“I’m Sorry You Are Offended (Except That I’m Not)”

Rusty - March 11, 2009

Excuse me, let me give you the exact quote from HBO: “Obviously, it was not our intention to do anything disrespectful to the church, but to those who may be offended, we offer our sincere apology,” after which they revealed their intentions to continue doing exactly that which is offending Mormons.


Someone needs to point out to HBO (and apparently Tom Hanks needs this lesson too) that a true apology cannot, by definition, apologize for the actions of the offended. All you’re really saying is that you wish they wouldn’t get offended, not that you are sorry for your own actions (actions which you don’t intend to change). Which, incidentally, we have a word for that called “regret,” a very common and perfectly acceptable word to use. “We regret you are offended but nevertheless plan to air the episode.” See! Easy.

Now my turn:

HBO, I regret that you’re a d-bag.
HBO, I regret that your sexual proclivities gave you gonorrhea.
HBO, I regret that you are so stupid that you think Mormons would be offended at the nature in which temple ordinances are portrayed rather than just the fact that you are portraying them at all.

See, it’s easy!


  1. Well their planned controversy is creating a couple of media ripples at least. Anything for publicity. D-bags indeed.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 11, 2009 @ 8:28 am

  2. And at some point you’ll come to regret this post.

    Rather than go after HBO, why not dig deeper into statements from folks whose opinions actually matter to you?

    1) “Certainly church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding,” the church statement said.

    If the episode has not even aired yet, how can the folks making this statement be so sure their religious practices are “misrepresented”? Is it too much to ask that LDS church members wait until after it’s been shown to become “offended”?

    2) “Members take a vow not to discuss the rituals outside temple walls …”

    Key word: Members. Non-members are under no such obligation. That said, from what I’ve seen of Big Love, I’m confident that the producers have made every effort to depict the temple scenes as respectfully as possible. That’s about as much as any religious group can ask. Otherwise, it becomes a demand that others who don’t share your faith must follow your rules anyway, and that’s asking too much.

    3) “Church leaders also said members of the rapidly growing faith should not feel defensive about HBO’s characterization of Mormons.”

    I agree that members should not feel defensive. But, of course, in light of the present post, that raises the obvious question: Why do they?

    Also, it’s not entirely accurate to describe the LDS faith as “rapidly growing” … during the past 18 years (according to the latest ARIS survey) it’s only managed to keep pace with population growth in the US. Mormons were 1.4% of the population in 1990, and they’re 1.4% of the population now. Not exactly “rapid growth” considering their massive missionary effort and large families.

    4) “Despite earlier assurances from HBO, it once again blurs the distinction between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the show’s fictional non-Mormon characters and their practices,” the church statement said.

    Why does the LDS church insist on calling break-away fundamentalist groups “non-Mormon”? If you were to ask a Mormon fundamentalist, he/she would tell you that they consider themselves 100% Mormon. In fact, the whole point is that they consider themselves more Mormon than the LDS.

    5) Gonorrhea? Seriously? Where did that come from?


    Is it too much to ask that LDS viewers simply tune out for one episode now that they’ve gotten a heads up about what to expect?

    If you’ve enjoyed the series, why not show a little respect to the creators and cut them some slack here? It’s their work that made all the previous episodes possible, and their ongoing efforts mean that you’ll be able to enjoy the show well after Episode 33.

    It’s not a sign of disrespect for your POV to suggest that you simply exercise your right to make other choices this Sunday while the rest of us choose for ourselves. As with any form of entertainment, whether high-brow or low, the decision to partake is up to all of us, as it should be.

    And if you haven’t enjoyed the series, well, you really don’t know what you’re talking about anyway, so …


    Comment by Chino — March 11, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  3. Dude. Chino –maybe you need to chill.

    Rusty, I’m with you. Apologies aren’t apologies if they are filled with “sorry you’re offended but I don’t care.”

    Personally, I’m not offended by HBO because everything they do is offensive. Not to mention the Church’s recent news release talking about it.

    Yes, I’m offended people take our sacred ordinances and treat them like crap. And yes, I’m offended that it’s been happening all over the internet since the internet began. But I’m not expecting apologies and nor am I going to waste my time worrying about it –especially in light of the Church’s news release (above). Gives me peace, it does…

    Comment by cheryl — March 11, 2009 @ 9:00 am

  4. Sis. Cheryl – no, I’m cool.

    And if you re-read your second graf, you’ll probably notice that you’ve inadvertently suggested that the Church’s recent news release is offensive.


    Comment by Primero Blanquero — March 11, 2009 @ 9:11 am

  5. Chino,
    I know you needed to get that little rant out, and I’m happy to provide the forum for it, but none of your points are what this post is about. You have a few valid points that would have fit perfectly into the conversations that were happening at BCC and T&S, but when you sound off on 5-6 issues that were never mentioned or even alluded to in this post you start to sound like the whiney anti-Mormons who bring their pet issues into every discussion regardless of topic (as opposed to those who are not members of our church that simply disagree with us)

    SO…back to the topic at hand, what do you think about HBO’s (non)apology?

    P.S. If you can’t see the humor in my three “regret” statements then you need to stop watching the self-important HBO and try some comedies for a change. Talking to an entire network as if it were a person who could get a sexually transmitted disease is funny. Or at least it was until I had to explain the joke. Thanks. BTW, I actually like HBO and will continue to like it after this whole episode, my only point of this post was that they don’t know what an apology is (or really what they are apologizing for). Or if they do, they were not doing it while trying to appear as if they were.

    Comment by Rusty — March 11, 2009 @ 9:16 am

  6. Rusty,

    If I wanted to sound off over at BCC or T&S I would, but I prefer 9moons.

    As to the topic at hand, I think you do a disservice to your faith by framing this as a cagematch between your faith and a cable TV outfit like HBO.

    As to your third graf, since when have I ever shown any ability to see the humor in anything? Considering that we don’t have whatever tubes are required to pipe HBO into the house, I’m assuming any comedies would be equally inaccessible.

    In any case, I’m glad to hear that you like HBO. I used to grab lunch over at their cafeteria back in the day, and I suspect they’re not as oblivious to the meaning of “apology” as you suggest. That said, things do change and not always for the better. And like I said, 9moons rocks, and I’m always here if you need to stovepipe anything up to the gals who actually run 1100.

    Comment by le Chinois Blanc — March 11, 2009 @ 9:43 am

  7. Rusty, I see your point and think it’s valid. However, I was thinking about how well it would play for me to “express regret” to someone at the office without ever saying “sorry.” As in, “I regret that you were offended that I asked a question during your presentation, but I don’t feel like I was wrong, and, oh, by the way, you’re a douchebag.” OK, just kidding on that part, but really, I don’t see the “I regret but am not sorry” tactic working in real life.

    I think of my own dad who, whenever we kids would tell him some bad news, would say, “Oh, I’m sorry.” He wasn’t expressing culpability for something he did; he was just saying that the situation made him feel for us.

    I see nothing wrong with this “expanded” use of the word sorry. Sorry, Rusty. [grin]

    Comment by Hunter — March 11, 2009 @ 9:50 am

  8. It appears to me the Gays have found the LDS Blogs so they can pour some salt on the wounds. I guess railing at their unforgiving families was not enough for them so now they need to attack everyone. I hope you find some peace some day.

    Comment by Todd — March 11, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  9. Chino,
    Well, I’m honored that you would choose Nine Moons to go wildly off topic and rant about the Mormon reaction to the HBO episode rather than dignify BCC or T&S with the same. Wait a second…did Steve ban you from BCC??? I’m on to you…

    As to the topic at hand, I think you do a disservice to your faith by framing this as a cagematch between your faith and a cable TV outfit like HBO.

    I don’t really know what this means. Perhaps you’re talking to the Church or other Mormons who have done this? I thought my post was about the definition of an apology (maybe I’ve implied something in my post that I don’t actually imply. The derogatory statements at the end were just a humorous flourish, not really an attempt to frame the debate.)

    I’m always here if you need to stovepipe anything up to the gals who actually run 1100.

    I’m equally confused by this statement, therefore I will just assume you are alluding to the women’s-only bridge “1100″ club where they all sit around and smoke pot together with their custom “stoves”. So, thanks. I guess.

    Comment by Rusty — March 11, 2009 @ 10:03 am

  10. Hunter,
    You are correct that people use “sorry” not as an apology but to express that you “feel for [them]“. But I don’t think that was HBO’s intention here, especially when you pay a lot of money for PR people that understand the meaning of words.

    I hope you find peace some day.

    I don’t know why you assume Chino Blanco is gay, but I suspect labelling him “the Gays” and assuming he (they?) have unforgiving families and that they need to attack everyone isn’t the first step to them finding peace some day.

    Comment by Rusty — March 11, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  11. Todd -

    And it would appear to me that the Mormons have found the Internet and are now using it to rail against HBO and any attempts to cast their personal, precious commitments in an unseemly light.

    It all sucks.

    And I agree with your last bit: may we all find peace.

    Since when have you afforded us any?

    Comment by il Bianco Cinese — March 11, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  12. Rusty: Yeah, I suspect that HBO’s “apology” is in part fueled by the desire to create more attention for this episode. I’m not calling HBO disingenuous (entirely), just that their motive in writing the apology might be multi-faceted. And hence, the non-apology apology.

    Comment by Hunter — March 11, 2009 @ 10:26 am

  13. Rusty,

    It’s not that Steve banned me, it’s just that he’s recently stopped thanking me for my daily “gay agenda” email updates. Sure, that hurts, but I can deal, and that’s why you don’t find me dissin’ BCC here or elsewhere. On the other hand, what I refuse to deal with are the daily pleas from Adam Greenwood to “send me the good stuff” … that gets old real quick.

    Anyways, enough with the FYI.

    I enjoyed your reply to Hunter. Especially this part:

    ” … especially when you pay a lot of money for PR people that understand the meaning of words.”

    Yeah, for any organization with a bunch of PR people on staff, we should all expect better, shouldn’t we?

    Comment by Alb Chineză — March 11, 2009 @ 10:35 am

  14. By the way, here’s more grist for the mill:

    HBO pre-apologizes for sacred Mormon ceremony on Big Love

    How about a little big love for “pre-apologizes”?

    Never fails. You want funny? Find yourself a Canadian.

    Comment by Marco Polo — March 11, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  15. From: Sonja Eddings Brown
    Date: Sunday, March 08, 2009 9:49 PM
    To: Rusty
    Subject: We do not want to increase the exposure to Big Love by responding to HBO

    Public Affairs Representatives:

    Many of you will see or hear about the impending broadcast of LDS Temple ceremonies and exploitation of our sacred temple clothes by HBO “Big Love” this week. TV Guide will deliver an ad showing one of the “Big Love” polygamist wives dressed in full temple clothes. It is already circulating on the internet. As has been their practice, the creators of “Big Love” hijack our customs and sacred symbols and misrepresent them in settings of their own making. Please be aware that the executives of HBO made a commitment to the LDS Church at the outset of “Big Love” that they would never desecrate our sacred rites or clothing in promotion or in their drama.

    Our Church leaders are fully informed and are considering whether to dignify the show with a response.

    The head writer of “Big Love” this season, is Dustin Black, the recent Oscar-winner for “Milk.” Raised a Mormon, he is clearly versed in our culture.

    Brothers and Sisters, “Big Love” is not a ratings winner and we don’t wish to build their ratings for them. TV Guide does not experience the readership it once had. Some of your friends and neighbors will see the images in print and see our temple ceremonies acted out in the drama. Perhaps the greatest position of strength for us, is to stand by our beliefs and teach the gospel. No, HBO does not represent accurately the sacred dress or beliefs or ceremonies of the LDS Church. Yes, like the Catholics, the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists and many other faiths, we do have some sacred ceremonial clothing for our Temples.

    Our Temples are places where we unite our families forever. They are places where we go to learn the highest principles of character, honor, and devotion to God. That’s what we can share with our neighbors and friends, and that kind of answer will no doubt….satisfy their questions.

    Unless otherwise directed, at this sensitive time, I suggest that Public Affairs leaders NOT urge response to the TV Guide ad, or to the HBO program…..and avoid increasing the show’s ratings or attention.

    According to industry sources, “Big Love” will end this season.

    Sonja Eddings Brown
    Media Specialist
    Southern California Public Affairs Council

    Comment by Sonja Eddings Brown — March 11, 2009 @ 10:59 am

  16. “others who don’t share your faith must follow your rules anyway, and that’s asking too much.”

    Otherwise known as “courtesy”*. May the masses forbid that a church ask for courtesy!

    *courteous: archaic marked by respect for and consideration of others

    Comment by SilverRain — March 11, 2009 @ 11:02 am

  17. Members. Non-members are under no such obligation.

    I’m amazed how much I’m seeing this specious argument. Of course no one is arguing that HBO doesn’t have the right to do what it is doing; the real question is whether it should. Stating it in terms of “obligations” misrepresents the nature of the dispute.

    That said, from what I’ve seen of Big Love, I’m confident that the producers have made every effort to depict the temple scenes as respectfully as possible.

    If the intent is to be respectful, the producers would not show it at all. And if they’ve done their homework, as they keep telling us they have, they know that as well as you and I do. As Rusty mentioned above, the problem isn’t going to be with the manner of the depiction, but the fact of the depiction at all.

    Otherwise, it becomes a demand that others who don’t share your faith must follow your rules anyway, and that’s asking too much.

    Really? Your formulation of that sentence is odd to me. Instead of focusing on the fact that HBO has been asked to be respectful with information that the church considers sensitive, your approach is that we’re wrong for ever asking for such respect in the first place. Can we never ask that people respect what is sacred to us, or is that always forcing others to follow our rules?

    Comment by jimbob — March 11, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

  18. Big Love has been picked up for a fourth season; it has been widely reported, contrary to the letter/comment above.

    Comment by StillABigLoveFan — March 11, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

  19. Hilarious analogy, Rusty. I laughed.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — March 11, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

  20. My wife was getting into Big Love, so I had HBO removed from our service. Then when she started putting up a fuss I reproved her sharply and told her to go make me an omelet.

    Actually, after that sniveling, whiny acceptance speech from the “Milk” writer, I’m surprised a prefab apology was offered at all.

    Comment by David T. — March 11, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

  21. The silver lining in all of this is to see how well thought out and measured the response (so far that I have seen) has been by both the Church and the members in general:) Well done, brethren and sisters! If we’re fortunate, this will blow over like September Dawn did.

    I’ll just second what’s been said about how it obviously dealing with the fact a major media outlet is openly being defiant to the wishes of a major religion and its members and not about showing things that are already so easily found on the internet to those who really want to know.

    Comment by Bret — March 11, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

  22. #17: If you recall that business with the 12 Danish cartoon drawings of Mohammed a few years ago, pls note that my sympathies were/are with the Danes. Your notion that we should be in the business of policing depictions of things we hold dear is anathema to me.

    And what bothers me about #21 is that calling HBO “openly defiant” of a “major religion” makes you sound like an aggrieved mullah.

    Comment by Dustin Lance Black — March 11, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

  23. Oh, and re #18, of course we got picked up for a fourth season.

    Sonja Eddings Brown doesn’t know what she’s talking about when she talks about Big Love. She should’ve just taken the $40K she got paid by the Prop 8 campaign and retired already. Sonja’s notorious for just making stuff up, but apparently her employers don’t seem to mind.

    Comment by Dustin Lance Black — March 11, 2009 @ 8:45 pm

  24. Dustin, can we see your Oscar?

    Comment by MCQ — March 11, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

  25. No, HBO does not represent accurately the sacred dress … or ceremonies of the LDS Church.

    Ummm… until the episode airs, how would you know whether the ceremonies are going to be represented accurately? Did you get an early copy? Are you speaking prophetically?

    Comment by Latter-day Guy — March 11, 2009 @ 11:55 pm

  26. If you recall that business with the 12 Danish cartoon drawings of Mohammed a few years ago, pls note that my sympathies were/are with the Danes. Your notion that we should be in the business of policing depictions of things we hold dear is anathema to me.

    In response to these cartoons, angry Muslims burned embassies, committed acts of violence, and more than 100 died. Are you honestly conflating our requests for respect for our sacraments with that level of retributive violence when you call both “policing”?

    Comment by jimbob — March 12, 2009 @ 8:21 am

  27. I totally agree with Cheryl when she says, “…I’m not offended by HBO because everything they do is offensive.” OK, maybe not EVERYTHING, but they do plenty. And while it is somewhat satisfying to verbally state, or document through the written word, our disgust and displeasure with such behavior, for a commercial enterprise such as HBO I would suggest the most satisfying thing to do is simply to not watch their programming. Believe me, I have gone to great lengths to express myself in the former manner but have found the latter method to be more consoling and more, well, satisfying. And I sleep better too.

    Comment by lamonte — March 12, 2009 @ 11:51 am

  28. Thank you, jimbob and MCQ.


    Like jimbob said, is expressing our grievance and asking for respect towards what we view as sacred such a bad thing? I have no problem with the same coming from an aggrieved mullah if he expresses himself in like manner as the Church and its members have. Your comment tells us more about you than it does about me.

    Comment by Bret — March 12, 2009 @ 5:41 pm

  29. [...] more ridiculous: HBO’s non-apology or the LDS Newsroom’s petulant response, see here, here, here, and here. Many waxed philosophical, asking why it’s a problem to portray the [...]

    Pingback by Sunday in Outer Blogness: Big News Edition! | Main Street Plaza — March 15, 2009 @ 1:27 am

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