When it comes to Chris Hemsworth, a sensitive soul lurks underneath all of that hair and pronounced musculature.
The Thor star is among the celebs lending his prominent voice to the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the same cause that Shailene Woodley considered it an honor to be arrested for. But a message of solidarity Hemsworth posted yesterday, around the time police in riot gear were trying to break up the protesters’ encampment in North Dakota, contained an unexpected side note—an apology for something that no one was on the actor’s case to apologize for.
Well, not recently anyway.
“Standing with those who are fighting to protect their sacred land and water. #nodapl #waterislife#mniwiconi @taikawaititi,” the Australian star, clad in his Thor costume in the accompanying photo, began his lengthy missive. “I would also like to take this opportunity to raise something that has been bothering me for sometime.
Standing with those who are fighting to protect their sacred land and water. #nodapl #waterislife #mniwiconi @taikawaititi I would also like to take this opportunity to raise something that has been bothering me for sometime. 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.
“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.”
How about that? A voluntary apology, a “sincere and unreserved” apology, in this day and age of arm-twist apologies that mean all the less in proportion to the level of the Internet’s outrage on any given day.
Elsa Pataky, New Year’s Eve 2015
Those against the NDAP have been calling themselves “water protectors” in support of the local Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose land—including ancient burial grounds and prayer sites—they assert will be desecrated by the construction of the proposed 1,172-mile pipeline.
And apparently Hemsworth, thanks to his learning about issue, finally now gets why white people shouldn’t go around dressing as other ethnicities and races—hence his apology Thursday, almost 11 months after he decided to attend a Lone Ranger party in a Tonto-reminiscent Native American costume. (Side note: Johnny Depp‘s portrayal of the character in the big-screen flop also drew its fair share of controversy in 2013.)
But while the Internet was up in arms at the beginning of 2016, the fact that Hemsworth didn’t address his bad judgment until he had the heartfelt feelings to back it up means it may actually be a real apology—unlike so many of the other mea culpas that are practically forced out of famous people, the faster the better, for every perceived misstep.
Which isn’t to say that most celebrities don’t feel bad or are lying when they apologize for a bad costume (we wonder who will have missed the common-sense memo this Halloween…), a crass joke, a slip of the tongue, a tweet that meant one thing but was widely taken to mean another, etc.
For sure they feel bad by the time 10,000 people on Twitter have labeled them racist, idiots, unpatriotic, ignorant or any of the other labels that one errant tweet do not make. (Well, “idiot” is debatable, depending on the gravity of the situation…)
And some apologies or at least acknowledgments of wrongdoing are sometimes absolutely necessary. Prince Harry in a Nazi uniform? Apologize. Julianne Hough in black face to go as Crazy Eyes from Orange Is the New Black for Halloween? Yeah, best she apologize, though you don’t have to be Hough’s best friend in the world to guess that she meant no harm. Jonah Hill using an anti-gay slur in a fit of outage? Yes, apologize a lot, because that sets a very bad precedent, even if you aren’t the poster boy for LGBT oppression.
But Emily Blunt having to apologize because she joked that she regretted becoming an American citizen because of the circus-like Republican primary debate she had just watched?
What nonsense, and we wouldn’t mind at all if Blunt wasn’t one bit sorry when she said on Today to “really apologize to those I caused offense,” adding, “I think I’ll probably leave the political jokes to late-night or something.”
Just last week, Priyanka Chopra felt the need to apologize to those who found the tank-top she wore on the cover of a magazine offensive toward refugees, even though the shirt’s message was about cultural inclusiveness.
Gabby Douglas was more or less forced to apologize during the Olympics because she got raked over the coals for not having her hand over her heart during the national anthem (and the social media bullying didn’t stop there).
Regardless of how genuine their particular sentiments were, the demand for apologies for every darn thing only serves to diminish direly needed apologies. Would you rather be placated or lied to? Do we want to get to a point where everyone’s thoughtlessly spouting something one minute and apologizing for it the next, having not been given the chance to eithr be secure in one’s convictions or, on the flip side, to really understand the gravity of their offense?
In Hemsworth’s particular case it helps, of course, that there isn’t much of a contingent running around worrying that Chris Hemsworth is responsible for the complex socio-ethnic troubles in the world or is serially guilty of cultural appropriation. But if he had immediately responded to the backlash back in January, which did indeed die down after a couple of days (not least because there are very few celebrities less controversial than Chris Hemsworth), no one would have ever known if he had really gotten the point or was just trying to quell the uproar. (The picture of him at the party that wife Elsa Patakyposted to Instagram has long since been deleted.)
Perhaps most notably, he didn’t just apologize to “those he may have been offended,” as so many people do, but rather to “all First Nations people.” He didn’t share the blame by suggesting that there may have just been some people who didn’t get it. He took full responsibility, even though no one was out to get him anymore.
If the demand for an apology becomes too demandy, too fast, then just like a child who doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions and is just sorry he got caught, so comes the immediate “sorry if I offended/hurt/misspoke” that may not mean anything.
Ryan Lochte eventually apologized more thoroughly (though it’s still debatable as to what he was most sorry for) in his interview with Matt Lauerfor his Rio screw-up, but his initial attempt via Instagram was weak—presumably a result of the pressure to say something, and fast.
While those who have taken issue with Amy Schumer‘s “Formation” video have every right to do so, as well as a valid reason, and you can’t accuse those who accused her of appropriation of overreacting, we can’t help but appreciate that Schumer has not apologized for offending—because she wouldn’t have meant it.
Instead, she has explained, in detail, her intent behind the video and, for now anyway, has left it at that.
“You have every right to feel however you feel about the video and me but I want you to know I’m not going anywhere. Use whatever hashtag you like,” she wrote on Medium. “My mission is to continue to work as hard as I can to empower women and make them laugh and feel better and I won’t let anything stop me.”
Schumer may reconsider one day, but if only because it’s one less disingenuous apology in the world, we’ll do without it. Chris Hemsworth, however, could have let a sleeping story lie, and he didn’t, because he actually felt sorry. And we’ll take those sorts of apologies any day.