The arson, looting and rioting have died down, but we’re still a long way from cultural normalcy in the US of A. (That A is for antagonism). One strange new feature of the culture is the abject, I-hurl-myself-at-your-feet-and-spit-on-myself apology in which celebrities demand everyone sit up and pay attention while they tell us how sorry they are about some nonsense infraction they committed years ago.
The Black Lives Matter movement is hotter than any movie star right now, so even white movie stars crave a piece of it. They loudly shout about the racial virtue they possess that no one asked about in the first place. For instance, Ryan Reynolds. Why did he feel the need to apologize this week for having his wedding to Blake Lively on a “plantation”? Since Reynolds and Lively are not 175 years old, and since “plantation” stopped being a thing in 1865, it would be more accurate to say they were married on a Southern field that was once a plantation.
“It’s something we’ll always be deeply and unreservedly sorry for,” Reynolds, 43, said in an interview with Fast Company. Sorry to whom? He added that he and Blake had a do-over wedding a few years later to make up for their transgression and said, “A giant f–king mistake like that can either cause you to shut down or it can reframe things and move you into action.” He vowed a lifelong commitment to “repatterning and challenging lifelong social conditioning.”
Bro, be sorry about “Green Lantern,” not your wedding. Barack Obama used to live in a house — a large, white one — that was originally built with slave labor. Did he apologize, or marvel at how things have changed for the better? This entire country is built on ground where bad stuff once happened. There was once a slave labor market at 74 Wall Street. Now there’s a 42-story building full of condos there. The people who live there brush their teeth, eat their breakfast, have cocktails and watch Netflix there. Are they supposed to be “deeply and unreservedly sorry” for things that happened right beneath their feet centuries ago? Come to think of it, the whole country used to be home to indigenous people of color. If Ryan and Blake are upset by the conquest and subjugation associated with a piece of farmland, maybe they should go live in some country that is innocent of these things. Such as, er … such as … I don’t know, Antarctica?
Later in the week a black actress, Zoe Saldana, apologized for playing a black singer, Nina Simone, in a movie nobody saw four years ago. “I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a black woman,” Saldana said. “And I am. But it was Nina Simone, and Nina had a life and she had a journey that should be honored to the most specific detail, because she was a specifically detailed individual.” Translation: Saldana’s skin tone is lighter than Simone’s was, so Saldana wore the dread “skin-darkening makeup” that detractors refer to as blackface. Also Saldana wore a prosthetic nose to make her nose broader, to look more like Simone’s. Wearing makeup to look more like someone of the same race is offensive? That must be news to Nicole Kidman, who won an Oscar wearing a fake nose to look like Virginia Woolf in “The Hours.” Charlize Theron wore nasal prosthetics to transform into Megyn Kelly for the movie “Bombshell” — which won an Oscar for its makeup.
Celebrities are even apologizing for harmless actions they took as teens: “Midsommar” star Florence Pugh issued a thousand-word Instagram apology for having once worn cornrows at a party when she was 17, an act she later discovered was “cultural appropriation” — a manufactured angst that afflicts affluent white women susceptible to bullying by PC mean girls. “We HAVE to look at ourselves and see how we are adding to this problem,” she wrote. (I suspect it’s the first half of the sentence, not the second, that really interests her.)
In any case, how is cornrows at a party almost a decade ago worth a three-page, thousand-word apology? The Gettysburg Address was 270 words.
I’m already looking forward to the next wave of over-the-top celebrity mea culpas. Will Johnny Depp beg pardon for wearing cornrows when he played Captain Jack Sparrow? Will Tom Hanks apologize for mocking transgender Americans 40 years ago on “Bosom Buddies”? Maybe Clint Eastwood should say he’s sorry for being insensitive to criminals in “Dirty Harry.” Or maybe we can all go back to normal and try to forget the summer America went crazy.
Kyle Smith is critic-at-large for National Review