Hollywood super nice guy Jonah Hill is in full blown apology mode over some offhanded remarks he made to a photographer over the weekend. He stopped by The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon last night to explain what happened and to express his regret.
The backstory, in case you missed it, is that some paparazzi followed the actor down the street asking annoying questions (as they do) and when one of them wished Jonah a good day, he responded by saying “”Suck my d***, you f*****!” You can watch the clip at TMZ if you want.
Obviously he needed to apologize. A big time actor (like it or not) with a hot shot summer movie coming out in a couple weeks? There’s no getting around that one (zing!) so here we are. His emotional apology was appropriately contrite and ostensibly sincere, so why does it leave us cold?
Here are 5 things wrong with his apology:
1. But I Didn’t Start It!
That is something that children and people in Florida say to justify their otherwise inexcusable actions. In an interview with Howard Stern he explained that the clip of him using a homophobic slur doesn’t tell the full story. By his own account, this photographer had followed him around all day saying hurtful things about him and his family. That’s definitely not what we see in the video, but let’s say Jonah’s version is accurate and they were saying mean things to bait him. Nobody deserves to be harassed or taunted or bullied, but lots of people are and most of them aren’t privileged celebrities. Jonah Hill the movie star is in a much better position to handle some name calling than Jonah Hill the part time sales associate at Target and probably has to do it half as often. Citing it directly as a reason for his outburst makes it seem as though he’s dodging accountability for his actions and it diminishes the experience of people who are actually, legitimately bullied. And, let’s face it, the fact that he’s a movie star and not working in a food court somewhere is one of the mysterious, happy (for him) accidents of the universe for which he should be thankful and gracious.
2. I Didn’t Mean It In a Homophobic Way
“Suck my d***, you f*****” is not a polysemic expression. If it is, pray tell, what are its myriad other uses? People have, speciously, drawn a parallel between the F-word and the N-word as designations that have been reclaimed as terms of endearment within their respective communities, but that’s so far from what happened here that mentioning it now doesn’t even make sense. Hill insists he didn’t mean it in an anti-gay way, it was simply “the most hurtful word that [he] could think of at that moment,” but then added, “words have weight and meaning,” and what we mean when we use them doesn’t matter because it turns out they mean something already. Well, yeah. Those words are hurtful because they are homophobic and misogynistic.
3. My Heart Is Broken
Ok, let’s dial it back here – heartbreak is an emotion for people betrayed by great loves, not people who blurt out hate speech. Unless your great love is hate speech? And you’re betrayed because it meant what it means instead of what you intended it to mean when you said it? Yes, that’s a deliberate misinterpretation of what he’s trying say and it might seem beside the point to criticize a person’s word choice while they’re try to convey something sincere… oh wait, words have meaning or something. Those words make it sound like he’s casting himself as the victim in this situation which is clever misdirection beyond his skill set.
4. Use Me as an Example
The greatest benefit of making a mistake is that you have the opportunity to learn from it and not do it again. Jonah, however, is using this moment to be the center of attention asking people to see him “as an example of what not to do.” In his interview with Howard Stern he said, “I’m happy to be the poster boy for thinking about what you say,” and that’s the problem. He’s so happy to be the poster boy, it just comes off as narcissistic. And this isn’t the first time the actor has set out to convince people that he’s a good guy. Last year while promoting The Wolf of Wall Street he spent a LOT of time trying to get people forget that time he called openly gay CNN anchor Don Lemon a “12 year old girl” and that other time he came off as a pompous ass in Rolling Stone.
5. I know I’m Usually Funny and Stuff…
And finally, when making an apology, maybe don’t try to work in little back door brags. At the end of his speech, Jonah turns to Jimmy and says, straight faced, “Yeah, I know I’m usually funny and stuff, but this wasn’t funny…” clearing up a point that was confusing for everyone. Your apology is not the place for self promotion. Among other things, it’s off-putting. Previously Hill said, “I think I’m pretty good at being in movies. I am not good at being a famous person.” Blerg.