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Public Hollywood Apologies Become Part of the Zeitgeist

A few days ago, two attorneys made news by issuing a public apology. Now public apologies are becoming the norm in our society — more about that later — but let’s get real: Lawyers never say “I’m sorry.”

The attorneys in question represented a young gay man, Michael Egan, who charged that two prominent Hollywood producers had lured him into a sex ring. The charges (against Garth Ancier and David Neuman) proved to be untrue, and the lawyers did the unthinkable: They apologized for their involvement. (Of course the apologies might have been unthinkable for the lawyers, too — they were a condition of a settlement with the two men.)

The case caught my eye, because issuing public apologies seems to be affecting people in all walks of life, involving issues both serious and frivolous.

Every day I read about an actor, politician or even a teacher, who, fearful that he’s stepped over the delicate line of political correctness, promptly runs for cover. “I am the one to blame,” blurted director Cameron Crowe in a prototypical apology for a controversial casting decision he made for his latest movie “Aloha.” Not that he did anything wrong, but that’s beside the point.

Given this propensity to cower, I thought it might be useful to start a non-apology club. It would consist of people (celebrities or otherwise) who don’t believe it’s either honest, or instructive, to plunge into apology mode.

My first invited member would be Chris Pratt who, noting the problems that have enveloped fellow stars, decided to apologize up front for remarks he hadn’t yet made on a press tour for “Jurassic World” that hadn’t yet started. “I want to make a heartfelt apology for whatever it is I end up accidentally saying,” Pratt wrote on his Facebook page. “It was never right to say the things I definitely didn’t want to but probably will have said anyway.”

In being overly defensive, perhaps Pratt read about the blitherings Crowe encountered over casting blonde, blue-eyed Emma Stone to play a character who is one-quarter Chinese and one quarter Hawaiian. A pressure group representing Asian Americans protested.

Crowe was quick to surrender. He’d already been beaten up in a hacked email from then-Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal in which she called his script “ridiculous.” To be sure, no one should have been allowed to read (or publish) her emails to begin with, but they nonetheless triggered apologies, thus instantly qualifying the former studio head for honorary membership in the non-apology club.

Demands for apologies are now raining down on Charlotte Laws, a former talkshow host and political activist who authored a proposed bill titled the Intolerant Jackass Act. Her bill represents a response to an initiative authorizing homicidal action against gays and lesbians. The initiative’s author, an attorney from Huntington Beach named Matthew McLaughlin, has not volunteered an apology, but has demanded one from Laws for calling him a jackass. I’m not sure I want either of them in my club anyway.

While I understand the need to be politically correct, thus avoiding serial apology, many new issues are emerging that render it difficult to know which side is PC. In an April interview with Diane Sawyer, Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn Jenner) proclaimed, “My brain is much more female than it is male.”

Whoops — feminists promptly demanded that Jenner, and transgender activists, apologize for that transgression. “Their truth is not my truth, snorted Elinor Burkett, a filmmaker and academic, in the New York Times. Wrote Gina Rippon, a neuroscientist: “You can’t pick up a brain and say, ‘That’s a girl’s brain.’ ”

Perhaps the only way to deal with explosive issues like these is to start with an apology and proceed from there. Alas, my apology club is going to get too big to survive.

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