When Is “Sorry” Not Enough?

20 Feb

Echoing John Mayer’s ill-chosen words from his now-infamous Playboy interview, leaked footage from the hit MTV show Jersey Shore shows Ronnie call a fellow bar-patron (with whom he goes on to brawl) a “f**king faggot” and a “f**king queer,” TMZ reported this week (follow the link to watch the video clip).

Ronnie shouting homophobic slurs across the boardwalk.

TMZ did, however, include a comment from an anonymous production source saying that “there were several gay staff members that worked on the show and Ronnie always respected them and everyone else.” Ronnie has since apologized (via Twitter), saying:

I apologize to my fans, In the heat of the moment i said a lot of things i didnt mean and im very sorry.

…um, really, Ronnie?

I think this leaked footage (and its reporting) bring a couple of larger social issues to light. For one, I think the idea that Ronnie is ‘allowed’ to call someone a faggot because he “respects” the gay people with whom he actually interacts is extremely problematic. I can’t tell you how many straight boys I know who use the word ‘faggot’ derogatively (if not as a specifically anti-gay epithet), but feel that it is okay because they ‘don’t have anything against gay people.’ In TMZ’s original report, you’ll see a poll asking: “Do you think Ronnie is homophobic?” My question is this: does the answer change whether or not his words were acceptable? I’ll quote what Sophie had to say about John Mayer in a post from a few days ago:

The problem (I’ll argue) is not whether John Mayer is “actually homophobic,” as has been the focus in the back-and-forth on the gay blogosphere. If Mayer is, in fact, homophobic, his comments were offensive, ignorant, and in poor taste. And if he’s not…well, they were offensive, ignorant, and in poor taste.

Furthermore, I find Ronnie’s ‘apology’ completely unsatisfying. Though we see more and more celebrities (if Ronnie even qualifies) using Twitter to make public statements, a 24-word digital message hardly seems heartfelt. And even if he held a press conference, would his saying sorry have been enough to excuse the behavior? If Ronnie is truly compunctious, maybe he should volunteer with an organization promoting LGBT tolerance amongst youth, Jersey Shore‘s main audience. While this footage may never have been meant to be seen, it has. And when you commit your life to being on camera, you are responsible for all of your behavior, including what is edited out.


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