Side Note

Jason Bateman’s apology was actually good

Headed for a fifth season, the cast of “Arrested Development” sat down with The New York Times for what turned out to be a very awkward and emotional interview. Though they were ostensibly there to promote the new season, the conversation quickly turned to the behavior of Jeffrey Tambor, who left his other show, Transparent, following allegations of sexual harassment. As Tambor and the others talked about the occasional intensity of the on-set environment, Jessica Walter — who plays Tambor’s on-screen wife — brought up incidents in which the actor had verbally abused her. In “almost 60 years of working,” she said, “I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set.”

Bizarrely, co-star Jason Bateman defended Tambor’s behavior, even as Walter insisted it was significant. Eventually, Walter broke down, and said she was learning to forgive him. But after a wave of criticism for his perceived callousness, Bateman apologized today for “mansplaining” to Walter. “Based on listening to the NYT interview and hearing people’s thoughts online, I realize that I was wrong here,” he admitted. “I’m incredibly embarrassed and deeply sorry to have done that to Jessica. This is a big learning moment for me. I shouldn’t have tried so hard to mansplain, or fix a fight, or make everything okay.”

It was oddly refreshing to see Bateman take responsibility, considering how many public figures divert the blame when forced to apologize. Bateman didn’t try to shirk away the truth of the matter and instead held himself accountable, appearing contrite and purposeful in his word choice.

Think about Louis C.K’s November apology for sexual harassment, in which he didn’t say “sorry” once in a 500-word statement. After Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual assault of a minor last October, he diverted from the accusation and came out as gay to the public. And, of course, there was Harvey Weinstein’s bizarre pseudo-mea culpa, the non-apology to end all non-apologies, in which he said he was going to diverting his energy to bringing down the NRA. Referencing someone’s hurt feelings — “I am sorry for offending you” — without acknowledging your own bad behavior is a classic abusive tactic.

There's no question Bateman acted like a jerk in the interview, which was immortalized in a painful audio clip. Instead, Bateman avoided the confusion by being clear and humble from the beginning of his apology. More people — not just celebrities — could take note.