Friday, September 23, 2005

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

I don't generally take a lot of notice of super-models because if I do I have a weird rush of otherwise completely unknown maternal instinct, during which all I want to do is bake them cakes and rice pudding. But it seems one can't avoid the scrawny half-starved Kate Moss this week, so before I pop my pinny on, it's worth thinking about her apology.

Apologies are interesting speech acts. There's Kate Moss saying sorry like there's no tomorrow, every cancelled contract worth at least £200,000. But is sorry enough? Does she mean it? Is it just a cynical media ploy to save her career? Well, we probably all have opinions on these questions, depending on our attitudes to supermodels, the media and cocaine. But it's also very rewarding to take a closer language look at the whole sorry business.

What we're dealing with here is speech acts - how we use language to perform acts such as making vows and promises, naming ships and babies, and giving apologies. Apologies are an expressive speech act, one in which the speaker expresses a particular attitude. In Kate's case, an air of penitence. However, what's really interesting about speech acts is that in order for them to work out there in the real world, there are certain rules they have to play by. These are called felicity conditions.

So what are the rules for apology? Well, one of them is that you are supposed to mean it, that there is a real truth at the heart of it. You can see what a thorny issue this is in practice if you watch Supernanny. She unfailingly gets the kids to apologise, but do they mean it? Like hell they do!! But they quickly learn that the sooner you say it, the sooner you get off the naughty step/corner/cushion. I think we know what TV Kate Moss has been watching!

And that brings us to the other part of the bargain. An apology has to be accepted by its recipient(s). Just saying it isn't always enough. But, as we can again see from Supernanny, sometimes as recipients we choose to accept varying degrees of truth for the sake of social harmony. It's not an open and closed case.

So, back to Kate Moss and her career. Whether or not she now bombs out of the modelling world will depend on decisions about whether the face that launched a thousand mascaras is now an economic liability. And that decision may at least partly be based on whether or not her corporate sugar-Daddies think her apology will be accepted by us punters. Because let's face it, most of them won't give a flying monkeys what she snorts.

Check out the links. Do we accept her apology?

Kate's cocaine apology

Model apology

The breaking of Kate


At 7:53 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i kind of except her appology because she states that she has let down her family and friends and she is sorry for letting them down.


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