A Cinecle View – A “sorry” state of affairs

Tony Marion

Tony Marion

I hate most media.

And not just because like politicians, most media outlets make money producing nothing but fuel for our fears, prejudices, and passions. I also hate them because they’re forcing me to do something disturbing:

Stand with Lena Dunham.

Before anyone demands an apology for my straight white male privilege-driven delusion that Dunham needs my help because she’s a “girl”, SHUT-UP; she “needs” no one’s help. She’s a world class writer, if she chose to take down the idiots excoriating her online the result would be the written equivalent of the “Old Boy” hammer fight. It just wouldn’t take as long.

No, I’m doing this because regardless of politics, religion, ethnicity or gender WE ALL NEED TO LIGHTEN THE FUCK UP.

This week, Dunham recounted her experience at this year’s MET gala on her website:

… it was so surreal to get to do that.

I was sitting next to [NY Giants reciever] Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing
because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his
standards.

He was like, ‘That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.’

It wasn’t mean — he just seemed confused. The vibe was very much like, ‘Do I want to fuck it?
Is it wearing a… yep, it’s wearing a tuxedo. I’m going to go back to my cell phone.’… and he
literally was scrolling Instagram rather than have to look at a woman in a bow tie. I was like,
“This should be called the Metropolitan Museum of Getting Rejected by Athletes.”

And the internet exploded.

Many accused Dunham of promoting negative black athlete stereotypes and calling Beckham
Jr. sexist. My favorite opinion came courtesy of Dan Benton at giantswire.com:

Headline: Lena Dunham rips Odell Beckham Jr. for allegedly rejecting her

Although Beckham Jr. didn’t actually speak a word to her, Dunham didn’t stop herself from attempting to interpret what she views as a sexist take on her physique and appearance.

Heaven forbid he wasn’t interested in this woman, so therefore he must be a horrible and confused sexist who mistook her for a ‘dog.’

…If she’s that desperate for attention… Beckham Jr. would undoubtedly give her a selfie and an autograph to help ease the pain of the alleged rejection.

That’s one interpretation. It’s the second wrongest after “Lena Dunham says Odell Beckham Jr. hates tuxedoed marshmallow puppies,” but let’s applaud Dan for having the courage to publish indisputable evidence of his awkward phrasing skills and kindergarten reading comprehension.

I read Dunham’s recollection as a hilariously self-deprecating bit about her own insecurities in a room full of ridiculously beautiful people – not anti-Beckham. Everyone has insecurities, fears, and prejudices; sometimes well-founded, sometimes ignorance-based. Can we please, please, PLEASE stop demanding apologies every time someone uses what we’ve convinced ourselves is an automatic outrage trigger-word?

Dunham did apologize, though, via Instagram, to the only person that matters:

I owe Odell Beckham Jr an apology… I struggle at industry events (and in life) with the sense that I don’t rep a certain standard of beauty and so when I show up to the Met Ball surrounded by models and swan-like actresses it’s hard not to feel like a sack of flaming garbage. This felt especially intense with a handsome athlete as my dinner companion… But I went ahead and projected these insecurities and made totally narcissistic assumptions about what he was thinking, then presented those assumptions as facts. I feel terrible about it… I see how unfair it is to ascribe misogynistic thoughts to someone I don’t know AT ALL… The fact is I don’t know about his state of mind (I don’t know a lot of things) and I shouldn’t have acted like I did. Much love and thanks, Lena.

(Wow, always being right is exhausting!)

For his part, Odell did not respond publicly, which is odd, given his Dunham-documented Instagram obsession.

Of course, the attacks continued. Some labeled her clearly heartfelt apology “an excuse” for any number of -isms, backpedalling to “cover her liberal ass”, and a “non-apology”.

First, her MET story did not include the words “all men”, “all athletes”, or “black”; so unless you’re Odell Beckham Jr., you have no right to be offended.

Second, while her politics often infuriate me, they’re irrelevant here. She’s a human being that feels badly about inadvertently insulting another – accept her at her word regardless of who she endorses in November.

And, your dissatisfaction with an apology doesn’t make it a “non-apology”. When I say, “I’m sorry if my words/short film/Tweet offended you” I mean exactly that – I’m sorry that you were offended, but not sorry for what I’ve said/created/Tweeted. You can keep fighting a battle against no one or you can move on. When others offer similar apologies, it’s probably safe to take those at face value, too.

Our society is becoming a “sorry” state; instead of working together to resolve problems and misunderstandings, too many people want a pound of flesh in the form of a public apology for the slightest of slights. The offended may get a moment of smug satisfaction, but the divide that caused the problem remains unresolved.

It’s amazing how much intellectual capital and digital real estate was expended on this first-worldiest of problems: a millionaire’s tale about the insecurities that she felt being in a room with allegedly prettier millionaires wasting an obscene amount of money on a night of decadence, was misinterpreted and hurt the feelings of people who weren’t there and have never met her.

For me, that’s the sorriest part of the story.

Lena Dunham

Tony Marion is a writer and filmmaker who splits time between Lancaster, PA and Baltimore, MD. He lives for the work of Descendents (the band), Chuck Palahniuk and Rian Johnson. Check out the digital embodiment of procrastination he calls his website here.

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