Monday, September 13, 2010

Kanye West: Apology Accepted and Rewarded?

I just wanted to make a quick post about the power of apologies and our American culture.

As I teach my students, it's always important to acknowledge wrongdoing. If your client or organization has done something wrong, it's important to say, well, "I'm sorry." There is actually much research on Apologia. In fact, my research partner, Dr. Dionne Clemons, and I are finishing a study now looking at politicians and their political apologies.

There are many, many types of apologies, and some are more effective than others. Plus, in today's society, those in the entertainment field in need of a mea culpa don't just take to the television airwaves for the traditional press conference or release a statement to the media. Now, we see web site apologies (Jackie Chen), video apologies (Chris Brown) and well, even apologetic Tweets.

This brings me to Kanye. Last year, after snatching the microphone away from the young Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards, Kanye was in a firestorm of controversy. Everyone from politicians to the president had something to say about Kanye, and he had something to say, too. He apologized. Americans love apologies. Some people who you'd never think could come back into the entertainment limelight (i.e., Chris Brown now has his first #1 record) can do so if they utter those two little words.

I thought it was strange Kanye West began to Tweet new apologies to Taylor a few weeks ago. "Why did he do it," thought the entertainment reporters. Well, last night made it all crystal clear. He was back at the VMA show, and he went from just a viewer in the seats to the final performer, which is a very coveted spot. And, if you ask me, he was still apologizing on stage. He could have performed his "Power" single, but instead, he performed a song about the things douch bags and other rude people do. I think we were supposed to feel sorry for him being, well, who he is. Details below.

Ultimately, I think we must learn to navigate proper behavior in our culture. We all know what is proper. It's usually what makes sense, and what your mother and kindergarten teacher taught you to do or not do. But, well, in our culture, we put entertainers on a pedestal, and it's clear that a simple apology can not only bring you back to the game, but with a little patience and persistence, you might eventually be the MVP again.

(Photo: 2010 MTV Video Music Awards website)