Social media has no place for nice guys

Was Chris Pratt right to proactively apologise for any future comments he may make? Rob Long says no

Chris Pratt in Jurassic World. (Chuck Zlotnick / Universal Pictures via AP)
Powered by automated translation

Before the launch of the press tour for the summer blockbuster Jurassic World, the star of the picture, Chris Pratt, posted an apology on Facebook.

“I want to make a heartfelt apology,” he wrote, “for whatever it is I end up accidentally saying during the forthcoming press tour. I hope you understand it was never my intention to offend anyone and I am truly sorry. I swear. I’m the nicest guy in the world. And I fully regret what I (accidentally will have) said in (the upcoming foreign and domestic) interview(s).”

I’ve only met Pratt twice, both times fleetingly, and I have to agree that he does seem awfully close to being the nicest guy in the world. But he’s also – despite the obvious good humour of his post and the tongue-in-cheek quality of his apology – a pretty shrewd tactical apologist.

Pratt has been an international movie star since the unexpected success of Guardians of the Galaxy – which is to say not very long at all – but in that short time he's clearly been paying attention to what it means to be a celebrity in the early 21st century.

It means that you have to be very, very careful every time you pick up your phone. Movie stars, music celebrities – and even those people who seem to be world-famous for no discernible reason – all carry around devices that can instantly broadcast to the world, via Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, every notion that runs through their heads. And because most of these people live deep inside a cosseted bubble, surrounded by sycophants and parasites, their thoughts often run to the weird, embarrassing and potentially offensive.

There is, in fact, an emerging profession in Hollywood, something called a “social media manager”. A friend of mine runs a very large public relations agency and he specialises in what’s called “crisis management”. He’s the guy who gets called in when a celebrity tweets something insane, and after crafting a heartfelt apology and arranging some kind of charitable donation he often assigns the celebrity a “social media manager”– someone who, basically, changes the passwords to the celebrity’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts and then refuses – and this, I guess, is the crucial part – to tell the celebrity what they are.

Some celebrities won’t accept this, of course. Some enjoy the direct access they have to their public, and each other.

Earlier this week, after being overlooked by the MTV Music Awards, pop music star Nicki Minaj complained on Twitter that “when the ‘other’ girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination”.

I have to be brutally honest: as a 50-year-old man, I had no idea what she was talking about. It’s hard for me to imagine, at my age, anything more excruciating than watching the MTV Music Awards, let alone caring about their outcome. And yet, a cursory scroll through my Twitter timeline was all it took to explain Nicki Minaj’s basic point: her work this year had been overlooked, and as far as she’s concerned the omission had a racial tinge to it.

“Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it,” she tweeted, which to my old-and-out-of-it eyes seems like a pretty standard and non-specific lament.

Taylor Swift, though, currently one of the most popular pop stars in the world and also someone whose music I can barely identify, didn’t think these tweets were so non-specific. She thought they were all-too-specifically aimed at her – she, after all, was nominated for an MTV Music Award – and she replied to Nicki Minaj in a huffy and over-sensitive tweet of her own: “I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other.”

And that was the starting gun to a mad dash between the two pop stars and their fans to out-tweet each other with accusations and counteraccusations and excuses and expressions of outrage, until Twitter was replete with hashtags and factions and the whole mess became so complicated that even Kim Kardashian – a person who, as lawyers might say, was not a party to the altercation – chimed in with a photograph and an inside joke.

What these people need, obviously, is an army of social media managers.

Or, maybe, not. When the MTV Music Awards are broadcast late next month, they’ll be the lucky beneficiary of weeks of (entirely free) Twitter publicity. A controversy that once would have been unthinkably damaging – a public, ugly spat between two pop stars – is now really a crucial part of a promotional campaign. I have no doubt that Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift are truly, honestly, furious with each other, but I’m also sure that they both know that a feud that encompasses themes of race, feminism, body type and their legions of fans can’t help but be good for business. For both of their businesses.

Maybe the next time Chris Pratt heads off on a movie publicity tour, instead of joking about having nothing to apologise for, he should stir up as much controversy as possible. Being a nice guy is clearly holding him back.

Rob Long is a writer and producer in Hollywood

On Twitter: @rcbl