A well-crafted apology is an art form. Just ask any celebrity that’s had to make one for their indiscretions. It has to be compassionate without obvious pandering, sincere without being manipulative, and, of course, self-effacing. But some celebrities, no matter their crime or how finely crafted their apology, will have to keep paying the price. Kristen Stewart begged and pleaded for Robert Pattinson and the scrutinizing public to forgive her, but the Twilight actress only made the target on her back that much bigger. The thing is, Stewart seemed legitimately sorry for what she did, whereas other stars release blanket statements or over-explain their wrongdoings. But the worst thing for an already disliked celebrity to do in this situation — aside from the useless “sorry your feelings are hurt” apology — is to take on the role of the victim. Exhibit A: Bret Easton Ellis.
Earlier this month the American Psycho writer/newfound Twitter troll unwisely and wrongly declared from his page that Oscar-winning Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow “would be considered a mildly interesting filmmaker if she was a man but since she’s a very hot woman she’s really overrated.” He then called her films “just OK junk.” Needless to say, it upset some people to hear Ellis imply that female directors get some sort of special treatment in Hollywood (they don’t) or that the one who does only gets it not because she’s a tremendous talent (she is) but because she’s attractive.
One should tread lightly in calling what Ellis wrote for The Daily Beast in response to the Internet’s reaction to his outlandish speech an actual apology. Yes, the word apology is in there, and the piece is titled “Dear Kathryn Bigelow: Bret Easton Ellis Is Really Sorry” but a deeper read into the four-page stream of consciousness may suggest otherwise. Let’s break down some of the key components of the apology that Ellis — who has already dug a deep enough hole for himself on Twitter with his homophobic remarks about Matt Bomer and his senseless defense of Paris Hilton‘s homophobic remarks — see whether he is deserving of our forgiveness.
“I hadn’t seen Zero Dark Thirty but thought, in the Twitter-moment, can it really be that good? Marc Boal and Kathryn Bigelow and another war film?”
Oh, BEE, you’re off to a bad start here. First, you can’t use “a Twitter-moment” as a defense. Your only Twitter moment is when you actually hit send, everything before that is time to stop and ask yourself, “Is this really a thought worth putting out in the universe?” Second, definitely don’t judge a movie you haven’t seen yet. You’re an author, you’ve clearly heard of not judging a book by its cover. This practice has already gotten a number of writers in trouble for calling the torture scenes in Zero Dark Thirty problematic without actually having seen it themselves. And yeah, it is that good, now that you’ve asked.
“Oh please. The press? They’ve been trashing me for years. Did you see what they did to me during my Twitter campaign for the 50 Shades of Grey screenwriting gig? I can handle the press, babe.”
Wait, wasn’t this an apology to Bigelow? You’re not the victim here. Plus, if you can “handle the press” why even write this apology in the first place? Why not handwrite Bigelow a letter? (He later theorizes, “I’m not even saying that Kathryn Bigelow was hurt or even noticed the tweets or even cared. I imagine her balls are bigger than that.”) This doesn’t feel like someone who is sorry for what they said and brushes off the press. It’s the defense of someone who got called out on a grand scale and is only sorry for that.
“My ‘problem’ was: did she win it for directing a movie a man usually makes? And if so, is that double-COOL or double-MEH?”
No, she won because it was the best direction of any other film that year. And calling a war movie or a movies about human struggle a “movie a man usually makes” is an awfully archaic way of thinking. No one accuses Garry Marshall of making movies usually made for and by women.
“I thought that in the Bigelow tweets people might find a certain truth (Yes, Bret! Tell us the truth! You’d know!) about the hypocrisy of the world, of the Hollywood mindset, beautiful women in the movie biz, reverse sexism, etc. But they ultimately revealed a much more layered sexism that, I guess I thought as a gay man, I could get away with since my supposed vitriol about Bigelow was coming from another ‘oppressed’ class.”
This is where the whole thing truly unravels. Ellis didn’t write his tweets as a big f**k you to the hypocrisy of Hollywood, he condemned them for praising Bigelow’s work and deduced that they only did it because of her looks. And look, you can certainly be a compassionate, empathetic person (though, let’s face it, BEE hardly fits in that description) but you being a gay man doesn’t mean you’ll fully understand the plight of women.
“Perhaps, we can start all over again.”
This is how Ellis closes out his apology. Who that’s directed towards, it’s hard to tell. Does he want to “start all over” with the media he claims he isn’t bothered by? Or with Bigelow? Or with women everywhere, who found his words to be “both a much broader and more personal ‘attack”? Ellis admits he was “really wrong” about what he said, but there’s still an overwhelming sense that he doesn’t know what he’s sorry for, he just knows he has to be sorry for something.
[Photo credit: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images]