Ellen Degeneres Should Not Have Apologized to Apple

In Apologetic rhetoric, Rhetorical analysis on May 10, 2010 at 10:16 am

Recently, Ellen Degeneres showed a spoof commercial of Apple’s iPhone on her show. The next day, Degeneres issued an apology to Apple during her show, stating:

“I am sorry if I made it look like the iPhone is hard to use. It’s not hard to use. I have an iPhone… I just learned how to text on an iPhone; it’s the only phone that I can text on. I love it. I love my iPad. I love my iPod. I love IHOP, if you have anything to do with that. So everybody at Apple–Steve Jobs, Mr. Macintosh–I apologize. I’m sorry. I love the stuff.”

There are a few interesting points raised by this situation.

First, Degeneres’s apology has likely garnered more attention than her original spoof ad, meaning more people are now aware of the situation and that any negative aspects of the iPhone that were in the spoof have now been seen by an even broader audience. Moreover, Apple’s sensitivity to such insignificant spoofs or opinions may well make the company appear less favorable in the public spotlight than any ad Degeneres could run.

Second, it raises the question: When is a public apology really necessary? What counts as a serious offense? What counts as a spoof? What counts as personal opinion? And should a public apology really be issued just because someone states an unfavorable opinion, review, or spoof?

Finally–and most importantly–unnecessary public apologies (or, at the very least, apologies that are issued for inconsequential statements) actually undermine serious situations as well as the important healing that can come from a public apology.

Apologies are an important part of both personal relationships and of society as a whole. Let’s not water than down or diminish their power by calling for (or offering) apologies every time someone states an opinion or runs a spoof commercial.

It’s a hard line to find and I admit that each act has to be evaluated for the intention as well as the harm it caused. But if we don’t find that balance, apologies (and Saturday Night Live) are in serious trouble.

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