Over the weekend, Jonah Hill was caught on video telling a photographer who’d spent blocks trailing him, “Suck my dick, you faggot”—a rejoinder that reminded all, especially in the wake of Alec Baldwin, of the importance of not doing that, even if you are being relentlessly harassed by paparazzi parasites making fun of your shorts. But unlike Baldwin’s response to his similar incident—and generally unlike most other mea culpas made by celebrities caught using offensive language on tape—Hill’s resulting apologies have been swift, personal, and sincerely abashed.
Mere hours after TMZ posted the tape, Hill appeared on Howard Stern’s show, where he opened right up about it, and essentially said that no one was more disappointed in Jonah Hill than Jonah Hill.
I’m upset, because, from the day I was born—and publicly—I’ve been a gay rights activist… Just to give it some context, not excusing what I said in any way, this person had been following me around all day, had been saying hurtful things about my family, really hurtful things about me personally, and I played into exactly what he wanted and lost my cool. And in that moment, I said a disgusting word that does not at all reflect how I feel about any group of people.
I grew up with gay family members. I’m leaving here to go spend the day with one of my closest coworkers, a best friend who is gay who’s getting married who I’m going to stand at his wedding. I am not at all defending my choice of words, but I am happy to be the poster boy for thinking about what you say and how those words, even if you don’t intend them and how they mean, they are rooted in hate. And that’s bullshit and I shouldn’t have said that.
Look, I think I’m pretty good at being in movies. I am not good at being a famous person. I’m just not… If you call me ugly, if you call family members of mine drug addicts and maniacs, I’m eventually going to lose my cool. Now what I said in that moment was disgusting and a hurtful term… I used a word that I don’t use in my personal life, that’s not part of my vernacular. I’m happy to take the heat for using this disgusting word. What I won’t allow—it would break my heart—is for anyone to think, especially with all the work that I’ve done and all the loved ones I have, that I would be against anyone for their sexuality.
You can listen to the whole segment below:
Hill’s remorse continued last night on The Tonight Show, where his prescheduled, unfortunately timed promotional junket for 22 Jump Street continued to become an apology tour. Hill, visibly choked up, took a moment to look directly into the camera and address the incident, and try again to turn this whole ugly mess into a teachable moment. The video itself is worth watching, but here’s a transcript.
I said the most hurtful word I could think of at that moment. I didn’t mean this in the sense of the word. I didn’t mean it in a homophobic way. I think that....that doesn’t matter, you know? How you mean things doesn’t matter. Words have weight in meaning. The word I chose was grotesque. No one deserves to say or hear words like that. I’ve been supportive to the LGBTQ community my entire life and I completely let the members of that community and everybody else down when I used a word like that this weekend. My heart’s broken. I’m genuinely deeply sorry to anyone who has ever been affected by that term in their life. I’m sorry and I don’t deserve or expect your forgiveness.
But what I ask if that you’re at home—if you’re watching this and you’re a young person especially—if someone says something that hurts you or angers you, use me an example of what not to do. And don’t respond with hatred or anger, because you’re just adding more ugliness to the world. Again. I’m so sorry.
Hill also appeared on Good Morning America and vowed to “never ever use that word again, and I urge everyone to do the same.”
Perhaps most significant in all of this is Hill’s acknowledgement that the context and what he meant by the word—a word that, like so many of us, Hill probably heard hurled with impunity throughout his teenage years, just by virtue of being a dude—simply doesn’t matter. In a culture so often dominated by “I’m sorry that you found it offensive…” semi-apologies, Hill’s response seems admirably, disarmingly genuine. Maybe he’s right in that he’s not good at being a famous person. The Internet simply doesn’t know what to do with that.