Schadenfreude for the Masses: ‘I Am SO Sorry’

by Howard Belkamp, March 3, 2010

I’m sorry, so sorry.... Please accept my apology...

— Brenda Lee, 1960

It’s apology season.

Maybe it's like the Catholic church, you go and con­fess, you are absolved and free to sin again. It's as if no one really cares what these people do, as long as they suffer publicly for it. The Morality Police perhaps ought to join forces with the airport security apparatus, to detect impure thoughts in the minds of passengers and thus refuse them passage unless they make a con­vincingly shameful apology on network news. Getting a kick from seeing these apologies is as sleazy as what­ever they apologize for.

This is all about America’s love-hate relationship with celebrities, and the rich and powerful, as well as the dominance of media in our lives. I don’t own a TV, but all the same crap (news) comes over NPR (which, if I heard them correctly, is now being underwritten by Fox News).

The famous, wealthy and powerful have more enti­tlement sense than Joe Blow down the street. Politi­cians are the worst of the lot. Or maybe the preachers. Will there be a 24-hour telethon of Catholic priests doing Jimmy Swaggart routines? JFK — Marilyn Monroe, hey, pretty good, a much classier act than Bill and Monica. Couldn't get away with it today.

Tiger Woods was a prime example of love/hate for celebrities: first, he excelled at a traditionally white-dominated game. Country clubs have been famous for being “restricted.” White only. No Jews, no blacks. Probably no Asians either. So along comes this young black-Asian who can beat the pants off all the other golfers. Publicly they have to embrace him. The new champion. He becomes a media darling. His ego is stroked constantly and intensely from all angles. Including women. Do we know who his wife is? Do we care if she's for real or a gold digger who scored?

Either way, there must be lots and lots of white men who resent Tiger Woods for many reasons. He needed to be “taken down a notch.” Remember, hu­mility is a quality we admire greatly (in others, that is).

Toyota, vilified and attacked, made to do the hum­ble shuffle before the congress and of course on TV. Another case of punishment for The Sin of Not Being American, which seems, in a way, an essential facet of our post-Reagan foreign policy. The Japanese automaker is doing something unheard of in corporate culture: admitting not only technical mistakes, but the fact that avarice and lust for growth trumped quality control. Sound familiar? Can we imagine an American corporation making such an admission? Did Ford apologize for the Explorer? The Pinto? The Mercury Mystique, discontinued because it sounded like “mis­take?” Will GM apologize for the Hummer? Kraft Foods for fake plastic cheese? I’d kind of like to see that.

Do we have a national self-esteem problem and just want to see anybody at all grovel and eat shit on TV?

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