Exploiting our Archives, Paternity Break Edition: John K and the Art and Artlessness of the Public Apology
I know I can come off as a little cynical and pessimistic discussing the rash of horrible men currently receiving long-overdue comeuppances for their deplorable behavior over the decades. So I would like to very positively, affirmatively state that we are living in a veritable golden age of public apologies that are tone-deaf, unintentionally but deeply insulting and make already troubled situations worse rather than better. If you get off on horrible men unsuccessfully semi-apologizing for their sexual crimes then there has never been a better time to be alive.
Harvey Weinstein wrote a doozy of a public quasi-apology where he vowed to take down the sitting President of the United States and the NRA, stopping just short of promising to take down H.Y.D.R.A and Thanos for good measure. Mario Batali infamously threw in a cinnamon roll recipe at the end of his public mea culpa in case reading him express regret about his “many mistakes” made anyone hungry for a nosh.
Louis CK’s apology unwisely seemed to focus on the incredible respect the women coming forward to accuse him of sexual propriety had for him as a writer, creator and show-runner, to the point were the statement started to feel less like a genuine display of humility and contrition and more like a bad-taste humblebrag.
To this Hall of Shame of deeply misguided, counter-productive, offensive public apologies for sexual transgressions we can add the deeply disturbing words of semi-regret of John Kricfalusi, who became a hero to animation buffs and weird kids the world over as the creator and one of the main voices of Ren & Stimpy.
The statement the animator’s attorney wrote was boilerplate post-Weinstein quasi-contrition that dryly and dutifully hit the exact same notes as seemingly every other recent post-Weinstein apology.
It reads, “The 1990s were a time of mental and emotional fragility for Mr. Kricfalusi, especially after losing Ren and Stimpy, his most prized creation. For a brief time, 25 years ago, he had a 16-year-old girlfriend. Over the years John struggled with what were eventually diagnosed mental illnesses in 2008. To that point, for nearly three decades he had relied primarily on alcohol to self-medicate. Since that time he has worked feverishly on his mental health issues, and has been successful in stabilizing his life over the last decade. This achievement has allowed John the opportunity to grow and mature in ways he’d never had a chance at before.”
That would be bad enough. The apology Kricfalusi wrote himself is infinitely worse, and also something so deeply personal and misguided that it only could have come from Kricfalusi himself. Below are excerpts
Big parts of the early sections of his rather lengthy apology are addressed directly to the two women who have come forward to accuse him of sexually grooming them when he was a famous, powerful and erratic adult and they were children who began a correspondence with Kricfalusi because they loved animation and his creations and wanted to work in the business, not because they wanted a sexual relationship with an adult.
Kricfalusi spends a lot of time lovingly reminiscing about good times he shared with both women, complete with photographs and drawings seemingly designed as proof that despite what these women might say, there were laughs and good times to go along with the sexual harassment, grooming, pedophilia and alleged child pornography consumption on John K’s part.
It feels like the now sixty two year old animator is gaslighting these women, that he’s depriving them of their agency and their story and their emotions by very publicly putting forth a counter-narrative where Kricfalusi is not the abusive sexual predator described in horrifying detail in a Buzzfeed article on the situation but rather a loving mentor, friend and collaborator who may have overstepped his boundaries and ruined special friendships in the process.
Kricfalusi rejects the role of abuser, preferring instead mentor and friend. He refers to himself more than once as their “biggest fan”, which in this context comes off as creepy and manipulative rather than flattering, although I’m a little biased, since the man who laid me off from my last job repeatedly insisted he was my biggest fan for going on two decades, despite ample evidence to the contrary.
I’m not exactly sure what made Kricfalusi think an apology letter for sexual transgressions committed against underaged teen girls was the place for a warm trip down memory lane but the apology suggests that he does not grasp the severity of the situation, or the extent of the damage he has caused.
In a similarly misguided attempt to put a positive spin on the situation, he admonishes the public not to forget that Ren & Stimpy was not a one man show and that many other talented people were involved, like voiceover artist Billy West.
West refused to return as the voice of Stimpy for the “adult” Spike Ren & Stimpy cartoon. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he wouldn’t be cool with being trotted out as part of Kricfalusi’s defense against charges that should end his career.
A distinct, nauseating stream of self-promotion winds through Kricfalusi’s apology. It’s almost as if Kricfalusi imagines that if he plays things just right, readers will be overcome with a combination of nostalgia and forgiveness and clamor for more of that John Kricfalusi tomfoolery.
Kricfalusi is, of course not wrong about even a project as personal and idiosyncratic as Ren & Stimpy representing the work and talent of many gifted people, not just himself. But this is neither the time nor the place to say that, nor is he the man to be saying that, now or ever.
Kricfalusi was in an impossible situation of his own devising even before he sent out that bizarrely and widely disparaged pseudo-apology. Now everything is somehow even worse.
Kricfalusi’s unforgivable actions will probably prevent him from having any kind of a career going forward but at least some of the blame should go to his horrifically misconceived words as well.
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