There comes a time when the bullshit misdeeds of straight women’s Jordan Catalanos—that handsome yet all-round emotionally stunted high school boyfriend—catch up with them, and they get divorced or go to rehab or, in Justin Timberlake’s case, have the entire world simultaneously wake up to the fact they’ve built a career on the suffering of talented women. And when that time comes, so comes the vague apology note that takes exactly no responsibility yet implicitly expects full absolution.
Mine started rolling in last year. Men who treated me terribly headed to therapy as their trial separations drifted toward divorce, wanting to apologize but also tell me I had to realize they’d long suffered from low self-esteem and hadn’t realized women even had feelings until very recently. Britney Spears (and Janet Jackson) got their first notice of this area man’s very important discovery today, as Justin Timberlake conveniently learned about all the free passes white dudes get—just 18 short years after he faced no repercussions for stripping Janet Jackson’s top off at the Super Bowl while singing a song from an album in which he intimated that Britney Spears was a cheating whore.
While my first shitty boyfriend half-apology came via Facebook, Britney’s was transmitted through Instagram, where Timberlake wrote, “I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed.”
What’s he sorry for? Bragging to Howard Stern, Barbara Walters, and anyone else who would listen that he’d banged Britney immediately following their breakup? Whining about the fact that she possibly cheated when they were teenagers every time he had a new project to promote right up until 2018? Possibly for gleefully covering Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” at a concert in Sweden as Britney was being hounded nearly to death by the paparazzi stateside? Or for the fact that Janet Jackson’s career never fully recovered after he assaulted her on camera at the Super Bowl?
No. He is sorry for the flawed industry. You see, unfortunately, because of his “ignorance”—not his actions—he “didn’t recognize it for what it was while it was happening in [his] own life.” He also promises he “never wants to benefit from others being pulled down again,” but fails to mention his fucking dead weight doing the dragging.
This is apology reads like the 2 a.m. ruminations of a man who will be divorced and dating a 24-year-old in about six months. But hey, Justin, and all you other 40-year-old Jordans, glad social media and a few therapy buzzwords could help you get this all off your chest because what really matters most right now is your self-image.