Are you a celebrity who has been accused of alleged sexual misconduct? Are you having trouble figuring out exactly what you should say in the statement you will of course be expected to release about the allegations? Good news — the Celebrity Perv Apology Generator is here! Based on the nearly identical nature of many of the statements that have been released prior to yours, the Celebrity Perv Apology Generator does all the work of creating your statement for you; all you have to do is navigate to a simple website, click a button, and voila! Your very own apology is ready for you to use. Isn’t that just terrific?
OK, not terrific, of course; indeed, the Celebrity Perv Apology Generator, whose (non-)apologies were penned as a powerful piece of social commentary by writer Dana Schwartz, points out one of the most troubling aspects of the sexual misconduct allegations dominating the news cycle. Yes, it’s good and necessary that these allegations are being discussed as part of the wider discourse; yes, it’s good and necessary that those who allegedly committed sexual misconduct are facing consequences; and yes, it's good and necessary that those stepping forward with their stories are actually being believed for once — but the “apologies” that have been released as new allegations emerge have not only started to feel like the same apology recycled over and over, but moreover, often aren’t really apologies at all. And that's a problem.
On Nov. 19, Schwartz tweeted the following in response to the similarities between many of the statements released by public figures who have recently been accused of alleged sexual misconduct:
It was meant as a joke — but like all good comedy, it also made some sharp commentary on the current state of our world. There wasn’t really one particular statement or a specific moment in the news cycle that inspired the project; indeed, Schwartz tells Bustle in an email, “There was this feeling that each celebrity scandal was becoming indiscriminate from the last, that we were just in an endless cycle of accusation, blowback, and apology.” She continues, “It was less a single apology than the way they all bled together and seemed to learn from the previous.”
And thus, the Celebrity Perv Apology Generator was born. The project was produced by Rob Sheridan, whom Schwartz credits with having the idea of turning her joke into a website; from there, Schwartz wrote the apologies and sent them off to developer Scott McCaughey to build the site itself. She penned the apologies on the go; “I literally just wrote a bunch of phrases on my iPhone notes while on the subway,” she says. “Nothing more romantic than the creative process!”
As for how the generator works? “There are basically four slots for phrases that randomly plug in,” Schwartz tells Bustle. Accordingly, each apology the generator creates follows the same format: It begins with an “As someone who…” statement — “As someone who grew up in a different era,” “As a father of daughters,” etc.; it’s biographical information which is meant to exonerate the apologist in some way, but which is not actually a viable excuse, nor necessarily even relevant — followed by a blanket statement about the allegations specifically or about sexual misconduct in general. Then there’s a description of what the apologist allegedly did, which is mostly meant to function as an excuse for why their alleged choices and behavior weren’t so bad; this description is also always followed up with the statement, “And of course I now realize my behavior was wrong.” Lastly, there’s a conclusion that implies that the apologist isn’t sorry, hasn’t learned anything, and takes no real responsibility for their alleged behavior.
The sentences that make up each part of the apologies often take their cues from real-life examples. In this one, for instance:
The “at least I asked” section references Louis C.K.’s statement. In this statement, C.K. admitted that the alleged “stories” about his behavior were “true” before adding, “At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true.”
This one, meanwhile...
...echoes the numerous statements in which those facing allegations claim not to have remembered the incident in question.
And this one...
...zeroes right in on Donald Trump’s dismissal of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump can be heard saying, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the p***y. You can do anything”; after the tape’s release, he brushed it off as “locker room banter” and “locker room talk.”
It’s telling that Schwartz was able to write sentences and phrases that echo their real-life counterparts while commuting; it speaks volumes to the hollowness of the statements flooding the news. Indeed, that’s one of the things that struck poet Isobel O’Hare, who has been creating erasure poems out of the statements of those accused of alleged sexual misconduct, as well. Said O’Hare to Mashable last week, “As new abuse allegations come out day after day, and each man releases his statement, I started to notice patterns in the language they use.” She theorizes that these patterns exist “either because they are following a boilerplate PR format or because they are unwittingly revealing universal truths about male dominance and power” — which, given that so many of us are picking up on those patterns, is a probable assessment.
Schwartz tells Bustle that she thinks Al Franken’s apology “is probably the best so far” — but she also makes this incredibly important point: “The best apology would be one that someone makes because he’s actually sorry, not just sorry we found out and because we’re suddenly in an environment where people are listening to women.”
And she’s absolutely right.
Check out the Celebrity Perv Apology Generator here.