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The Year in Bad Celebrity Apologies

Learn to do better in 2017

Celebrities being on social media means the flimsy barrier between them and us has shrunk exponentially, which is great if you want Lady Gaga to see your "Mom" tweet, but it also means we're constantly exposed to all the ways in which they fail to meet our standards. Because just like the rest of us, celebs are prone to saying dumb things on Twitter, and often. But to balance out being hyper-exposed and vulnerable to plebian blunders, their social presence also allows them to easily reach out to the public when they mess up. And in most cases, the act of apologizing is straightforward. You mess up, you acknowledge you were wrong, and you say "sorry" without any conditions and it's over. But despite having literal teams of people to navigate this exact thing, celebrities are shockingly bad at this.


This summer, the LA Times argued that maybe celebs should go back to the days of apology tours noting, "Social media may have many uses, but providing a platform for sincere expressions of deep regret isn't one of them." The standard celeb apology already sounds pretty canned and involves very little accountability, Tweeting it out makes it that much worse. Celebs made 2016 a banner year for shitty, self-centred apologies all of us —not just the laughably overpaid—can learn from. So let's learn to do better in 2017 and kill the standard non-apology of "I'm sorry to those I offended," forever.

Zac Efron began the year with an ill-fated attempt at efficiency. After posting a selfie of himself on Instagram with the caption, "I'm grateful for a couple things today: Martin Luther King Jr & 10 million followers on IG" (complete with two black emojis? WHAT?!) the internet rightfully called him out. After swiftly deleting the image, he posted this screenshot of a note stating he was "insensitive" and is apologizing to "anyone" he "may have offended" — pretty standard for a celeb apology.

Only, like any of the other stars this year — he wasn't really apologizing. Saying you're "sorry" to anyone you offended doesn't count because you're not taking accountability for being an ass. But if we're talking about accountability and bizarre selfies this year, Mischa Barton deserves some kind of award for a complete lack of self-awareness.


Following the death of Alton Sterling, Marissa from The O.C. posted a photo of herself looking pensive in a bikini with a drink in hand while making a statement on police violence and gun control. Nobody fully understood it, and according to her apology on Twitter if you were upset it was because the post was taken out of context. The best thing about Barton's apology was that she employed this classic phrase out of the non-apology book, "I'm only human." Truly, if anything illustrates the difference between "them" and "us," it's that celebrities are constantly reminding us they are merely humans, prone to human faults. It's almost as though they believe taking accountability is some kind of thing reserved for non-humans. Who knows.

If you're noticing a theme with what most celebrities apologize for, it's usually being kind of racist. Unfortunately, Hillary Duff is now in "problematic fave" territory after she posted multiple photos of her genocidal Halloween couples costume alongside her nobody of a boyfriend. Duff dressed up as a sexy pilgrim while her beau dressed up as a Native American. Proving that yes, maybe sincere apologies need more than 140 characters, Duff apologized to "those" she may have offended because her costume was "not properly thought through." No Lizzie, it's not that it wasn't thought through, it's that you didn't give a shit.

Some celebs do get it right though, proving that giving a proper apology is actually very easy and simple. As demonstrated by Chris Hemsworth, who is now mildly woke—there are very few elements needed to be sincerely sorry on social media.


Alongside the director of the upcoming Thor movie, Taika Waititi, Hemsworth posted a photo in support of indigenous people fighting against the North Dakota Access Pipeline and used it as an opportunity to address a past party where he dressed up as a Native American. The photo, which appeared on both Instagram and Facebook, said, "Last New Year's Eve I was at a 'Lone Ranger' themed party where some of us, myself included, wore the traditional dress of First Nations people. I was stupidly unaware of the offence this may have caused and the sensitivity around this issue. I sincerely and unreservedly apologise to all First Nations people for this thoughtless action. I now appreciate that there is a great need for a deeper understanding of the complex and extensive issues facing indigenous communities. I hope that in highlighting my own ignorance I can help in some small way."

This is why it was the best celebrity apology in recent history — he took accountability, highlighted his own ignorance and said sorry. The wildest part of all this is that Hemsworth doesn't actually deserve praise, apologizing after being racist is literally the least you can do! Really, it's the FIRST thing you should do if you're being racist. We're just so accustomed to half-assed non-apologies, this feels almost unprecedented and praise-worthy.

To be fair, Hemsworth is pretty A-list especially in comparison to the likes of Mischa Barton (God knows what she even does now). Someone with his level of fame has been trained well enough to know how to apologize and make it come off as sincere. But can that explain why Jennifer Lawrence, literally the most sought after actress in all of Hollywood can't apologize for shit?

Jennifer Lawrence went from being the internet's best friend to being loathed alarmingly quickly — which makes sense because she's annoying as hell. While promoting Passengers alongside Chris Pratt, she told a story about how she hilariously scratched her butt on sacred rocks in Hawaii and almost killed someone — cute. The clip was shared extensively on social media, and you can almost see Chris Pratt recoil once her story heads to "culturally insensitive" territory. As many pointed out, could you imagine her telling a story about rubbing her ass all over a World War II memorial? Probably not. While J-Law doesn't personally use social media, her official Facebook page shared a short message about how she "really thought" her story was self-deprecating but understands if you're pissed and is also sorry IF she offended you. But if she didn't offend you then it's still funny right?

One other thing all celebrity apologies have in common — they're only presented in the face of public pressure. It's almost as though it's really simple to tell whether or not someone is being sincere! They're not actually sorry, they just want people to stop talking. Bottom line — apologies never have conditions as to whether or not it offends someone. Anyone should be sorry when they do something shitty, not only because it hurts someone.

2016 was notoriously shitty, everyone died! But, maybe for 2017 instead of dying, celebrities can do good and either not be shitty and racist OR sincerely apologize and own up to their shit and move on.