Celebrities are sorry because the brands told them to be

With pop stars like DaBaby, it’s impossible to discern between earnest personal growth and damage control brand growth.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 28: DaBaby performs as a special guest during 50 Cent's set at Citi Fie...
Astrida Valigorsky/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Earlier this week, TMZ reported that Gwendolyn D. Clemons, the CEO of the LGBTQ organization Relationship Unleashed, said that rapper DaBaby had educated himself on his homophobic comments onstage this past summer, and ostensibly received a blessing for future shows. Stories have since ran with the controversy over DaBaby’s supposed absolution, but Clemons is now disputing the reports.

“Our organization stands on strong principles of being defenders of the LGBTQIA Community and nothing has changed,” Relationship Unleashed wrote in an Instagram post. “We will never normalize ‘trash TV or trash news stories!’ Today we were [engulfed] by the news outlet in a fire we did not start! Our comments to a brief question was grossly misquoted and intentionally framed in a click baiting headline to drive traffic to TMZ.”

In a separate interview that the post referenced, Clemons claimed that “90% of the information posted on the TMZ website” was false, and that her email was “taken out of context, paraphrased, and then given a click baiting headline title.” TMZ has since responded by posting Clemons’s full email response.

Still, parsing the “truth” of the situation in terms of how a statement may or may not have been bastardized is not only a fruitless effort, but part of a larger, messier false narrative. The more pressing issue that Clemons is gesturing toward is indeed the idea of crafting a sensationalized story that falls under the contentious banner of “cancel culture.” This, after all, is the actual, implicit outrage-manufacturing framework of TMZ’s initial report: that a random organization has declared that DaBaby is uncancelled, and can go back to doing shows and being successful.

But the notion of cancellation, and conversely forgiveness and accountability, is something that shouldn’t be legitimately considered when it comes to the world of public-facing pop star-branding. None of it is real — time passes after a controversy, PR moves are made, and then the market ultimately decides if they’re still interested in you. There is no true moral court, nor has there ever been, that the public at-large actually operates as.

This is all, as some have said, a “nonstory.” DaBaby said hurtful, damaging things; he may or may not have learned and done the work; he will regardless return to chart-topping success; and some, particularly those in the queer community, will forever be understandably wary of him as a public star. But true accountability and absolution is a fiction for multimillionaire stars — it’s practically impossible to discern between earnest personal growth and damage control brand growth. So we might as well ignore the manufactured debate whether it’s happening with DaBaby, or any of our other celebrities.