• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Celebrity apologies don’t work on us anymore

ByAnna Claire Shuman

Sep 28, 2023
Actress Mila Kunis sitting at a table with a microphone in front of her

We’re all over apology videos. To be fair, the whole idea is ridiculous— these videos are staged and posted only to avoid a loss of income. And they don’t work on those who been around internet culture for most of their life. And they definitely don’t work on celebrities, who used to be able to stay disconnected from social media enough to let their scandals run one gossip cycle without ever having to speak publicly on drama. Last week was an especially turbulent one for some of Hollywood’s darlings, namely the Kutcher-Kunis family and Drew Barrymore. 

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis came under fire for writing letters to a judge in an attempt to lighten the prison sentence of their friend Danny Masterson, who was convicted of raping two women and awaiting sentencing. He has since been sentenced to 30 years to life in prison.

The backlash to these letters was immediate and unsparing. The couple’s response was to post an apology video, with Kunis and Kutcher looking uncharacteristically dishevelled and completely makeup-free, as if to assure their audience that they were truly upset. Sitting against a nondescript panelled wall, the couple lamented the public release of these character defences. However, X (formerly Twitter) users didn’t buy their sincerity. Whatever crisis PR firm they hired steered them in the wrong direction. Those well-versed in internet pop culture recognised the couple’s background as the outdoor wall of their pool house from their Architectural Digest “Open Door” video, others were put off by Ashton Kutcher’s obvious off-screen clicking through the script someone had written for the video. The video was so poorly received that Kutcher and Kunis have now both stepped down from the board of directors of Thorn, an anti-child sex trafficking charity co-founded by Kutcher. 

Drew Barrymore also found herself in hot water for deciding to restart filming on her talk show “The Drew Barrymore Show,” despite the Writers Guild of America’s ongoing strike. Her and her team planned to return to the show without WGA writers, which would be using non-union work to avoid a union labour strike, which is colloquially known as scabbing. Barrymore was also quick to release a now-deleted video addressing her controversy, in which she took a page out of the Kutcher-Kunis book and filmed with no makeup on in a plain corner of her house in an attempt to make us forget about her estimated 30 million dollar real estate portfolio. Facing massive backlash, Barrymore deleted her explanation video, and announced that her show would not return until after the WGA reached a fair agreement with studio bosses. 

Apology videos are often taken terribly by the internet. Think about all the YouTube sensations that were turned into laughingstocks by their apology video. Logan Paul’s weepy hotel room setup, James Charles’ iPhone shaky-cam, and more recently Colleen Ballinger’s absurd ukulele composition. In the past, “real” celebrities wouldn’t stoop to the level of the grovelling beauty YouTuber. In the age of social media, however, celebrities profit more from forming these influencer-adjacent relationships with their fans, which has taken them off their a-list pedestal and brought them to a level where they can be made to hold themselves accountable. The internet is, as they say, forever, and lightning-fingered sleuths aren’t going to let these longtime celebs get away with pretending they’re just like us. 

“Mila Kunis” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0