On New Year’s Eve, Dan Harmon, creator of the show Community (“Troy and Abed in the mooooorning!”) tweeted this.
Two days later, at 2:11 am, Megan Ganz, a writer on Community, tweeted this:
Hmm. That afternoon, Harmon tweeted a response to her. Six years late is better than never!
It starts here. Harmon said, in part, “I didn’t want to add narcissism to injury by naming you without permission, but I’ve talked on my podcast about the lines I crossed. I will talk about it more in any way that you think is just. I am deeply sorry. i’m filled with regret and a lot of foggy memories about abusing my position, treating you like garbage. I would feel a lot of relief if you told me there was a way to fix it. I’ll let you call the shots. Til then, at least know I know I was an awful boss and a selfish baby.”
Ganz replied : “I wish my memories were foggier. I wish there was a way to fix it. It took me years to believe in my talents again, to trust a boss when he complimented me and not cringe when he asked for my number. I was afraid to be enthusiastic, knowing it might be turned against me later. You want relief? So do I. I want to watch the first episode of television I wrote again without remembering what came after. Figure out how to give me that relief and I’ll return the favor.”
— Megan Ganz (@meganganz) January 11, 2018
We are in the business of analyzing apologies. But we are not the recipient of this apology. Ganz is. She appreciates and accepts it. That is far more important than anything we might have to say about it. We wish her healing, and lots of awesome funny non-horrible workplaces in the future. (And we note that her Twitter is a delightful follow, and Snarly’s daughters love It’s Always Sunny, which she now co-exec-produces, and of course collectively SorryWatch is gonna love anyone who casually uses the word “allocution.”)
Harmon’s seven minute mea culpa is NOT a master class in how to apologize. I transcribed the whole farshtunkiner thing to write this post, but I’m afeared that this post is heading into War and Peace territory, so we’ll try to be quick.
It’s not godawful, but it’s not great. After some hemming and hawing, he says he was “attracted to a writer that I had power over because I was a showrunner.” This is good phrasing, showing that he understands the power differential. But then he goes on to blame his feelings, not his behavior. He says he knew his feelings were “bad news,” that he “wasn’t doing anybody any favors by feeling these things.” Dude, we feel what we feel; we can’t help feelings. What we can help are ACTIONS. They’re what matter. He continues, “It’s not as if this person didn’t repeatedly communicate to me the idea that what I was doing was divesting her of a recourse to integrity.” I am not sure what those words mean? Like, at all?
Then he says he broke up with his live-in girlfriend because “I thought that would make having inappropriate feelings for a coworker appropriate.” AGAIN. IT IS NOT ABOUT THE FEELINGS. He does refer eventually to going “full-steam into creeping on my employee” (ok, better! “creeping on” presumably means words and actions, not just “feelings”!) and telling the employee he loved her. She rejected him. “I was humiliated…and now I wanted to teach her a lesson.” VERY GOOD. This is taking responsibility. But then, dammit, he says, “I’m gonna assume that when she tweets about it and refers to ‘trauma’ that’s probably it, because I drank, I took pills, I crushed on her and resented her for not reciprocating it.” Altered states do not excuse behavior. Mel Gibson tried that one. Nope. But here is a key phrase that’s unapologetically (get it?) terrific: “The entire time, I was the one writing her paychecks and in control of whether she stayed or went, and whether she felt good about herself or not, and I said horrible things, just treated her cruelly, pointedly. Things I would never, ever have done if she had been male.” GOOD JOB. THIS IS THE CORE OF THE APOLOGY AND WE DO NOT NEED SEVEN MINUTES OF WANKING, [sic] JUST THIS. But then he’s back to talk about feelings, and lying to himself about them, and “I lost my job; I ruined my show; I betrayed the audience; I destroyed everything.” Again with the “I.” THINK ABOUT THE PERSON YOU WRONGED, NOT YOURSELF. There’s another good phrase: “I never would have been able to do it if I had any respect for women. On a fundamental level, I was thinking about them as different creatures; I was thinking about the ones that I liked as having some special role in my life.” This is self-aware, but also an indication of his entitlement, which still shines through the apology. (I, I, I.) (Note the way Ganz, on Twitter, had said that she was working on forgiveness “for my benefit more than yours.” He tends to, uh, make things about him.) Harmon ends with a long, impassioned plea to other dudes not to do what he did (“you can cause a lot of damage that is technically legal and hurts everybody”) that again takes us away from the one-to-one apology that should be what he’s focusing on.
Harmon concludes: “I think we’re living in a good time right now, because we’re not gonna get away with it anymore. And if we can make it a normal part of our culture, that we think about it and possibly talk about it, then maybe we can get to a better place where that stuff doesn’t happen.” Amen to that. He also essentially asks his asshole fans not to dox or otherwise hurt his former employee, which is a sad necessity and a good thing to say. He concludes with the SorryWatch Bad-Apology-Bingo-winning “let’s move on,” as well as “I’m gonna now have a drink,” which we do not begrudge.
Because Ganz forgives, and that’s more important than our parsing.