Apology videos make for awful apologies

When Internet celebrities do wrong, their attempts to say ‘sorry’ through video tend to ring hollow


By: Gene Cole, Peak Associate

Getting out of bed is hard when you’re always waking up to a social media explosion about how awful another Internet celebrity just turned out to be. It’s painful enough to know that your favourite entertainers are remarkably bigoted, stupid, or unpleasant. Their “apology videos” have arguably gotten just as frustrating.

Some controversy occurs. The content creator stays quiet, or maybe offers some hasty written regrets. Eventually, a headline pops up about them uploading a video to address the situation directly. Apology videos have become very common responses for Internet celebrities when they cause controversy — but they’re a really bad way to apologize.

In March, classic game and movie reviewer JonTron gave an apologetic explanation of several untoward comments he made in a livestreamed debate about immigration and racial discrimination in America.

It looks and sounds like an apology. But he really just talks about how he feels blaming white people for social problems is “hypocritical.” It’s exactly what he said before, just cleaner, more edited, and with more citations. In other words: he’s not sorry. JonTron’s goal was proving his point, not acknowledging just how insensitive he was being.

Last month, competitive gamer xQc received a mid-stream suspension for yelling and insulting other players, and refusing to play properly to spite his teammates. Throughout his apology video, he claims that he’s willing to “accept the consequences,” but doesn’t comment on what consequences he expects. He even claims that his behaviour is just “the way that [he is],” and says he doesn’t want to change.

XQc has an honest sentiment that’s appreciable, but he still won’t try and change. Not every entertainer needs to initiate a massive social movement to apologize, but he should try to understand what he did wrong, or at least discourage others from imitating him.

Most recently, popular vlogger Logan Paul made an apology video after he filmed himself and his friends finding a corpse in Aokigahara, a Japanese forest known for being a suicide destination, and laughing about it. What makes this instance so painful is the severe lack of transparency.

A vlogger, livestreamer, or similar content producer’s medium puts them in the public eye. They heavily encourage fans to keep up with the most extreme details of their lives; they base their business on that intimate relationship. A vlogger’s silence in the face of scandal emphasizes that they gloss over the negatives — that they’re honest with their viewers only when it’s convenient.

Is Paul in contact with legal advisors? What might be in his channel’s future? Maybe he can’t give every detail — for legal reasons, non-disclosure agreements, et cetera — but we should know roughly what consequences or deliberations might be happening.

Transparency changes how we perceive him. Without it, our trust in him is murky, and we’re uncertain about the situation. Inaccurate information spreads, such as claims that Paul suspended his channel based on a minimally-worded Twitter post.

Celebrities who rely on their half-hearted apology videos to make things right tend to go disturbingly silent afterward — even in the face of a media circus that proves that, whether they like it or not, the conversation isn’t over.

Over the past week, videos about people’s reactions to the Paul controversy have been all over YouTube’s trending page, from more detailed analyses of the various issues to immaturely named DramaAlerts. Yet Paul hasn’t responded to any of this, or interacted with these other creators, as far as we know.

When celebrities treat their controversies this way, the only conclusion we can make here is that they just don’t really care about what they’ve done. Yet, Paul’s case shows how even this apathy often goes hand in hand with a somehow still-growing subscriber count — a disgusting combination.

Apology videos have good intentions and little weight behind them. We’re given no reason to think that the allegedly apologetic celeb has actually grown. Yet people continue to support them through views and subscriptions. Their superficial regrets become the norm, and there’s no accountability.

If apology videos continue to be used, they need to be more fulfilling and substantive. They should express what’s happening on the video maker’s end, what they’re doing to fix the damage they’ve done, what they’ve learned, and why we should trust them and their channel to do better.

The method celebrities use to respond to a controversy should be as important as the content of the response. Each Internet celebrity has a community, brand, and business, and those come with responsibilities to their audience. This apology video method reeks of negligence, secrecy, and disregard for others, fans or otherwise, and its status as a trend despite such low quality is greatly concerning.