In light of the recent rash of very public mea culpas (a list which most recently includes, Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson and anyone associated with British Petroleum), it seems only appropriate to share some thoughts on what has become quite a problem for those burned by the spotlight.
One thing I learned is that to apologize and to say 'I'm sorry,' are two different things: sorry is something you are; apologizing is something that you do and it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how you feel. I used to hate it when people would apologize to absolve themselves of the guilt of the behavior, but not address the pain caused. It is the most selfish expression of regret that leaves the recipient burdened and the offender skipping away scot free. I realize now that 'sorrys' and 'apologies' serve different purposes. Since being sorry is a personal matter (one that is internalized), I can't question whether or not it's effective or sincere, but apologies address and explain poor behavior and that can be scrutinized until the cows come home.
While this list includes points about celebrities and public officials, I am less inclined to show sympathy for the latter of the two. People who become famous have no control over the amount of attention they receive or when they receive it. Though they do have an obligation to be decent and respectful to their fans and those around them (like everybody else), they still have a right to a private life which isn't always honored by the tabloid press. That kind of pressure would cause anyone to act badly. Politicians and government officials, however, know exactly what they are signing up for because they swear to it. These men and women realize that because they are public servants, there are aspects of their lives which the populace will be privy to. Which makes the first lesson obvious, but important:
Don't do it in office (or on the campaign trail): it's shady to cheat on your wife, even shadier to cheat on your wife with a man, but it's worst to do it on the public dime and time. Notice that I'm specifically speaking about adulterous behavior, which outside of an elected position, does not require public apology. Avoiding this kind of behavior should be easy, but as Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, Sanford, John Edwards and former NJ governor, Jim Mc Greevey have shown us, it isn't.
Be charismatic: if people like you, they'll be more than willing to forgive you. And in some cases, not only forgive, but not even require an act of contrition. Case in point, David Letterman, who diffused his would be blackmail sex scandal by addressing it with humor and humility. He was likeable, funny and honest and when the Tiger Woods mistress count started, his story quickly faded to the back burner.
Be quick to talk (but not too much): talk of Tiger, anyone wonder what would have happened had he addressed the accident(remember the late night fender bender that started it all?) immediately rather than let the situation bubble and then boil over? Tiger's vow of silence and disappearing act only convicted him in the court of public opinion and it allowed others the time to tell his story for him.
Give reasons, not excuses: A form press release and an obligatory trip to rehab have become almost de rigueur (and tired) in the world of public apology. Struggle is real, but at the same time, own your behavior. Witness Sarah Ferguson's interview with Oprah where she watched as she sold out her ex-husband and constantly referred to herself in the third person, as though she was sleepwalking through sin. Apologies that explain why you couldn't help but do the bad thing you did aren't apologies, they're justifications.
Be visible: this suggestion goes against the grain a bit because it is commonly thought that once you're caught with your pants down, you go off to the boondocks to eat your humble pie. Not so. Continue to live; your example can give others the courage to admit and then move on from a mistake, but the key is to be like a child in the presence of adults: seen and not heard. After the initial apology, excessive speech negates positive action.
Be real: Paris Hilton is the perfect example of someone who tries to change her public image overnight after a major faux pas. When her sex tape came out, suddenly a woman who walked red carpets in little more than a bikini top and mini-skirt was doing interviews in knee length dresses and demure blouses. Following sentencing for a DUI, she was photographed about town with a bible in hand. Give me a break! Personal growth doesn't come out a microwave. The only thing developed in such a short period of time is manipulative insincerity.
Don't forget to fact check: Why, in an age of Google, YouTube, Wikipedia and the Freedom of Information Act, would a public person think that they could get away with even the smallest fib? We all know about Richard Blumenthal lying about serving in Vietnam, but on a smaller scale, what about Beyonce dropping an untruth in an interview when she claimed she wrote her #1 hit 'Irreplaceable' (actually penned by Ne-Yo)? If you're going to lie, make sure it doesn't take a five-minute search on the internet to prove you a fraud.
As a huge fan of the Sex and the City series and movie franchise, I, like many other fans, was sorely disappointed by the sequel. Where the original had tension and character development, the follow up lacked drive and had too much of a 'back in the good ole days' vibe. It didn't feel present, but seemed as though it was taking the characters back to a time before marriage and kids. Sadly, I didn't want to see the characters as they used to be, but I wanted a peek into how they are now.
Despite the letdown, I'm going to flip my perspective and share reasons why I don't regret the two and a half hours lost and twelve dollars spent. After all, it's not my style to trash female-fierce films. Especially considering how few movies are headline by women over 40.
You can never go back. The movie starts with a brief flashback of the foursome in the 80s, when they all first met. And that was the last bit of reminiscing that was somewhat enjoyable. Interestingly enough, this rule only applies to two out the four: Carrie and Samantha; Miranda and Charlotte seem to push forward despite the challenges that being an adult woman can bring, but their compatriots don't fare so well. Carrie longs for excitement in her 2-year old marriage. This desire pushes her into considering a part-time living arrangement and into the arms of a former lover (if you've seen the trailer, you already know who). Samantha, meanwhile, is relegated to the lowest sex gags and cheap jokes. I get it; she likes sex, but after seeing Samantha take on three dimensions in her relationship with Smith, it's disappointing to watch her regress into a vagina on legs.
Marriage can be boring. Here I thought it was the seven-year itch you had to watch out for, but in our ADHD society that's been cut in less than half to two. So, Carrie (and probably, Big) both are having a hard time adjusting to matrimony. Maybe that because he's on his third marriage and she's spent most of her adult life dating a bunch of different guys. 'Variety is the spice of life' and when you live that for a decade or more before you get married, how can you look one person in the eyes forever and not twitch?
Get cultural perspective. I lived in a country where instead of saying 'excuse me' when you burped, you'd say 'thank God'; instead of rotating lunch breaks, a whole business would shut down for an hour or two. Did this make sense to me? No, but I learned the reason behind it instead of dismissing it as the trappings of a backward people. Something that our fabulous ladies never do (although Miranda does try) on a trip to Abu Dhabi. Although the host describes the city as 'the new Middle East,' it's still historically Muslim; there is a reserve and modesty which Samantha abhorrently rejects, Carrie casts a downward glance on and Charlotte doesn't really think about excepts she's sure she doesn't want to use her married (read: Jewish) name because 'it's still the Middle East.'
Fashion is ageless. Sex and the City has become synonymous with fashion innovation and trends thanks to stylist extraordinaire, Patricia Field. Risk taking isn't limited to the under-29 set. Ms. Field takes the ladies to gorgeous highs (colorful fabrics, flowy outfits , harem pants) and head scratching lows (see below).
Fashion can also be inappropriate. Why was Carrie wearing a goth-y black crown to Stanford and Anthony's wedding? What was up with the bejeweled shoulder spikes that Samantha had on? I like the fact that Sam verbally body checked the sales associate who tried to tell her that an outfit looked too 'young' for her, BUT when women of a certain age try to, stylistically, push the envelope they should be careful to mature the look. Otherwise, they'll risk appearing like they should be pushing a walker instead.
Motherhood is challenging. The best scene in the movie belonged to Charlotte and Miranda, quite frankly, the heart in an otherwise vapid film. The two shared their 'tales from the crypt' parenting moments and even raised their glasses to the women who do it without the aid of a nanny. It felt real and honest and gave their characters, who often have to play second bananas to their blonder halves, top billing.
Karaoke should be surprisingly good or comically bad. Correct me if I'm wrong, but nobody wants to hear 'I Am Woman.' Actually, nobody wants to hear a karaoke version of 'I Am Woman,' so when the ladies step onto the stage at a hip nightclub and honk out this hokey women's lib anthem, I'm stunned that the crowd would join in. It would have been better if they actually raised some eyebrows - in a good way (a la Gwyneth Paltrow in Duets) or busted some guts, in funny way(a la Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend's Wedding).
Third time's a charm. Let's hope.
When the announcement was made that one of the world's most recognizable women would be ending her eponymous talk show, the world let out a collective cry and then when Tyra Banks made the same announcement shortly thereafter, we all kind of shrugged our shoulders and sucked our teeth.
When her talk show debuted in 2005, comparisons between Tyra and Oprah abounded: they're both women; they're both black; they both have talk shows! They have a lot in common! Though Tyra did share the daytime platform with Oprah, she didn't have her mentor's journalistic or interviewing abilities. In the beginning, Tyra's show successfully centered on female centric issues, fashion, celebrity interviews, and typical talk show fodder, but it is when the show's focused shifted to heavier matters, it began to s(t)ink.
On the show, Tyra often framed solutions and advice through her own experience, which is fine if we're talking about wardrobe, detrimental if dealing with someone with an eating disorder or body dysmorphia. She rarely incorporated the assistance of trained professionals, many times biting off more than she could chew. One episode that stands out was a round table on race (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGNyjsAumuU).
Tyra and her producers gathered the usual suspects (racist Southern white guy, headscarf wearing Middle Eastern woman, angry black guy) and paraded before them clichéd video clips which did nothing to teach or expose. It instead became an opportunity for Tyra to show everyone how wrong they were. Never once did she question them about what got them to this state of mind or if they even wanted to change. The show was so formulaic in its problem solving that the end of the episode seemed scripted, if not bribed. I admire Tyra's willingness to take on challenging social problems, but cringed as she wore not only her heart on her sleeve, but her insecurities and judgments as well.
Witness the infamous 'kiss my fat a**' episode (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNx129njZGI) or the 'breast test' when Tyra had a doctor give her a televised breast exam to prove she didn't have implants (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acysA5PRTF0&feature=related). Why would a woman who claims to have confidence and healthy self-esteem be so concerned, to the point of tears, about what other people think of her? The message she sends, inadvertently, is that what other people have to say does matter…especially if you can prove them wrong. Excessive concern with other's opinions shouldn't be surprising considering that Banks comes from the fashion world where others views have a direct impact on an individual's success. The problem is, she didn't come to terms with that issue before advising others. It's the blind leading the blind.
The art of a good interview, which some great journalists have mastered (Barbara Walters being the grand dame of them all), is the ability to get someone to share about her life and, if possible, to extract the lessons learned. When someone gives a piece of her life for public consumption, it is a courageous act. Whether you like the person's behavior or character, the guts should always be remembered and respected, something that Ms. Banks often forgot. I'll give Tyra a partial pass for not being a trained journalist…but then again, she loses it for playacting like one.
Favorite Awesomely Cringeworthy Tyra Moments
Tells Janet Jackson that she liked the sway of her back
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_EwUBzUNEM&feature=related, skip to 4:10)
Says 'hi' to Obama's deceased mother
Not surprisingly, you won't find this clip anywhere, but in the interview, Tyra asks the then presidential candidate, if he believes his mother is watching over him. He responds that he does. Ms. Banks looks up, waves and says, 'hi, Mom.'
Tyra attacks modeling scams by going after the victims
(unfortunately, I couldn't find a video a clip just this article: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=2623402) - In this episode, various women were tricked into thinking they were at photo shoot with a reputable photographer who wanted to take nude/semi-nude pictures. Most, unwittingly, complied only to have Tyra and crew storm in the room, lights on and cameras rolling. That'll teach those con artists to set up shop on Tyra's turf!
Cries about how hard it was to pretend to be fat
This undercover exposé was one of Tyra's many attempts to walk a day in someone's else shoes. What made it preposterous was Tyra summarizing her experience, in tears, while being comforted by two women who don't get to take their weight off at the end of the day.
In the penultimate episode of its 35th season, Saturday Night Live featured its oldest guest host ever, Betty White. Did SNL’s unexpected choice have to do with the fact that White’s career has been on a bit of an uptick lately after a scene stealing role in The Proposal, an upcoming sitcom and a very funny Super Bowl Ad? No, SNL's powers that be gave into the force known as Facebook and for their troubles, they garnered their highest ratings in almost two years.
So why can't they invest in creative casting more often? The successful Facebook campaign would suggest that audiences are open minded and willing to watch more than the latest heartthrob or pinup. Starting with the regulars, the show is the finest selection of vanilla and cream ever televised: six white guys (five, if you count Fred Armisen as multiracial), one woefully underused black man (Kenan Thompson) and one annoyingly (albeit talented) overexposed white woman (Kristen Wiig). With such a dearth of diversity, is it any wonder that Armisen (in makeup) is the go to guy for impersonations of black men (President Obama, NY Gov. David Paterson) or that Thompson is reduced to drag queen duties to get screen time?
The problem starts at the head, long time executive producer, Lorne Michaels, and trickles down to its fingers, the 27-member writing staff which is (shock! shock!) predominately white and male. I'm not saying that SNL needs to institute an affirmative action program; talent isn't issued democratically especially the ability to make others laugh, but one wonders why in a world with Margaret Cho, Wanda Sykes, David Chappelle and Amy Sedaris is SNL so one dimensional?
The problem with their current setup is that the scope of the humor is limited; they can only joke about what they know, which leads to smaller audiences and when they joke about what they don't know, you get walking, talking stereotypes (see link, http://www.hulu.com/watch/11206/saturday-night-live-virginiaca). ((In the hands of talented and knowledgeable writers, a stereotypical character can be funny and incisive commentary, but coming from the less capable, it's just offensive)). I don't expect a bunch of Ivy League elites who grew up in gated communities to have their fingers on the pulse of humor in the minority community. I expect them to write black people as though their only contact with them is through rap videos and COPS because it likely is.
It's no surprise that black female characters on the show are attitudinal and ignorant (Thompson's Virginiaca, Ellen Cleghorne's NBC page) or that black males characters range from the priapic (Leon Phelps, Bishop Don 'Mack' Donald) to the idiotic (Brian Fellows, Lorenzo McIntosh) and don't get me started on Latinos who are usually portrayed with 'ay-ay-ay,' Charo-style panache.
If SNL wants to build an audience without using ratings ploys, it has to change in three ways: One, hire a diverse group of people for the cast and as hosts. In its three decades plus on the air, SNL has only had 11 non-white cast members and 52 non-white hosts. The repertory players are cast strictly from improv groups, but there are funny stand up comics who know how to write material and perform it on regular basis. Just go to local comedy clubs; there's lots of talent waiting to be discovered. Second, this is a suggestion to Mr. Michaels: usually the writer(s) of the script get to pick who performs in a sketch, but to increase spontaneity, which has been sorely lacking from the show, try randomly casting a skit. Put names in a hat and match a role to a person, one by one. Give your performers a chance to stretch their muscles outside the limitations of your writers' imaginations. And lastly, let your cast show off some of their improvisational skills (a la 'Who's Line is It Anyway?'), involve your audience and shake up the format a little bit. Bring some much needed fresh air to what is now a ageist, sexist and racist institution.