Fonzie does not apologize

You may or may not remember Happy Days, a relic from a long-ago time before Ron Howard was a big-macher director and Scott Baio was an intolerance-spewing sexist bigot. It was also a time before Henry Winkler was a best-selling children’s book author and/or Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa Saperstein’s indulgent dad on Parks & Rec.

On Happy Days, Arthur Fonzarelli, aka Fonzie, aka The Fonz, was a cool guy (until he jumped the shark) in a leather jacket. He said “aaaayyy” a lot.  He was, however, unable to say several words, notably “wrong” (as in “I was wrong”) and “sorry” (as in “I’m sorry”).

Words Fonz Can’t say by Arthur-H-Fonzarelli

On the show, this was played for laughs (we know this because of the laugh track) and being unable to say the words didn’t hurt Fonzie’s likability, because we knew he was a good guy, and we knew he actually knew he was wrong and was actually sorry.

But in real life, this does not play. When people append “this is not who I am” to a weak apology, it’s their way of claiming Fonzness — “I’m a hero, so the bad thing I said or did doesn’t diminish my hero status.” Wrong.

Apologies are hard because they shake our self-conception. We need to see ourselves as the good guy in our own story. But the acknowledgment of our essential imperfection is necessary if we’re really gonna own the apologies for bad things we do. (HOWEVER: saying “none of us is infallible” in the risible statement you have the gall to call an apology is an excuse, not ownership.) Apologizing means being vulnerable and deliberately opening yourself up to criticism. Which is not easy.

But it is necessary. What with our increased societal cluefulness about bad apologies, apologizing without really apologizing — using lots of sorry-ifs and passive voice and “to those who were offended”s and tortured justifications –means you’re still opening yourself up to criticism. Only now you’re being criticized for your crap apology as well as your original sin.

Let me be clear: I love Henry Winkler, who in real life seems like a total mensch as well as self-deprecating and funny. (And I love that he started his children’s book writing — those books were very popular in my kids’ elementary school library! — as a way to encourage kids with dyslexia; he has acknowledged that he did not read a whole book until he was 31 and nearly skipped an important audition because he was afraid of embarrassing himself by being unable to read the script.) And in real life he apologized for making a lousy TV show called Monty in 1994 — he called his own performance “cringeworthy” and didn’t blame anyone else, though it sounds like the show was a misbegotten ignominy all around.

Feel free to emulate Henry Winkler. Do not emulate the Fonz.

Posted in Bad Apologies, Bropology, TV and Movie Apologies | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The opposite of ‘whatever’

A family member heard a radio story from “The Takeaway,” with a phrase he knew would mean something to SorryWatch.

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On the day of his release.

In Alabama, Anthony Ray Hinton was freed from prison after 3 decades. He’d been convicted of two murders committed during restaurant robberies in 1985. He always said he was innocent.

The case was weak. He was punched in at work at the time of the murders. At a warehouse where the workers were locked in. But a witness to a third robbery, shown a bunch of photos, picked Hinton out. The police found Hinton’s mother’s gun at the house where he and his mother lived. They said bullets at the scene of the crime matched that gun. Hinton had an incompetent lawyer who thought he wasn’t allowed enough money to hire a decent ballistic expert to challenge the idea that the bullet matched the gun. So the lawyer hired a one-eyed guy who had trouble using a microscope, and the prosecution made his testimony – that the bullets couldn’t be shown to match – look ridiculous.

Hinton was convicted and sent to Death Row. He said he was innocent. Whatever. Don’t they all?

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Here’s tutu respect, and here’s tutu better apologies than this

Generic, not-necessarily-Wyomingite tutu cat

Go, Greybull Standard! The small-town paper’s lead paragraph (or “lede,” as we journos ostentatiously and wrongheadedly spell it) recently came out swinging in a story about some eyebrow-raising words from a state senator:

Last Thursday, April 20, U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) visited Greybull High School for a scheduled Q&A with students in grades 6–12. During his visit Enzi called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “illegal,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ job will be to shut down a large part of the Department of Education, and responded to a question about LGBTQ rights in Wyoming with an anecdote about a man being surprised at the fact that he gets beat up for “wearing a tutu to the bar.”

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Posted in Bad Apologies, Political Apologies | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

But you’re my mother

In Nadja Spiegelman‘s memoir, I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This, she recounts a curious episode from her youth. (SorryWatch is focusing on apology here and will leave aside our admiration for the work of the writer’s parents, Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman.)

In high school Spiegelman had issues with her weight, and more particularly with her mother’s issues about Spiegelman’s weight. Her mother would buy snacks that Spiegelman’s brother was allowed to eat and Spiegelman was not. She’d announce she was hiding the snacks from Spiegelman. “They’re not for you, You don’t need them. Okay?”

“Okay,” the sullen Spiegelman said. Wanting only for the conversation to stop. The ‘hiding’ was a formality. Spiegelman knew perfectly well what cupboard they were in. (Cookies, chips, jerky, fruit leather.)

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Posted in Accepting apologies, Belated Apologies, Good apologies, Personal Apologies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dear Evan Hansen

I haven’t yet seen this highly regarded musical. It’s apparently about being Canadian.

Posted in Musical Apologies, Youth apologizes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sorry we assigned a racist to review your book

Inside Higher Education has an excellent account of a horrible decision made by an academic journal…and the journal’s attempt to make things right. Read the whole tale there.

Noted professor Wile E. Coyote, preparing to write a totally unbiased review of a book about roadrunners.

The (sorta?) short version: Continue reading

Posted in Academic apologies, Good apologies | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Won’t You Apologize? (At least for the DAMN BANANAS?)


Psychologist Harriet Lerner, who wrote the landmark Dance of Anger, praised as “one of the first books written about women’s anger,” has a new book out. SorryWatch read Why Won’t You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts with interest, pleasure, and seething jealousy.

SorryWatch is jealous, because as a therapist, Lerner has people telling her all about apologies they got that left them still feeling bad, apologies they never got, apologies they dream of getting, or apologies they made that weren’t accepted for some weird reason – and sometimes coaches people through making a truly good apology. Then (with their permission and the use of pseudonyms) she gets to write about it. Whereas SorryWatch too often has to rely on stories reported by others who often don’t grasp apology nuance.

Though sometimes Lerner has to give bad news. Like ‘the apology you want will probably not be coming.’

Lerner is also willing to tell brave, candid stories on herself, like the infamous Banana Incident.

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Posted in Accepting apologies, Belated Apologies, Good apologies, Personal Apologies, SorryWatch Reads | 9 Comments

Mean, stupid, and scary

You might have heard: UNITED flight from Chicago to Louisville, full up! UNITED suddenly wants to put four employees on the flight. Any volunteers to take a later flight? Some, but not enough!

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We’ll be reviewing why everyone hates us now.

Somehow select 69-year-old passenger, order him off. He refuses to give up his seat! Says he is doctor who needs to get to Louisville to treat patients. Goons grab him, drag him down the aisle & off plane! Banging face into armrest! Shrieking and bleeding from dragged man! Shrieking and recording from other passengers!

MASSIVE OUTRAGE on social media. (Diversionary tactic by current administration, tired of hearing criticisms, no matter how justified? Naah. Just a lucky break.)

Was there apology?

Of a kind. Of a worthless kind. No, worse than worthless. The kind of apology that infuriates.

[Sumac: I know u r busy w Passover prep, but any chance u can get this? Snarly: Can’t, so so crazed!]

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Not your average bonsai


The juniper everybody wants.

The botanical gardens at the University of North Carolina’s Charlotte campus cover ten acres – that’s a lot of plants, so they probably can’t keep track of them all and wouldn’t miss one puny shrub that would look fantabulous on the grounds of SorryWatch Park. Right?

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Posted in Good apologies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pepsi’s statement about That Ad

You know the one. Pepsi has pulled it from YouTube, but as of this writing you can still see it on AdAge’s site. The ad Dr. Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice responded to thusly.

Here is Pepsi’s apology: Continue reading

Posted in Corporate Apologies, Media Apologies, Social Media Apologies | Tagged , | 5 Comments