remorse. I can continue respecting him, and that makes me happy. I hope that people can forgive me for my mistakes, so it’s the least I can do for others, right?

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  2. Ah, I saw this and wondered if this would come up here. I’m glad Kazzy wrote about it, because it made me think of the kerfuffle with the pugnacious football player using the n-word with the security guard (sorry, don’t remember the names?).

    IIRC, Kazzy’s position at that time was that the fact that the football player even had that word in his vocabulary and would reach for it, said something about his innate character or attitude about black people.

    I maintained that we all can say things, when we are sufficiently emotionally-provoked or looking for “fighting words”, that don’t necessarily mean much about our actual day-to-day attitudes or feelings.

    I can tell you we used “f*g” as an insult all the time as kids, without really meaning “homosexual” (we didn’t know or think that much about *actual* homosexuality, to be honest) – it was just a “bad” word used to mean “lame” or “weak” (and of course we knew it was a “bad” word, which was why it had such appeal).

    I guarantee Jonah Hill probably did the same as a kid – and the word was even additionally probably used lots of times when it wasn’t even a “real” insult; it was just something to yell at your Mario Kart opponent in jest.

    When it’s fight or flight time, these old words, lurking in dark corners of our brains from childhood, can come to mind precisely *because* we know they are bad words, and can hurt or provoke a response.

    But unless it’s a pattern, I think it’s often more a matter of our primitive brains looking for a sharp stick to poke with, in the heat of the moment; not necessarily a character flaw or attitude we hold in truth.

    Of course, immediately offering a first-class apology, as Hill did, goes a long way towards clarifying whether it is one, or the other.

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    • Great comment. The difference I’d say exists between the Riley Cooper incident and this one is exactly what you point out: for people of his (my… your?) generation, the f-word and its derivatives were part of the vocabulary. They shouldn’t have been. But they were. So they lurked. As he said, he wanted to use the most hurtful word he could.

      But with Cooper, who is similarly aged, the n-word was not a part of our vocab. Or shouldn’t have been. If it lurked in him, that is more problematic.

      However, I would probably walk back the strength of that criticism. There are other ways that word can work its way into someone’s brain. I heard it growing up used in a hateful way. He could have been exposed to it in other ways. It is not necessarily a word he used during Mario Kart.

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      • Well, I grew up in the South, and I can tell you the n-word was still in fairly common use, though I am a bit older than you.

        Not that it justifies it, but there it was, in ways both intentionally-derogatory about black people, and ALSO used in ways more like “f*g”; as terms passed down to us from older people, that we didn’t even think much about, other than that they were sort of “bad” and therefore “funny” (=an alternate name for certain types of nuts; a term for knocking on doors and running away).

        Point I’m making is, I can see almost any slur *that I have ever heard* coming out of my mouth, if I’m made mad or frightened enough.

        Not necessarily because I *believe* the negative associations with that slur, or even ever think about it that much; but because I am aware that slur can *hurt or provoke*, and in that moment, that is all I care about.

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      • There’s a difference here: as far as I can tell, Hill made a generalized slur against the paparazzo’s masculinity. AFAIK, Hill had no idea if the guy was actually gay or not. Here, I’m thinking Glyph’s point about stuff lodging in your hindbrain makes complete sense: Hill had experience with accusations of homosexuality being used to insult and degrade, and when he was mad enough, out that came.

        The guys Cooper called the N-word were, in fact, black, and I’m having a hard time picturing that he would have called a white bouncer that, no matter how mad he was. So what Cooper has lodged in his brain is that any white man can insult and degrade any black man by calling him that name, and somehow playing in the NFL, surrounded by black teammates, hasn’t changed that.

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